A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria’s Oil Frontier

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Nigeria is a country where petroleum and polio have both boomed, where small villages challenge giant oil companies, and scooter drivers run their own mini-state. The oil-rich Niger Delta region at the heart of it all is a troublespot as hot as the local pepper soup. Through a host of characters, from the Area Boy gangsters of Lagos to a venal state governor who stashed almost a million pounds in his west London penthouse, from the militants in their swamp forest hide-outs to the oil company executives in Britain, Peel tells the story of how the 50-year independent life of this extraordinary country has been shaped by the crude that pumps through our cities. What has happened to Nigeria is a stark warning to Britain and other economic powers as they grow increasingly frantic in their search for new sources of oil. If the Arab world is the precarious eastern battle-line in an intensifying world war for crude, then Nigeria has become a tumultuous western front.

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Michael was interviewed about the book on BBC Radio 4’s Excess Baggage about the book. Listen again here.

Praise for A Swamp Full of Dollars

…a compelling journey through the oil-filled chaos of present-day Nigeria. – Louis Theroux

A fascinating insight into Africa’s wild west’ – Giles Foden

A compelling and well-written account…’ – Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate, Economics, 2001

Reviews for A Swamp Full of Dollars

Most Westerners are terrified of Nigeria. Journalist Michael Peel,  in contrast, clearly revels in the country’s rich chaos, savouring its driving energy and many contradictions. Plunging fearlessly into its oil-polluted swamps, hob-nobbing with guerrilla commandos, hearing the tales of Lagos’ formidable Area Boys, he produces a detailed, compassionate portrait of a bubbling West African nation which is certain to demand ever more of our attention as the world’s hunger for oil grows.’ – Michela Wrong, author of It’s Our Turn to Eat

Russia is an enigmatic petrochemical power with a population of 140 million; Nigeria is an enigmatic petrochemical power with a population of 140 million. Last year the British Library added almost 500 new Russia-related titles to its collection, and fewer than three dozen about Nigeria. For that reason alone Michael Peel’s new book deserves a cheer.’ – James Meek, author of “The
Heart Broke In

With colourful reportage and intelligent analysis, he offers a 360-degree look at a country he describes as a “brittle motor of twenty-first-century capitalism”. Peel does an admirable job of exploring the oil economy’s global ties that place affluent westerners on the same web as Nigeria’s most downtrodden.’ – Financial Times

[an] illuminating investigation into the Nigerian condition… Peel brilliantly examines the economics of Lagos’s “okadas” and “molues” and… sets out hilariously to challenge the police bribery … the best of his writing is in his forays to the swamps and creeks of the increasingly militarised and lawless Niger delta’ – Guardian

With journalistic relish, Michael Peel . . . sinks his teeth into a big, fat story’ – The Times

Peel delivers a gory account of the sepulchral landscape with enormous sympathy for the people who live there, and has nothing but contempt for the authorities who have brought the Niger Delta to this pass. – The Independent

this impressively detailed, well-researched blend of reportage, recent history and hard economics will surely become the standard work on the Niger Delta . . . fascinating book uncovers a scarcely believable reality in which we are all complicit’ – Tablet magazine

Peel’s book, calm, thoughtful and considered throughout, appals and angers the reader in equal measure.’ – Geographical magazine

Scintillating . . . both a passionate personal memoir of life in the frenzied streets of Lagos and a thoroughly researched exposé of how oil has torn apart the natural environment and people of Nigeria’ – The Mirror newspaper