Nigeria: Bombs For Bucks

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April 27,2008: The government is prosecuting the extradited MEND leader, Henry Okah. He had been arrested, last year, for trying to illegally buy weapons in Angola. The government was not eager to take custody of Okah, because his followers like to kidnap people, often kin of politicians, and demand that MEND prisoners be released. Now they have Okah, and are prosecuting him, rather than releasing him. As a result, MEND has taken credit for four bombing attacks on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta in the last week. These attacks are believed to have halted another 200,000 barrels of daily oil production. That means about a quarter of the 2.5 million barrels of daily potential production has been stopped by MEND attacks and operations by oil thieves (who puncture pipelines and take the oil that leaks out.) MEND wants Okah freed and more money for the Ijaw people in the Niger Delta. The Ijaw tribes don't always get along, but MEND's populist position and Robin Hood tactics, have made the rebels very popular. However, thousands of Ijaw work for the oil companies, and take a hit when oil operations are shut down because of MEND violence.

April 24, 2008: Some of the senior staff (technical and managerial) in the oil industry are on strike for more money. These are Nigerian workers, not the foreigners brought in for many technical and managerial jobs.

April 23, 2008: Parliament is investigating the previous president, Olusegun Obasanjo, for corruption involving the national oil industry. Obasanjo was elected on an anti-corruption platform, but apparently he was unable to resist demands from family and friends for access to oil deals, and suspected cases of outright theft. This is the curse of Africa, where family and tribal obligations often trump national responsibilities. Other parts of the world have less corruption because they have already gone through the transition, which can take centuries, from tribe/clan/family based government, to truly national ones where public service is relatively corruption free. Thus a quick fix for the African corruption problem is not likely.

April 21, 2008: Up north, Islamic radicals are on the defensive because of 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. Islamic radicals had, five years ago, gotten many conservative clergy to preach against allowing children to get polio vaccinations. 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, and the sharp drop in polio cases, is yet another setback for the Islamic conservatives who thrive on anti-Western paranoia. But the lapse in vaccinations has allowed polio to spread again, and it will take a year of two of vigorous vaccination activity to reduce polio activity.

April 18, 2008: MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, a coalition of local criminal gangs seeking political and economic benefits) took responsibility for blowing up a section of a pipeline two days ago. More attacks are promised if their leader, Henry Okah, is not released.

April 15, 2008: Chinese and Indian oil companies have agreed to build two refineries, so that refined product can be exported, rather than bulkier crude oil. Nigeria only has four refineries, which are unable to produce enough gasoline and other products for the domestic market. This was done on purpose by Nigerian military dictators, in order to provide opportunities to steal more money via refined imports.

April 12, 2008: Tribal activists were persuaded to leave a pipeline control facility, restoring 5,000 barrels a day of production.

 

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