- Conflict in the Niger Delta arose in the early 1990s due to tensions between the foreign oil corporations and a number of the Niger Delta's minority ethnic groups who felt they were being exploited, particularly the Ogoni as well as the Ijaw in the late 1990s. Ethnic and political unrest has continued throughout the 1990s and persists as of 2007 despite the conversion to democracy and the election of the Obasanjo government in 1999. Competition for oil wealth has fueled violence between innumerable ethnic groups, causing the militarization of nearly the entire region by ethnic militia groups as well as Nigerian military and police forces (notably the Nigerian Mobile Police). Victims of crimes are fearful of seeking justice for crimes committed against them because of growing "impunity from prosecution for individuals responsible for serious human rights abuses, [which] has created a devastating cycle of increasing conflict and violence". The regional and ethnic conflicts are so numerous that fully detailing each is impossible and impractical. However, there have been a number of major confrontations that deserve elaboration.
Map of Nigeria numerically showing states typically considered part of the Niger Delta region: 1. Abia, 2. Akwa Ibom, 3. Bayelsa, 4. Cross River, 5. Delta, 6. Edo, 7.Imo, 8. Ondo, 9. Rivers Click to view
Nigeria, after nearly four decades of oil production, had by the early 1990s become almost completely dependent on petroleum extraction economically, generating 25% of its GDP (this has since risen to 40% as of 2000). Despite the vast wealth created by petroleum, the benefits have been slow to trickle down to the majority of the population, who since the 1960s have increasingly abandoned their traditional agricultural practices. Annual production of both cash and food crops dropped significantly in the latter decades of 20th century, cocoa production dropped by 43% (Nigeria was the world's largest cocoa exporter in 1960), rubber dropped by 29%, cotton by 65%, and groundnuts by 64%. In spite of the large number of skilled, well-paid Nigerians who have been employed by the oil corporations, the majority of Nigerians and most especially the people of the Niger Delta states and the far north have become poorer since the 1960s.
The Delta region has a steadily growing population estimated to be over 30 million people as of 2005, accounting for more than 23% of Nigeria's total population. The population density is also among the highest in the world with 265 people per kilometre-squared (reference NDDC). This population is expanding at a rapid 3% per year and the oil capital, Port Harcourt, along with other large towns are growing quickly. Poverty and urbanization in Nigeria are on the rise, and official corruption is considered a fact of life. The resultant scenario is one in which there is urbanization but no accompanying economic growth to provide jobs. This has ironically forced the growing populace to begin destroying the ecosystem that they require to sustain themselves.