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EDITIONS
Crossing Continents Thursday, 29 April, 1999, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Troubled times in the Niger Delta
Despite the oil wealth of the Delta, families here still stuggle to make ends meet
In this edition of Crossing Continents, John Egan travels to the southernmost tip of the Niger Delta, to report on an amazing experiment in local democracy which is trying to enrich one of Nigeria's poorest and most restless regions.


Listen to the programme in full


Yellow marks the area of the Delta
Most of the news from the Delta over the last 18 months has been bad. There's increasingly violent protest against the environmental damage and social inequality left in the trail of the oil industry. But the Akassa Clan, a community of about 30,000 people who live in 18 scattered villages, are trying an innovative solution to local problems. They have turned themselves into a Corporation with their own constitution and corporate bank account.

Straight across from Shell's Nembe Creek site is a bedraggled slum
Most of Nigeria's wealth comes from oil, up to a million barrels of which are pumped out of Delta every single day. Multinational giants like Shell, Chevron and Amoco are drawn here by the uniquely high-quality Nigerian crude oil, because it needs less refining than oil from other fields. But despite the wealth of natural resources, the indigenous people of the Niger Delta are still very poor.

Virtually none of the oil industry's money trickles down to local people
There's no electricity, sanitation or running water in Akassa. Most people live in palm huts and cook on open fires. They survive by fishing, but in recent years oil spills have damaged fish stocks. Oil has brought problems rather than prosperity to the people of Akassa. Now they hope the new corporation they've set up will allow them to tap into the huge wealth that gushes from their delta.

John meets some of the newly elected representatives of the Akassa "peoples' parliament" and hears of their hopes for the future. He also speaks to the project's animator, Bill Knight of the NGO Pro Natura, and the traditional chiefs who are losing some of their influence to the new Corporation. Clearly not everyone is happy with the quiet revolution that is sweeping through Akassa.

Christianity Nigerian-style: a pastor of Akassa's Zion Church heals the sick
Although Christianity is firmly rooted in the Delta, belief in witchcraft is also widespread. In Akassa, several women who were accused of being witches and casting evil spells on the community have been tortured and killed in recent weeks. In a special interview, the head of the Akassa Clan, His Royal Majesty, King I.N.Anthony tells John Egan how he hopes to solve the crisis over witches that has divided his people.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Choral singing/drums, ,Akassa, Nigeria, April 1999
which welcomed our team to Akassa...
See also:

18 Feb 99 | Africa
18 Feb 99 | Africa
01 Jan 99 | After Abacha
03 Jan 99 | Africa
21 Oct 98 | Africa
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