Nigeria: Despair


September 6, 2008:  Many Nigerians despair of ever having honest and efficient government. After decades of trying to get honest leaders, the  murderous response of so many senior politicians, to anti-corruption efforts, is demoralizing. While many politicians are being prosecuted, too many are successfully using bribes, threats or violence to avoid conviction or punishment. Then there was the recent dismissal of eleven members of the anti-corruption commission (the EFCC, or Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), for corruption.

In the Niger river delta oil region, the oil theft gangs have become more violent, and are demonstrating their wealth by using more advanced weapons (machine-guns, RPGs and anti-tank missiles). Apparently the gunrunners have established lucrative connections with the gangs, and business is brisk. Casualties are up as well, with some days seeing several dozen dead and wounded because of clashes between security forces and oil gangs.

Christians, who comprise about half the population, are pressing the government to do something about Islamic militants, who have recently burned down another church in Kwara State. There, more Moslems are converting to Christianity, angering Islamic conservatives. In this case, Islamic militants complained that a new Christian church was too close (about 500 meters) to a mosque.

The recent kidnapping of an Israeli businessman in the delta got a lot of publicity, because of the possible Islamic terrorist connection. But this was one of some 200 kidnappings of foreign workers in the delta in the last two years. Foreign business are less eager to operate in Nigeria, because of the growing crime rate, and the higher costs of dealing with it.

September 2, 2008: Police arrested an American film maker in the Niger river delta oil region, and accused him of spying. The government is hostile to foreign journalists and film makers who want to publicize what is going on in the delta. The American was later released after U.S. diplomats raised a stink.

August 29, 2008: A tenth former state governor has been arrested for corruption while he was in office (from 2002-2007).

August 28, 2008: The new commander of the armed forces has pledged to restore the discipline in the military. This was lost in the 1990s, during the military dictatorship. The army was used to keep the generals in power, and given the authority to do whatever it took. Many soldiers became little different than bandits. They took what they wanted, and were above the law. It was hard to re-adjust after democracy returned in 1999. Now, nine years later, the army is trying to get its act together.

August 26, 2008: An Israeli businessman was kidnapped in Port Harcourt (in the delta). Such kidnappings are common enough, but the Israeli embassy is all over this because Islamic terrorists have been seeking to kill or kidnap Israelis overseas. So the Israeli government is interested in finding out who did the kidnapping, as well as getting the victim released. The kidnappers soon demanded a $12 million ransom. The victim was released a week later, after a ransom was apparently paid. Hezbollah was not involved.

August 25, 2008: In the Niger river delta, rebels seized an oil company supply ship, and its eight man crew. Much of the transportation needs of the oil industry in the delta is by ship.




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