Abstract: U.S. Oil Companies, The Nigerian Civil War, and the Origins of Opacity in the Nigerian Oil Industry, 1964-1972

Kairn A. Klieman


Rooted in data derived from archival sources (U.S. National Archives, U.K. National Archives, Exxon-Mobil Archives, CIA documents), this paper analyzes the role that U.S. oil companies played in Nigerian politics and oil policies before, during, and after the Nigerian civil war. It argues that the actions of these companies—especially the withholding of accurate data regarding reserves and production figures, as well as the six-month political and propaganda battle they waged against the Federal government to thwart the passage of a new Petroleum Profits Tax (or "Libyan Law"): exacerbated regional and ethnic rivalries that led to the war; led to an aggressive nationalist and regulatory stance on the part of Nigerian officials toward international oil companies after the war; and contributed to the creation of a Nigerian "oil culture" that was, from this formative period on, characterized by an extreme lack of transparency on the part of government and corporate actors alike.