These are bad times for Nigeria. The continuing Boko Haram violence in the north and growing proof of massive oil revenue loss ($6 billion a year, at least) from theft down south has led to a the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) splintering into factions accusing each other of corruption and incompetence. Well publicized and energetic efforts to halt oil theft in the Niger Delta have failed, despite very visible military efforts to find oil thieves out in the swamps, arrest them, and seize their boats and crude oil refineries. The problem, as always, is the corruption. Who guards the guards? Boats seized by the troops are sometimes spotted back in use by other gangs of oil thieves. When arrested, oil thieves complain that their efforts are nothing compared to what the politicians and oil companies steal. There’s a certain amount of truth to that but the oil thieves who tap into pipelines waste 70 percent of the oil that comes out of those punctures. These oil thieves live in the area and now their robberies are the major cause of oil pollution. The tribes demand compensation for the ecological damage from the oil companies who blame the government for not being able to control the pipeline attacks and the resulting leaks.
Oil theft related arrests in the Niger Delta usually involve shutting down thieves who do not have a politician sponsor (who takes a cut of the profits for providing protection). The foreign oil companies that run the drilling and pipeline operations are threatening to leave if something is not done about the oil theft gangs. The stealing has become so extensive that daily production fell from 2.3 million barrels a day to about 2 million this year. This is despite efforts to increase production. The government hoped to increase production to 3.7 million barrels a day. The previous peak was 2.6 million barrels a day 7 years ago (before the Niger Rebels got going and oil theft became a much larger problem). It proved impossible to get back to 2.6 million but production might get back to 2.4 million barrels a day. That will be difficult because oil theft is now all the rage in the Niger Delta and the popular enthusiasm for it is not slowing down.
In addition to the oil thieves, investigators have documented decades of theft from oil profits once they are in government bank accounts. The thefts from pipelines and government bank accounts has amounted to over $10 billion a year in the last decade. The annual GDP of Nigeria is $238 billion, for a population of 165 million ($1,440 per capita). Oil accounts for about 14 percent of GDP and unemployment is currently about 25 percent. These revelations document what a lot a lot of Nigerians had known for a long time. The theft is so pervasive (40 percent of refined petroleum products are stolen) that the activity is hard to miss. Eliminating the stealing has been difficult because most politicians and political parties are financed by stolen oil money. The well-funded thieves are organized and determined to hang on to their wealth. Judges and police can be bought and many oil thieves have already been prosecuted and escaped via bribes. But there is progress. The oil thieves are under attack, some do lose, but the war will go on for years and there will be a lot of obstacles.
Nigeria is also seen by international crime experts as the center for organized crime in Africa. The culture of corruption makes it easier for major criminal enterprises to survive in Nigeria. Even without all the oil wealth to steal, the Moslem north also suffered from this culture of corruption, which is the main reason for the appearance of Boko Haram. While these Islamic radicals blame the corruption on Western influences, the north was corrupt long before European colonialists showed up two centuries ago. The corruption is worse now because there’s more to steal and the participation of so many senior government and commercial officials makes it easier to launder money and get it out of the country.
The Islamic-terrorist related violence in the north has left over 500 dead in the last month and nearly 4,000 in the last four years. Security forces have driven Boko Haram out of the cities but the Islamic radicals have regrouped in rural areas and are attacking towns and people travelling along the main roads. While most Moslems in the north would like all the violence to stop, and blame Boko Haram for causing most of it, there is still a lot of anger at the corruption and incompetence, especially in the security forces.
September 20, 2013: In the capital seven people died when police raided a location believed to contain Boko Haram weapons. Police said there was resistance and that weapons were found and 12 Boko Haram men were arrested. The location had been obtained by interrogating 2 Boko Haram men arrested earlier. However, some witnesses said the raid was all about a hundred squatters and the police opened fire to clear them out of the building, later inventing the Boko Haram story to justify the deaths.
September 17, 2013: In the northeast (Borno state, near Maiduguri) Boko Haram, some of them dressed in army uniforms, attacked 2 towns while also setting up roadblocks, stopping vehicles and killing those trying to flee. At least 159 people died over 3 days. The Islamic terrorists robbed their victims and in one case tried to steal a heavily guarded cash shipment for banks. The attacks were meant to intimidate the increasingly anti-Boko Haram population and discourage men from joining pro-government militias.
September 14, 2013: In the north (Adamawa state) the army admitted that 4 of 11 Boko Haram suspects recently arrested with the help of civilian militias had died in custody. In nearby Borno state a mob of militiamen killed a policeman who had killed a militiaman earlier during a traffic dispute.
September 12, 2013: The army claims to have raided a Boko Haram camp, killing 150 Islamic terrorists while losing 25 soldiers. Other sources indicate a Boko Haram ambush that left over 40 troops dead, followed by an army counterattack that left many terrorists dead. Many of the dead “Boko Haram” may have been civilians, as the army tends to shoot anyone when they are angered over their own losses.