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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oil and Troubled Waters, 16 Oct. 2009
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Michael Peel, the former West Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, has written a fascinating book. Part travelogue, part insight into big oil and the multinationals that produce and market it, the book is also a story of admiration for Nigeria with all its chaos, corruption and injustice. Peel travels the (often dangerous) world of the Niger delta where Shell, AGIP Chevron and other companies are tapping one of the more important reserves of crude oil in the world. The light, sweet crude is readily refined into petrol and there are considerable reserves in nearby Sao Tome, Gabon and Cape Verde. Yet the vast oil revenue that has come to the Federal Government (and the states) of Nigeria has done little to raise the living standard of the poor people who live in the delta. Quite the opposite, in fact. Pollution from the oil and the disinclination of the oil companies to clear up have turned the delta into something of a wasteland. And the story of theft by successive Nigerian government officials is staggering. Yet at the end of his story, Michael Peel is optimistic. Nigeria is a new country; its injustices and problems and abuses of power are more open, more blatant but in a way more honest. Legitimacy is really longevity, as it is in the West. People in newer countries can offer fresh ways of thinking and a hunger for reform. As the need for oil grows, and the need for this reformation, we shall surely hear a lot more about Nigeria.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid and fascinating picture of the Nigerian delta., 4 April 2014
By 
M. Hillmann "miles" (leicester, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swamp Full of Dollars, A: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria's Oil Frontier (Kindle Edition)
The Nigerian Delta – a disturbing and alien place, its value system warped by oil? That was my preconception when I first went to Port Harcourt. But Michael Peel vividly describes the rich and raucous characters and life in Nigeria and the geopolitics of oil which enmesh us all, with which I can identify from my own experiences.

As a good journalist , Michael Peel meets and tells the tale of a range of characters from the street hustlers to the ruthless, violent delta rebels to oil executives to presidents and diplomats. He is a brave man. His excursions into the delta with unruly, heavily armed and ill disciplined rebels seem like exceptionally high risk journalism. As a Financial Times journalist he is well connected and gains access to Presidents, Ministers of State and senior oil executives. The book is based on a series of first hand conversations and interviews that set the framework for his interpretation of events.

The delta encompasses vast oil resources. Shell alone operates 90 oilfields, with 1,000 wells and 3,750 miles of flowlines and pipelines. A huge part of the oil produced is illegally tapped and stolen and the delta is heavily polluted by oil spills.

The deltan Ijaw people have been marginalised. In 1978 the president Olusegun Obasanjo gave the federal government ownership of all the region’s oil. The violence of the rebels can be seen as an attempt to share in the oil wealth.

Corruption is endemic at all levels. The local fishermen,as do the oil companies, pay protection money to community leaders. The cash can be put in an account administered by a local commander who gives donations to those in need. But it is often hard to tell with Deltan local leaders where their ambitions for their communities ended and where their personal desires began – one who described the damage that oil had done to the community grumbled that Shell had not even given him a mobile phone for Christmas.

The attitude of the deltans to both oil companies and to the history of imperial British intrusion and oppression is very nuanced. Some of the ostensibly proudest, toughest, fiercest opponents of the multinationals seemed to see their fellow Nigerians as the greatest obstacles to progress. They do not want to expel the multinationals but reach an accommodation with them that would allow a long-shackled country to develop.

Michael Peel holds the Pandora’s box hope for Nigeria. It is a vast , messy country with no polish or veneer of order. He maintains that in oil driven Nigeria the exploitation, injustices and abuses of power are more open, blatant and in a strange way, more honest than in a country such as Britain where wrongs have been entrenched and subtly concealed over many centuries.

A vivid and eminently readable book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Firsthand account of crude oil in a crude spot!, 19 Oct. 2010
By 
Gaurav Sharma (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Some say the history of crude oil extraction has a dark and seedy side; most say nowhere is it more glaringly visible than in Nigeria - a confused ex-colonial outpost with a complex ethnic and tribal mix turned into a unified nation and given its independence by the British some five decades ago.

