Nigeria: Tribal Unrest

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October 28, 2005: The government ordered the navy to crack down on smugglers, after it was discovered that at least 2,500 AK-47 assault rifles were brought into the country illegally, and are now in the hands of criminals and tribal militiamen. The government also noted that it losses billions of dollars a year in customs revenue, because of the wide scale smuggling. Customs officials and naval officers, however, have also been bribed to overlook smuggling, and it's not known how this problem will be overcome.

October 27, 2005: In the southeast, police arrested Ralph Uwazuruike, a leader of the Biafran separatist movement. In the 1960s, the Ibo tribe led a Biafran separatist movement that resulted in a civil war that left over a million dead.

October 25, 2005: In the oil rich delta region, factions of the Ijaw tribe fought over how to distribute payments from an oil company. At least two were killed and several wounded. The oil companies often pay local tribal leaders to keep the peace, especially after tribal gangs have interfered with oil operations. The local police are poorly paid and corrupt, and unwilling to get involved in a feud with tribal gangs.

October 23, 2005: Ten leaders of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) were arrested for involvement in an OPC feud that left ten dead.

October 20, 2005: In Lagos, two factions of the OPC (Odua Peoples Congress) fought over control of a business site, leaving ten dead. OPC is a tribal advocacy organization that also engages in criminal activities to raise cash.

October 7, 2005: Oil theft has made the gangs in the delta region richer, but not smarter. For example, two boatloads of gang members, intent on making the first amphibious back robbery in Nigerian history, came ashore next to a Lagos office complex containing three bank branches. It was a clever idea, for making a getaway on land is often foiled by traffic jams. The bank robbers, however, had not scoped out their target very carefully, and were spotted by the building security force, which promptly closed all the doors leading to the banking area. The robbers, noting this, began firing their guns in anger, while police and army reinforcements began to arrive. The bandits quickly took to their boats and sped off, empty handed. Meanwhile, all the gunfire panicked drivers on nearby roads, causing a traffic jam, and many drivers abandoned their vehicles. It took several hours to get traffic going again. Building complexes have anticipated these kinds of raids, noting how the gangs have become more numerous, better armed and bolder. Politicians fear that some of the gangs may decide to take over the administration of areas, by intimidating elected and appointed officials into doing what the gang leaders want. Some of the gangs already act as hired muscle for some politicians, and there have already been cases where the muscle makes political, not just monetary, demands.

 

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