August 9, 2007: Police and military forces have been unable
to halt the spread of kidnapping activity in the Niger Delta oil region. With
security forces and civilian body guards tied up protecting officials and
foreigners, the kidnappers have switched to grabbing family members (children,
parents, and so on) of prominent Delta politicians. The ransoms aren't as
large, but the money is still good by Nigerian standards.
The navy is spread so thin
that it cannot protect commercial traffic, particularly ferries and regular
passenger runs, from pirate attacks. The criminal gangs have been doing so well
that they have taken to fighting each other over territory. In the past week,
at least a dozen people were shot dead in Delta cities, as gangs fought each
other in the streets. The government is barely in control in the Delta, and a
coalition of gangs is offering the government a deal to ease up attacks on oil
production, in return for a cut of the oil profits. In theory, these diverted
oil profits would go to "the people," but the gangsters would grab
most of it, emulating the gangsters that have long been passing themselves off
as politicians and elected representatives of "the people."
The government issued a
statement in many areas of the country, urging people not to panic if they saw
troops movements in the next few months. This is not a coup or some
counter-terror movement, but merely the movement of troops in support of
rotating peacekeepers in Liberia and Sudan (Darfur).
Pressure from the newly
elected president, and the media, has forced many prominent politicians to
reveal their wealth. Most are millionaires, who claim they either inherited
their millions, or had a few very successful years in private business. Most
Nigerians recognize the money as stolen from the government.