Nigeria: Falling Down


December 27,2008:  Along the coast, particularly between the Niger river delta and the Cameroon border, there has been an increase in pirate attacks. Gunmen in speedboats attack ships, as well as settled areas along the coast. Police and military forces are tied down guarding the essential oil pumping and pipeline facilities, and cannot provide many patrols. The oil facilities are where the money is. Meanwhile, Germany has offered to help Nigerian police cripple the Niger delta gangs by going after the financial system that supports the illegal oil trade.

The army says it knows of a rebel training camp in the Niger delta, where hundreds of new recruiting are learning how to shoot and blow things up. This is in preparation for the end of the three month ceasefire. The camp is also believed to be where some of the current kidnapping victims are held. Some 250 foreign and local oil workers have been kidnapped this year. The oil stealing gangs are not particularly well trained in the use of weapons, but they are vicious. Terror is used to intimidate local police. If the gangs cannot catch a particular cop, they will go after any members of his family they can find, and injure them (cutting off a hand, for example.) National police also believe that MEND (the main political group among the delta oil stealing gangs) plans to attack senior government officials in the federal capital. This is unlikely, but makes it easier for the police to justify arresting anyone from the Niger delta, that they find in the capital and don't like.

The religious violence in Central Nigeria (the city of Jos) continues to simmer. Most of the police reinforcements were Christian, as are most of the police in Jos. Reprisals against the Moslems were particularly lethal. The town was originally Christian, but many Moslems have moved in during the last decade. This kind of population movement usually causes problems when the differences in tribe, religion and place of origin combine. The 1999 constitution made into law, the customs of discriminating against migrants economically and politically. The religion angle has become more dangerous with the growth of Islamic conservatism in the north. While there has been no al Qaeda activity, there have been a few pro-Taliban cases, where local religious leaders sought to force everyone (including non-Moslems) to conform to proper Islamic lifestyle, This has led to suspicious of foreign Moslems. Earlier this month, eight such foreigner Moslems (six Gambians, two Indians) were arrested near the capital for preaching religious hatred. Such arrests usually turn out to be mistaken, for Islamic terrorist groups find Nigeria too wild and unstable to work from.

Electricity is in short supply because the companies that supply natural gas for the generators, have not property maintained the pipelines. There are also petroleum fuel shortages in some major cities because the tanker truck drivers are striking over the growing number of bribes that are being demanded by police and other government officials.

Corrupt government officials have succeeded in halting anti-corruption efforts. Judges and prosecutors have been bribed, along with  legislators, who are preventing new anti-corruption legislation. One former state governor (of Edo) who was convicted, ended up paying only a fraction, of the millions he stole, in fines and restitution. His legal fees and bribes must have been expensive, but still, he got away with millions, and served no jail time.

Anti-corruption efforts fail because the culture of stealing is supported by a huge network of local politicians, and their gangs of thugs. Even an attempt, in the north, of using Sharia (Islamic) law to deal with the corruption failed. The corrupt politicians bribed, intimidated or ignored the Islamic clergy attempts at introducing clean government. The number of Nigerians calling for clean government increases, as does the education level of the population. But the corrupt officialdom is strong, and not willing to give up their thieving ways without a fight.

December 16, 2008: In the Delta, two foreign (and one Nigerian) oil workers were freed after 12 days captivity. It is assumed that ransoms were paid, but the oil companies never discuss such matters.




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