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man rights groups and ordinary Nigerians. To them, the state’s treatment of Yusuf and the Jos protestors highlights both its absolute refusal to brook any dis- sent, and its determination to close off the few remain- ing avenues for the general public to make its views known.

That taking to the streets is now one of the only ways ordinary people can hope to influence the politi- cal debate helps explain the vehemence and violence of so many demonstrations. Their protests are given added urgency by the abject poverty in which the vast majority of them live. It is with undiluted desperation that these people call on their political leaders to help them in their daily struggle for survival. They are, in fact, emissaries for the masses with whom they share the same problems and anxieties. In 2005, 92 percent of all men, women, and children lived on $2 or less a day, and 70 percent on $1 or less.49 This extremely high rate of poverty has been brought about by three dis- tinct processes: Nigeria’s transformation into a rentier state; the failure of its economic growth to keep pace with demographic growth; and the increasing concen- tration of the wealth that is generated in the hands of a few.

Nigeria’s evolution into a rentier state is directly tied to the development of its oil industry. It has grown rapidly over the past 40 years and has turned the coun- try into one of the world’s most important energy sup- pliers. In 1960 Nigeria extracted around 20,000 barrels of crude a day, which represented just 0.09 percent of the total amount produced worldwide. By 1971, the year in which it joined the OPEC, these figures had jumped to 1.1 million and 2.25 percent, respectively. And today, it produces something in the region of 2.2 million barrels a day, or 3 percent of the total amount


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