Nigeria: Blood And Ballots


February 21, 2011: In the Niger Delta, part of the peace deal with the tribal rebels was jobs. One of the largest job programs is 5,000 positions as oil pipeline watchmen. Several problems have developed. First, there are disputes between Ijaw and Itsekiri  tribal groups over who should get more of these jobs. Then there are accusations that politicians are giving some of these jobs to supporters, rather than rebels who accepted the amnesty. Then there are disputes among the leaders of rebels who accepted the amnesty. Many of the former rebel leaders dispute how many of these watchmen jobs their crew are to receive, and there are threats to take up arms again if demands are not satisfied.

Despite repeated demands by Islamic radical group Boko Haram, police in northeast refuse to negotiate with the Taliban-like organization. Police are waiting for the results of the April elections, to see what newly elected politicians want to do with the growing number of armed Islamic militants in northern Nigeria.

February 20, 2011: In the northeast, soldiers found an abandoned vehicle containing three assault rifles, ammo, grenades and explosives. The vehicle and weapons were apparently owned by a group of gunmen who earlier encountered troops and were all killed. Lots of troops are in the northeast, searching for Boko Haram gunmen, but are sometimes encountering bandits or some armed tribal crew. The encounters often end in gunfire and dead bodies.

February 19, 2011: In the southeast (Enugu State), a bomb was found, and disarmed, at the scene of an upcoming political rally. Hundreds of lives were thus saved. The bomb plot is believed an attempt by rival parties to demoralize the opposition. Politics is very much a blood sport in some parts of the country.

February 17, 2011: In the Niger Delta (Ondo State), a group of Ijaw tribesmen invaded a town, killed five people and kidnapped a tribal leader. The raiders believed some other tribal faction had killed one of their group, but the cause of that was still unclear. In this part of the country, tribal politics is rough, and often fatal. In the Niger Delta, the Ijaw are seen as aggressive and expansionist.

February 12, 2011: Outside of Jos, in Central Nigeria, nine people were killed, and two beheaded, in the last few days. But police concluded that the deaths were either the result of a cattle ownership dispute, or black magic (the case were two heads were taken, but the cattle left behind.) It's a rough neighborhood, made deadlier by cheap AK-47s and religious enmity. About a thousand people have died in and around Jos in the last year because of religious and tribal violence.

In southern Imo State, a police reward program produced a tip that led to the arrest of a local arms dealer, and the seizure of seven assault rifles and over 4,000 rounds of ammo for them. The informant receive $6,500. The man captured with the weapons claimed he was only hired to move the cargo, and gave up information about who hired him. The illegal arms business is widespread and thriving. This is especially true in the months leading up to elections, when politicians seek to expand the number of armed men they have working on their election campaigns.


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