Oil companies are being forced to change the way they operate in the
Niger River Delta oil region. The growing power of heavily armed criminal gangs
has made it more difficult to hire foreign technicians needed to keep the
operation going. About a quarter of the national oil output is now stopped
because of rebel activity. The oil companies are still making money, but
profits are down and senior management is demanding some solutions. One
proposal is to move as many oil company people as possible, out of the Delta.
Some support jobs can be done elsewhere in Nigeria, or outside the country.
More automation is another option, and more security equipment. The government
insists none of this will be necessary, and that a deal is in the works.
June 12, 2007:
Police encountered some armed men in a speedboat, outside an oil
facility, and the gun battle resulted in eight dead gunmen. It's unclear if
these were criminals, or rebels seeking better conditions in the region. This
apparently had no impact on the current ceasefire, indicating that these guys
were common criminals.
June 11, 2007:
As a good-will gesture, or perhaps part of some secret deal, Niger Delta
rebel groups released twelve of their kidnap victims. There are still at least
18 foreigners being held captive, but that's because there are many purely
criminal gangs now getting in on the kidnapping for money game.
June 10, 2007:
The new president has encouraged anti-corruption officials to be
particularly aggressive against crooked politicians who have just left office, and thus lost their
immunity from prosecution. Fifteen former governors are being sought, and an
effort is being made to prevent any of them from fleeing the country. But
between the corruption, and large amounts of cash the corrupt ex-governors have,
most of these guys will probably escape. Some may be extradited from foreign
refuges, but that takes time and money. Some of them may stand and fight, using
political influence, and guns.
June 9, 2007:
Two policemen, caught taking $168,000 in cash out of police headquarters
in the capital, said they were following orders. Investigators quickly
questioned a chain of officials involved in the theft, and it eventually led to
Chief of Police who was forced to retire by the newly elected president. Also in
trouble is a Ministry of Defense official, who was caught trying to enter India
with a large amount of cash. But all this may be mainly for show. Many of the
ex-governors are still powerful and influential politicians, who can call
people to the streets, to cause disorder. Most major politicians also maintain
armed gangs, of anywhere from a few dozen, to a few hundred, men. More can be
called in, if the politician wants to spend the money. The unrest in the Niger
Delta is partly the result of the a local governor getting into a dispute with
his militia leader over money. The feud
escalated, and the militiaman went rogue, setting themselves up as freedom fighters for the people, as well
as major bandits.
June 8, 2007:
Britain has advised its citizens to leave the Niger Delta area because
of the kidnappings of foreigners, and lawlessness in general. In the last year,
31 British citizens have been kidnapped in the Delta, along with over 150 other
foreigners. Currently, there are believed to be about 800 Britons living in the
June 5, 2007:
Most of the rebels in the Delta are giving the newly elected president a
month to give them something. Ideally, the rebels want some of their imprisoned
leaders freed, troops withdrawn from the
region, and lots of money. But if the past is any indication, the government
will try to buy off the more powerful gangs, and crush the weaker ones.