Aside from its wealth in diamonds, Nigeria has produced about $600 billion worth of oil over the past 50 years. Half of that production went to the United States. Why do most Nigerians still live in crushing poverty?
The answer could lie in the corruption that the countryâ€™s oil economy has perpetuated: the economic powers of the world want Nigerian oil and Nigeriaâ€™s leaders mostly act in favor of these foreign oil companies, oblivious of the welfare of the country and its ordinary citizens.
Photographer Ed Kashi has documented this aberration and published a book about it, Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, co-authored with Michael Watts. Dramatic pictures of the abuse portray this Nigerian tragedy, Kashiâ€™s own version of advocacy journalism.
â€œOf all the places I’ve been as a photographer, I’d never seen such an example of injustice,â€ says Kashi, a National Geographic photographer.
He notes, â€œAll this money, it’s intoxicating. At every level of the Nigerian government, from the national level to the state level to village chieftains, there are kickbacks and a siphoning of wealth into private hands. People love to point fingers at the oil companies for the misery in the country, and those companies could certainly do a better job in terms of protecting the environment and supporting communities. But the real problem is the Nigerian government.â€