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After the civil war, oil production radically expanded and federal revenues no longer depended on the productive activities of Nigeria’s citizenry. Nigeria became an oil state, and in theory became wealthy. Political spending cut off from domestic economic activity removed one of the last mechanisms through which popular pressure could contain the activities of the political elite. At the same time, it deepened Nigeria’s vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices. The decline in the price of oil in 1981 touched off a recurrent fiscal crisis. For a time, oil money had allowed the federal government to pay off ethnic constituencies, but during the 1980s decreased amounts of oil revenues led to deepening authoritarianism and a normalization of corruption in the military. Nigeria became internationally notorious during the 1970s, when stories of vast sums squandered circled the globe, and this notoriety ultimately enabled the 419 e-mails that continue Nigeria’s international humiliation.

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