Nigeria: The Delta Disease is Spreading


February1 8, 2007: In the last year, rebels in the Niger Delta have kidnapped about sixty foreigners, and killed about a hundred police, troops and civilians. The gangs in the Niger Delta are different from the armed militias found throughout the country. The Delta gangs have grown wealthy tapping into oil pipelines and smuggling the oil across the border to brokers who buy it. In the rest of the country, the gangs are basically enforcers for local politicians. Street level muscle, if you will. The muscle is paid for by money the politicians have looted from the government. With elections coming up in April, these political gangs are staffing up and are much more active. But the leaders of these militias are getting more ambitious, and demanding, after seeing what the Niger Delta gangs are getting away with. Politicians are expected to keep their militias/gangs under control, but it appears that some of these armed organizations are out of control.

February 16, 2007: The United States has warned that Niger Delta gangs are planning to take their kidnapping operations to other parts of Nigeria. The U.S. has been very interested in what's happening in the Niger Delta, mainly because about ten percent of the oil imported into the United States, comes from Nigeria. The Niger Delta gangs, particularly MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta), have not announced any such plans. But, then, it is not in their interest to do so. Security in the Delta is much stronger, making it more difficult to snatch foreigners. So moving beyond the Delta makes sense. If outfits like MEND can successfully operate outside the Delta, the federal government is in big trouble.

February 13, 2007: The 24 Filipino sailors seized on a ship in the Niger delta, have been released. A ransom was apparently paid, but no one will say anything.

February 12, 2007: MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta) rebels say that some of their foreign hostages will not be released until after the elections in April. That will bring in a new government, which could repudiate any deals the current government might make to get foreign hostages released.

February 11, 2007: The introduction of Sharia (Islamic law) in the Moslem north did not have the desired effect. About fifty people were convicted of serious offenses (that could result in an amputation or death). None of these punishments have been carried out in the last six years (and very few in 2001, because of the uproar from the non-Moslem half of the Nigerian population.) What dismayed Moslems the most was that none of the biggest crooks, the corrupt politicians, had Sharia law applied to them. Only the powerless were prosecuted for Sharia law offenses. While this included some common criminals, it also hauled in women who had been raped, or unmarried couples. Sharia law is pretty much a dead issue now up north.

February 9, 2007: Oil companies are losing a lot of key foreign workers, who are fleeing the increasing violence in the Nigerian oil region (the Niger river delta). By the end of the year, this labor shortage will reduce the amount of oil that can be shipped, as facilities break down. The oil companies have also made plans for complete evacuation of foreigners. There are not enough Nigerian citizens, with the necessary skills, to keep the oil facilities going for long. Thus if the government doesn't calm things down in the Niger delta this year, there will be no more oil money for the politicians to steal. Already, about 20 percent of oil production has been halted by gang violence.




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