Nigeria: Privilege


May 2, 2009:  Despite the thousands of additional police, soldiers and sailors sent to the Delta region, most of these security personnel are assigned to guarding oil facilities. The dozens of gangs that have grown prosperous stealing oil, are free to rape, rob and kidnap without much fear of capture. Kidnappers have a large number of wealthy targets, including retired politicians and army officers (especially generals, who get the most bribes).  The military, as a result, is under a lot of pressure to do something about the growing crime rate.

The army has responded by trying to  make it more difficult for highly visible gangs in the Niger Delta, like MEND, to operate openly. Camps, and other locations where MEND members openly congregate, are being raided by platoon or company size units of heavily armed troops, and MEND has not got the numbers, firepower or training to resist that kind of force. But the larger and better organized gangs have taken to ambushing army and navy patrols. The patrols usually consist of one speedboat, or slightly larger craft, with half a dozen soldiers or sailors on board. While heavily armed, the military personnel can be overwhelmed by four or five speedboats full of gunmen. So far, these attempts to wipe out patrols have been thwarted by the better discipline and accuracy of the soldier's fire. But it's getting more dangerous for the military in the thousands of kilometers of waterways in the Niger Delta.

A bribery trial in the U.S. led to convictions, and the admission that the American firm, KBR, paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian government officials between 1995 and 2004, to facilitate the construction of a $6 billion gas liquefaction plant. Some of the bribed officials are still in office, and the government has demonstrated great reluctance in pursuing the matter. In comparison, kidnapping is believed to have yielded about $100 million in ransoms over the past three years.

April 29, 2009: After 13 days of captivity, the Canadian women kidnapped in the northern city of Kaduna, was freed, and the gang of seven kidnappers arrested. There was great public uproar in the north over the kidnapping, as the organization the woman represented, Rotary International, had long operated charitable efforts in Nigeria.

April 27, 2009: A military court sentenced 27 soldiers to life in prison, for protesting the theft, by their superiors, of money the UN paid the government for soldiers service as peacekeepers. The four officers who stole the UN funds were prosecuted three months ago, and received much lighter punishment.

April 25, 2009: Army troops raided two MEND camps, killed some of the inhabitants (most fled) and destroyed what they found.

April 21, 2009: A Turkish tanker, the Ilena Mercan, was attacked by pirates off the coast, and two of its officers kidnapped. Unlike Somalia, Nigerian pirates cannot take ships and hold them for ransom, because there is no safe (from the police) port where they can hold the stolen ship. The two officers of the Ilena Mercan were later released, apparently after payment of a ransom.

April 20, 2009: In eastern Anambra, a gang of robbers in three vehicles went on robbery spree, starting on an attack on an armored car, and left over 30 people dead over several hours of shooting, in several locations. Police recovered the bodies of several of the criminals, but most of the robbers got away.

April 19, 2009: In the Niger Delta, oil thieves created a leak in an oil pipeline, and local villagers rushed to scoop up oil. But the oil caught fire, and over 40 people died in the inferno.

April 18, 2009: In the northern city of Kaduna, a Canadian women, there to attend a Rotary International meeting, was kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom. Rotary International is a charitable organization whose members are largely responsible for the $5 billion effort to eradicate polio. That effort has run into problems in northern Nigeria, where conservative Islamic clergy spread the rumor that the polio vaccine was actually a plot to poison Moslem children. This has delayed eradication of polio in Nigeria for the last few years.




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