Nigeria: Gangs Gone Wild


August 17, 2007: The kidnapping continues, despite heavy security for foreign oil workers. The kidnappers are now going after family members of government officials. There are too many of these to guard. This has also gotten the attention of the politicians, who are now more involved with trying to stem the growing criminal activity in the Niger Delta oil region. The union representing Nigerian oil workers is threatening to strike, and shut down most oil exports, if something is not done about the growing violence. Currently, about 25 percent of oil exports are blocked by gang violence. The gangs are out of control, and it's largely the fault of local politicians. It's long been customary for Nigerian politicians to hire a crew of thugs to try and disrupt the campaigning efforts of rival. The political gangs are also used to intimidate voters on election day. Over the years, some of these gangs became year round operations. The gangs branched out into other criminal activities, besides election fraud. In the Niger Delta, the gangs got into stealing oil from pipelines. This proved more lucrative than whatever local politicians paid. Now the gangs are rich enough to buy plenty of weapons, transportation and other gear. The gangs are on a roll, and no one has a solution.

August 16, 2007: Soldiers and police attacked the headquarters of one of the gangs that had recently terrorized Port Harcourt in a battle to control criminal activities. The raid left over a dozen gangsters dead, and even more under arrest. Many fled, however, including most of the leaders.

August 14, 2007: Equatorial Guinea, the smallest country in Africa (in terms of population, with fewer than 600,000 citizens) will have its armed forces trained by the Nigerian army. Oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea during the 1990s, and 350,000 barrels a day (about $25 million worth) are currently exported. But most of the money is stolen by government officials. The Nigerians will train Equatorial Guinea soldiers, who will help keep the current rulers in power.

August 13, 2007: Soldiers and police regained control of Port Harcourt, driving hundreds of gang gunmen into hiding, or out of the city. A week of fighting between the two gangs caused over a hundred casualties, about a third of them dead.

August 10, 2007: Two gangs have been fighting for control of territory in the Port Harcourt, the largest city in the Niger Delta oil region. It took police several days to figure out that the various gun battles were connected.


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