Nigeria: Islamic Zealots Seek Wider War


March 24, 2010:  Religious tensions continue to grow in the Moslem north. This is complicated by most of the Moslem majority states in the north adopting Sharia (Islamic) law. This has led to violence, as lifestyle police have been more active enforcing lifestyle rules stipulated in  Islamic law. But now the Sharia courts have gone online, issuing a decree banning Moslems from participating in online chats and message boards criticizing the recent (and first) amputation of a thief's hand. A lot more of these amputations were expected in the north, because of the Sharia law being adopted. But there was much public anger against such punishments, and the Sharia court in the city of Kaduna saw that anger being stoked in certain online venues. The court can arrest and punish anyone in Kaduna, who has been caught online disobeying the ban. But the main effect of the ban is to increase resistance online, and throughout Nigeria, to Sharia law and religious intolerance. Meanwhile, Islamic websites are featuring more videos calling for religious war in Nigeria, and forcible conversion of that half of the population that is not Moslem.

Anti-corruption efforts have included enforcing skill standards for civil servants. But during recent examinations for 880 senior civil servants, 17 percent failed. Normally, everyone is expected to at least pass, and those with the highest scores are the prime candidates for promotion. But many officials are in high places because they have a senior politician to back them. In turn, the favored civil servant will assist in corruption schemes.

In the central Nigerian city of Jos, where recent religious and tribal violence left nearly a thousand dead, police have recently arrested nearly 200 suspects, and several of these have agreed to testify against others. Total arrests for these killings now total about 400.

In the south, rebel groups MEND and JRC claim they are attacking oil facilities again. But it's hard to verify the claims, because most of the rebels have accepted the amnesty, and oil thieves continue to damage pipelines in a way similar to rebel attacks. It's believed that a diehard group of rebels are trying to get the violence going again, but are creating more press releases than damage.

March 17, 2010: Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has dismissed the cabinet of president Umaru Yar'Adua, and appointed his own. Jonathan's choices include known reformers and reliable technocrats. President Yar'Adua, while back in the country, is too sick to govern, or even meet with acting president Jonathan. This leads many to believe that Yar'Adua's treatment in Saudi Arabia left the president incapacitated. Yar'Adua's term is up next year, giving Jonathan 14 months to implement any reforms he has in mind. It was noted that 21 of the 42 ministers in the new cabinet, had been in the old one.

Outside Jos, another village was attacked by Moslem zealots, and at least 13 Christians were killed. Halting this violence is complicated by the fact that the hostility is not just religious, but also tribal and economic (the Moslems are herdsmen, while the Christians are farmers, and there are frequent disputes over land use.)

March 15, 2010: Niger Delta rebel group MEND claimed responsibility for two car bombs going off in the southern town of Warri, where talks on amnesty (for local rebels) continue. Six people were wounded by the remote control explosions. The amnesty negotiations have been stalled because president Yar'Adua negotiated up with the terms, then took sick and has been incapacitated every since. Acting president Jonathan is trying to get the amnesty process working again.

March 12, 2010: In the southern city of Port Harcourt, an Air Force G-222 twin engine transport ran off the airfield while landing during a disaster exercise. There were no fatalities, but ten of the 52 people on board were injured, and the 25 year old aircraft was heavily damaged. The air force is in the process of refurbishing its five G-222s.



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