Over the last week, the army has launched a major offensive against gangster bases in the Niger Delta. One gang leader, Obese Kuna, was believed responsible for most of the kidnapping activity. Another gangster, John Togo, portrays himself as the leader of a rebel organization, the NDLF (Niger-Delta Liberation Force), which the government says is simply a front for criminal activities. The NDLF was created by John Togo last month after the government announced that the army would go after the major gangster bases in the Niger Delta. These large gangs, in addition to serving local politicians during elections (to intimidate voters), have also grown wealthy stealing oil from pipelines and from kidnappings. Those taken are often held in these camps, which are too strongly defended for the local police to go after. An attempt to take Togo's camps last month led to ambushes, and at least nine soldiers killed. The army pulled back and planned the more massive and efficient attack underway now. While the troops managed to capture Togo's camps this time, Togo himself is still at large, and hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded by the troops, who appeared to be chasing civilians away so that the gangsters would be easier to find. Any civilian found with a weapon was a target, and at the very least, these tactics are forcing the criminals to toss their weapons and abandon their camps. Lots of ammunition, explosives and weapons have been captured. The army denied that any civilians had been killed, but in past operations the soldiers have frequently killed innocent civilians while looking for rebels or gangsters.
December 3, 2010: Violence continues in central Nigeria as Christian and Moslem tribesmen continue to attack each other's villages, in a cycle of revenge and religious hostility. Today's attacks left eight Christian farmers dead, killed by Moslem Fulani. The religious violence in the area (Plateau State) goes back to ancient tribal conflicts between the Fulani tribes from the north, who are largely herders and Moslem, and other tribes from the south, who have come into contact with the Fulani, but are farmers and largely Christian. Christians are also angry over the use of Islamic law in northern, largely Moslem, states. This religious law is being imposed on non-Moslems, despite protests from the federal government and the non-Moslems involved. Islamic radicalism also adds to the tensions, as the Moslems tend to be the be more aggressive in dealing with real, or imagined, insults to their religion.
The UN Human Development Report for this year ranked Nigeria at 142, out of 162, in terms of how well it measures up in terms of life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living. This is a major complaint of most Nigerians, who have seen hundreds of billions of dollars of oil revenue stolen by politicians, and moved overseas or spent on luxurious living in Nigeria. Since independence in the 1960s, living standards have declined, despite all the oil wealth, and because of the corruption and incompetence of government officials.
December 1, 2010: The military began to advance on three gangster camps in the Niger Delta.
November 26, 2010: A major police/army operation against a gang leader Obese Kuna, who specialized in kidnapping, has resulted in the capture of him, his camps, and the arrest of over 400 suspected criminals.
November 25, 2010: An Iranian and three Nigerians were charged with illegally importing 13 cargo containers of weapons from Iran. Earlier in the month, the government reported to the UN that Iran had illegally smuggled weapons to Nigeria. Iran first insisted that it was all a misunderstanding, and that the weapons were actually purchased by an unnamed Nigerian politician. Most Nigerian politicians maintain private armies. These forces are illegal, and are usually criminal gangs in the pay of local politicians. Iran then changed its story and denied that the arms shipment was from Iran at all (despite all the shipping documents and witnesses indicating otherwise.) Another claim was that the arms were actually legal exports headed for Gambia (about a thousand kilometers up the coast from Nigeria). But some believe that Gambia was but another stop on the way to Egypt, where the weapons would be smuggled to Iranian supported Hamas in Gaza via tunnels under the border. However, Gambia believed that the weapons were part of an Iranian plot of overthrow the Gambian government. In response to this, Gambia cut diplomatic ties with Iran.
November 22, 2010: Niger Delta rebels claimed responsibility for an attack on an oil pipeline. Meanwhile the army attacks on gangster camps in the area resulted in the capture of gang leader Obese Kuna, and 62 of his followers, along with large quantities of weapons and ammunition.
November 21, 2010: In the north, police have arrested 152 suspected Boko Haran Islamic terrorists. This was in response to recent Boko Haran attacks. Boko Haran is suspected of killing at least 25 people in the last few months, most of them fellow Moslems who did not support Boko Haran.