The separatist movements in the Niger
Delta are not making much progress, but the copycat gangs that have emerged to
join in the growing banditry and mayhem, are. Gangs of robbers roam the main
highways, some of them in police uniform (and some of those may actually be
police). More gangsters are demanding protection money from businesses, and
that leads to gangs fighting over control of territory to "protect." The
government is concerned because of the billions of dollars in lost oil revenue.
About a quarter of Nigerias oil production is now shut down by the violence.
The government cannot muster sufficient security forces to pacify the Delta,
and has been unable to negotiate a deal to get the new players, the Delta
gangs, to do it for them.
July 5, 2007: For the second time in two weeks,
kidnappers have grabbed a three year old child. This time its the daughter of a
British couple. Ransom is demanded. MEND insisted it was not involved in
kidnapping children, and would assist in the search for the British child.
While separatist groups like MEND may publicly abhor kidnapping children, the
increasingly lawless atmosphere in the Delta region has led to many freelancers
joining in a feeding frenzy of crime. It's going to get worse.
July 4, 2007: Five foreign oil workers were
kidnapped for ransom after their offshore oil rig was attacked by gunmen in
speedboats. Over a hundred foreigners have been grabbed so far this year, and
about fifteen are still being held.
July 3, 2007: The 30 day ceasefire by MEND is over
and navy patrols of the Delta are again being fired on. At least two sailors
are dead, killed by heavily armed gang members in speedboats.
July 2, 2007: The Niger Delta has become a magnet
for arms dealers. Smuggling is a popular activity in Nigeria, so getting
weapons in is no problem. There is definitely a demand, especially for high end
weapons costing a thousand dollars or more. At the low end, the price of a
machete has fallen from six to three dollars, now that the election season is
over. Machetes are the favorite tool of the thugs hired by politicians to
intimidate those who support their opponents. Speedboats are also a big item in
the Delta, as this is the favored way of getting around for gangsters.
July 1, 2007: Nearly 24 hours of fighting between
gangs in the Niger Delta, left at least nine people dead. The breakdown of law
and order in the Delta has made it easier for gangsters to get rich. Now the
gangs are fighting over territory, and sources of income.