In this candid book, Michael Peel, a former FT journalist who spent many-a-year in Nigeria, presents a warts n' all account of this most chaotic and often fascinating of African countries shaped by oil, driven by oil and in more ways than one - held to ransom by oil. The author dwells on how the discovery of crude oil has not been quite the bonanza for its peoples who remain among the poorest and most deprived in this world. End result is growing dissent and chaos.

The book has its 220 pages split into three parts, comprising of nine chapters, containing a firsthand and first rate narration of the violence, confusion, partial anarchy and corruption in Nigeria where its people who deserve better have to contend with depravity and pollution. Some have risen up and abide by their own rule - the rule of force, rather than the law.

If the reader seeks insight into this complex country, Peel provides it. If the reader seeks a travel guide - this is one candid book. If the reader seeks info on what went wrong in Nigeria from a socioeconomic standpoint, the author duly obliges. Hence, this multifaceted work, for which Peel deserves top marks, is a much needed book. It addresses an information gap about a young nation, its serious challenges, addiction to its oil endowment and the sense of injustice the crude stuff creates for those who observe the oil bonanza from a distance but cannot get their hands into the cookie jar.

Peel notes that the chaos of Niger delta is as much a story of colonial misadventure, as it is about corporate mismanagement, corruption in the bureaucracy and a peculiar and often misplaced sense of entitlement that creates friction between the country's haves and have nots.

Drop into the mix, an unfolding ecological disaster and you get a swamp full of dollars whose inhabitants range from impromptu militias with creative names to Shell, from terrorists to ExxonMobil, from leaking pipelines to illegal crude sales. It demands to be read and I am happy to recommend it to a very wide readership base not just those interested in African history and that of crude oil.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more jelleen, 28 Feb. 2012
By 
Mainoo Smith "ikebe_books" (london United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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If you want a feel for Nigeria, this is the book for you. It captures both the wildness and buccaneering spirit of the Nigerian character, extolling the openness and energy of its people and at the same time probing gently and sensitively at its tender underbelly. All the time making comparisons that serve to place the anarchy and corruption in objective context. It's all too easy to make a special case of the Nigerian situation because of its seeming excesses and to miss what is special - that a vibrant, energetic body of people can live in such an aspic-like state seemingly unable to shrug off the parasites that drain it. Mr Peel does neither. In coruscating style, he describes an arc through Nigeria's short history - by the end you see a country that (like other African countries) has only really ever existed as a glint in the eye of the parasites who live on it.

The book reads like a boys own story (even for one who spent the first 22 years of his life in Nigeria) and yet the author has a lot of well-considered insights to make. He makes frequent asides about international capital and talks as if places like Nigeria might be early warning signs of a coming Tsunami. He never quite succeeds (at least for me) in showing how but arguably he doesn't need to - in early 2012 the air is full of portent and the signs are everywhere (a place like Nigeria must feel redolent with them).

Somewhere towards the end of the book, he recounts the expression of hopelessness from a militant lamenting the fact that the white man is not still in charge. In what I consider Mr Peel's most astute observation, he ascribes it to ` ...a sense of inferiority and even self-loathing founded on centuries of exploitation and grotesque power relationships'. This diagnosis is a plausible explanation for this giant's inability to rid itself of its pestilent cargo. It is to Mr Peel's credit that he tries so hard to look at what he is seeing - coming from where he is coming from, it's no small feat. This book places him in the same space as Kapuscinski - I hope, like him, Mr Peel goes on and on. As we used to say back then - `more jelleen to your elbow'
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5.0 out of 5 stars The paradox of oil, 4 July 2014
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This gives the experience of holding up a mirror to one's self and confronting the full image. It is a must-read.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 3 Jan. 2010
By 
S. Dennis (UK) - See all my reviews
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A good book which reveals another side to Nigeria which has been hidden for more than fifty years.
Definitely recommend to anyone with a conscience, especially those in Government.
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