Nigeria: The Bad Guys Strike Back


June 14, 2007: Oil companies are being forced to change the way they operate in the Niger River Delta oil region. The growing power of heavily armed criminal gangs has made it more difficult to hire foreign technicians needed to keep the operation going. About a quarter of the national oil output is now stopped because of rebel activity. The oil companies are still making money, but profits are down and senior management is demanding some solutions. One proposal is to move as many oil company people as possible, out of the Delta. Some support jobs can be done elsewhere in Nigeria, or outside the country. More automation is another option, and more security equipment. The government insists none of this will be necessary, and that a deal is in the works.

June 12, 2007: Police encountered some armed men in a speedboat, outside an oil facility, and the gun battle resulted in eight dead gunmen. It's unclear if these were criminals, or rebels seeking better conditions in the region. This apparently had no impact on the current ceasefire, indicating that these guys were common criminals.

June 11, 2007: As a good-will gesture, or perhaps part of some secret deal, Niger Delta rebel groups released twelve of their kidnap victims. There are still at least 18 foreigners being held captive, but that's because there are many purely criminal gangs now getting in on the kidnapping for money game.

June 10, 2007: The new president has encouraged anti-corruption officials to be particularly aggressive against crooked politicians who have just left office, and thus lost their immunity from prosecution. Fifteen former governors are being sought, and an effort is being made to prevent any of them from fleeing the country. But between the corruption, and large amounts of cash the corrupt ex-governors have, most of these guys will probably escape. Some may be extradited from foreign refuges, but that takes time and money. Some of them may stand and fight, using political influence, and guns.

June 9, 2007: Two policemen, caught taking $168,000 in cash out of police headquarters in the capital, said they were following orders. Investigators quickly questioned a chain of officials involved in the theft, and it eventually led to Chief of Police who was forced to retire by the newly elected president. Also in trouble is a Ministry of Defense official, who was caught trying to enter India with a large amount of cash. But all this may be mainly for show. Many of the ex-governors are still powerful and influential politicians, who can call people to the streets, to cause disorder. Most major politicians also maintain armed gangs, of anywhere from a few dozen, to a few hundred, men. More can be called in, if the politician wants to spend the money. The unrest in the Niger Delta is partly the result of the a local governor getting into a dispute with his militia leader over money. The feud escalated, and the militiaman went rogue, setting themselves up as freedom fighters for the people, as well as major bandits.

June 8, 2007: Britain has advised its citizens to leave the Niger Delta area because of the kidnappings of foreigners, and lawlessness in general. In the last year, 31 British citizens have been kidnapped in the Delta, along with over 150 other foreigners. Currently, there are believed to be about 800 Britons living in the Delta region.

June 5, 2007: Most of the rebels in the Delta are giving the newly elected president a month to give them something. Ideally, the rebels want some of their imprisoned leaders freed, troops withdrawn from the region, and lots of money. But if the past is any indication, the government will try to buy off the more powerful gangs, and crush the weaker ones.




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