Nigeria: Sliding Towards The Abyss


June 3,2008: The government is not making much progress in shutting down the tribal rebels, particularly MEND, in the Niger Delta. Stealing oil and kidnapping foreign oil workers for ransom has become too lucrative for too many people for the police and military to cope. About a quarter of the nation's oil production has been halted by the unrest. A newly president, who promised to crack down on corruption and ineffective government, is showing signs of tolerating the same old bad habits.

June 1, 2008: Northern Nigeria is still suffering an increase in polio cases. While polio declined in some areas, overall it has nearly doubled nationwide compared to last year. The vaccination campaign has not been able to undo the damage done by religious fanatics who, five years ago, spread rumors that polio vaccinations were a Western plot to poison Moslems. This interrupted, for over a year, a world wide effort to wipe out polio. Like smallpox (which was wiped out in a similar campaign three decades ago) the polio virus can only survive in human hosts. If enough vulnerable people (mostly kids) are vaccinated against polio, then polio has nowhere to survive, and joins smallpox as an extinct disease. The Islamic campaign against vaccinations (based on the accusation that it was all a secret plan to sterilize female children) caused a resurgence of polio cases worldwide, and a major loss of credibility for the Islamic radicals. The vaccinations resumed, after vigorous efforts by Nigerian politicians. This effort is being thwarted by the lingering effects of the Islamic conservatives in northern Nigeria. Currently, about four percent of the Nigerian population refuses to let their kids be vaccinated because of the five year old anti-vaccination rumor campaign. The rumors have acquired a life of their own, and just might be able to prevent the complete eradication of polio. So far, the Islamic conservatives actions five years ago have resulted in some 2,000 children getting polio and becoming paralyzed. Some 400-500 children, mainly in Nigeria, are still catching polio because of the Nigerian parents who refuse to allow vaccinations.

May 30, 2008: The government is trying to appoint a former police commander, with ties to corrupt politicians, as the new head of the anti-corruption commission. The former head of the commission, regarded as highly effective, was "transferred" to another job six months ago by the newly elected president.

May 26, 2008: MEND destroyed an oil pipeline pumping station, and then defeated an army patrol that attempted to interfere.

May 23, 2008: Two foreign oil workers were kidnapped in the Niger Delta. The two are being held for ransom, the initial demand is for over 8 million dollars per man. That will be negotiated down, but it still will be expensive to get the men free. The government, and the oil companies, are spending more on security, but the high ransoms are making it worthwhile for the larger criminal gangs to launch elaborate operations to grab foreigners.




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