Nigeria: Why Dirty Cops Stay That Way


August 25, 2010: Oil theft, by punching holes in oil pipelines, is on the increase in the Niger Delta. A recent UN survey found that over ninety percent of the oil leaks in the area were caused by oil thieves. The money earned from selling the oil (to brokers who smuggle it to nearby nations where it can be sold) buys more weapons (plus lots of consumer goods). The amnesty last year was supposed to put many of the oil stealing gangs out of business, but new ones appeared. It's too lucrative a business to pass up. But the lack of attacks on other oil company facilities allowed the oil companies to increase production to about 2.1 million barrels a day. Meanwhile, local leaders in the Delta hold the oil companies responsible for the pollution caused by the oil thieves and demand compensation. The government ignores such demands, but the oil companies sometimes respond. Many of these compensation campaigns are pure extortion, but the oil companies have to proceed carefully, to avoid bad PR.

The government has been unable to come up with a plan to reform the national police. Corruption, incompetence and misuse of their authority have made the police very unpopular and undependable. The cops are easily bribed, and only able to act effectively in major emergencies. The police often clash with soldiers who are sent in to carry out police functions. Many politicians don't really want police reforms, because politicians can hire their own private security forces, and bribe the police as needed.

In the last two months, heavy rains in the north are flooding latrines and spreading cholera. Over 5,000 people have the disease and at least 200 have died.

August 24, 2010: In the Niger Delta, a gang leader, Soboma George, who had accepted amnesty (as the leader of a rebel group) last year, was shot dead during a gun battle with rivals. Although the criminal gangs these men belonged to have been disbanded, many of the men who accepted amnesty still have weapons and still hang out with each other. Some are believed to have quietly returned to crime.

August 22, 2010: In the southwestern city of Ibadan, at least 13 people were killed when rival Islamic radical groups clashed.

August 16, 2010: Shell Oil Company declared force majeure (acts beyond their control) because recent oil thefts had damaged several pipelines so badly that Shell will not be able to deliver the amounts of oil it had agreed to ship. The force majeure clause gets Shell off the hook (for fines and such) if criminal activity interfered with moving the oil.

August 13, 2010: Pirates attacked another merchant ship off Nigeria, stealing portable items and taking the captain and first officer with them. The two officers will be held for ransom.



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