Nigeria: The Oil War Rages


October 7,2008:  The new government announced it had recovered $3.4 billion of embezzled government funds in the past 16 months. The anti-corruption effort is very popular, and dozens of senior government officials have been arrested and charged. In the last 37 years, the government has earned over a trillion dollars ($1,190  billion) in oil revenue, most of which has been stolen or misused. This corruption is the main cause of the unrest in the country, especially the oil producing areas.

In the Niger River delta, army and police operations over the last three weeks have destroyed all known rebel (largely MEND) bases. It is believed that there are dozens of unknown bases and safe houses. Several hundred rebels have been killed or wounded so far, and over 500 arrested. During this offensive, the troops have also shut down over a hundred oil theft operations (sites where a pipeline was punctured and oil collected, or the barges that take the oil out of the country). The oil is brought to barges or small tankers, where it is taken to neighboring countries and sold, at a discount (50-70 percent off the current world price), to brokers who sell it as legit stuff to refineries or exporters. That's over a billion dollars a year coming back to dozens of gangs in the delta. Army commanders have received death threats from gangster chiefs who have had their smuggling operations damaged. No one is sure exactly how much oil is stolen, or exactly how much cash the gangs get. But there are a lot of gangs, and they have guns, speedboats, cell and satellite phones, luxury cars and all manner of consumer goodies. Many gangsters have built impressive looking houses (walled compounds in many cases), and some of these were raided recently, as soldiers and police rounded up the usual (or at least known) suspects. There's a lot of crime in the delta, not all of it oil related. There are also many government officials on the gangsters payroll, and some of these are being sought as well. The corrupt officials have a tendency to beat the charges, eventually. But in the short term, politicians and civil servants get arrested. Then they use lots of their ill-gotten gains to hire lawyers and bribe members of the judicial system. Collectively, the corrupt officials are getting organized and fighting back against the clean government movement.

October 2, 2008: Troops were sent to the southeast, to stop five months of tribal violence (over land disputes). At least 18 people have died, and many more wounded. Over the last decade, about a thousand people a year have died in tribal strife, usually over land rights or leadership disputes (who shall be the chief). When police appear unable to contain the violence, the army is called in. This often leads to more deaths, as the army tends to come in shooting.

September 30, 2008: The army has arrested several hundred suspected rebels in the Niger River delta in the last week. This was in response to earlier attacks on oil infrastructure which cut 40 percent of the nations potential 2.5 million barrels of oil a day of shipments.




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