With oil export revenues of $45 billion last year, the tribes of the Niger Delta, where most of the drilling takes place, are increasingly unhappy, and violent, about their tiny share of the wealth. The active rebels are formed from are oil theft gangs, who tap into pipelines and sell the stolen crude at a discount to brokers. The gangs have gotten rich at this, and been able to arm thousands of young men with high quality weapons. The stolen oil has also led to the purchase of many speedboats, that allow the oil gang gunmen to get around the maze of waterways faster than the soldiers and police who try to catch them.
August 4, 2006: In the Niger Delta, four foreign oil workers (three Filipinos and a German) were kidnapped. The military and police have been able to stop a lot of the kidnappings and attempts to seize oil facilities, but not all of them. The oil gangs are still making money, and growing in strength.
August 2, 2006: Swiss banks said they had complied with legal demands and returned $700 million stolen by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, and deposited in Switzerland. This is believed to be only a quarter, or less, of what Abacha and his cronies stole.
July 31, 2006: Most recently, an oil platform and a pumping station have been seized by tribal gangs, and held until the oil companies paid up. These seizures have a lot of popular appeal because many of the demands are for things that will benefit the community (jobs, scholarships, construction, cleaning up oil spills) and not just the gunmen involved.
July 25, 2006: So far this year, 25 security personnel have been killed defending oil facilities in the Niger Delta. Oil and tribal gangs currently have interrupted some 650,000 barrels a day of production (a quarter of the total). That's about $48 million dollars a day in revenue. Some 32 foreign oil workers were also taken hostage, and released, after the oil companies paid ransom (often in the form of jobs or construction projects.)