Nigeria: The Good Guys Score


May 10,2008: Strikes by oil workers has halted more oil production than years of theft and attacks by gangsters and tribal separatists. An eight day strike shut down 800,000 barrels a day, while years of efforts by gangs and militants cut about 500,000 barrels. The strike ended after the workers, already the highest paid group in the oil region (except possibly or the oil thieves) got a raise.

The most dangerous losses are the 100-200,000 barrels a day stolen by gangs that tap into pipelines and sell the crude to brokers who smuggle the stuff out of the country. Some of the oil gangs have branched out into politics, using their tribal connections to claim the status of political activists (to get more of the oil money for the local Ijaw tribes.) That aspect of the unrest in the oil region is more posturing for the media (as the MEND organization), than actions that actually halt oil production. The government has sent thousands of soldiers, sailors and police to the Niger Delta region to guard oil facilities.

The newly elected national government has accused former president Olusegun Obasanjo's government of being corrupt, lawless and inept. Obasanjo's daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, has been indicted for corruption, and many other instances of government funds disappearing have come to light. Olusegun Obasanjo was elected in 1999 to revive the country after decades of corrupt military rule. He left office last year. Obasanjo did have to deal with a lot of corrupt politicians, and a culture of corruption, that is now starting to fade under pressure from reformers.

The basic problem is the lawlessness and inability of elected officials, or government employees, to deliver services. Too much, if not most, of the oil revenue is stolen, creating family fortunes that fund gangs of armed men, lawyers and publicists who will fight to defend the corrupt system. The anti-corruption/good-government crowd is making progress, but there is resistance, and the corrupt practices are still in place.


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