Nigeria: Pirates Escalate


May 29, 2010: Tribal rebels in the Niger Delta have largely agreed to wait and see if newly sworn in president Goodluck Johnson will make good on the amnesty deal his predecessor negotiated late last year.  If Johnson does not come through, the rebels promise a resumption of the violence.

President Johnson, who has a thin political history and no track record of corruption, has also had his anti-corruption officials go after the foreign firms offering the bribes. This involves providing foreign nations with evidence that their citizens violated anti-bribery laws, and letting the foreign nations prosecute their own. In another bold move, Johnson has ordered that a prominent foreign accounting firm be hired to audit the finances of NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation), which controls the national oil resources, and is believed to be responsible for the theft of over $300 billion in oil revenues over the decades. The stealing was supposed to have stopped after the corrupt military government in 1999, but, as many knew, it did not. The people who received that money, including many senior politicians, will be creative in trying to stymie this audit.  The very wealthy, very corrupt and very powerful officials who are under attack have proved capable of defeating anti-corruption efforts.

Chinese firms have agreed to build and operate three refineries (in Bayelsa, Kogi and Lagos states), at a cost of $28.5 billion. These will eliminate a major source of corruption, because lack of refinery capacity causes 750,000 barrels of petroleum products a day have to be imported. The government will have no financial stake in these refineries, which will make it easier to monitor and control corruption related to the refineries. This is all part of a larger Chinese effort to establish economic, diplomatic and military relationships in Africa, and access to many raw materials, and export markets.

May 23, 2010: Three more people have died in religious/ethnic violence around Jos, in central Nigeria.

May 22, 2010: In central Nigeria, there was another outbreak of religious/ethnic violence around Jos, as three Moslems were killed. Police arrested fifteen Christian suspects within days.

Near the coast, four Lebanese construction workers were freed, a week after they were kidnapped in Port Harcourt. No word on ransom paid.

May 21, 2010: Two Russian officers (the captain and chief engineer), kidnapped from a Greek merchant ship off Cameroon on May 16th, are believed to be held inside Nigeria. This is an escalation of pirate activity off the west coast of Africa, especially Nigeria (where most of the foreign ships operate.) Until the recent kidnappings, the pirates basically robbed the crews and looted anything they could carry off in their speedboats (usually electronics and other small valuables). Unlike Somalia, there are no pirate safe havens on the west coast of Africa. But there are places where pirates can take their captives, especially in Nigeria, where gangs rule many coastal areas.




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