Nigeria: December 15, 2004


The tribal militias in the Niger delta still hold many of their weapons, and are still trying to extract more benefits from the government. The gunmen started out years ago as oil thieves, tapping into pipelines and then selling the crude to black market oil brokers for less than half the world price. As the world price of oil rose to $50 a barrel, the oil gangs got richer, and are now heavily armed. The gangs are led by men who sense that more power is to be had. By playing the tribal angle, the gang leaders increase their local support. The gang chiefs are generous with their money, giving them a Robin Hood image. Now the gangs are demanding money from the government and the oil companies. Government officials have, for a long time, stolen most of the oil revenue, and the tribes, especially the Ijaw, in the delta, have gotten little benefit from all the oil wealth. The oil companies have been more generous, but see these payments as bribes to the locals, as cost of doing business.


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