Nigeria: Fighting in the Niger Delta Escalates


February 18, 2006: The new tactic of using helicopter gunships, to attack oil gang barges (full of stolen oil), has brought to the surface a new organization; MEND (The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.) This is another combination of ethnic politics (the Ijaw tribes in the delta region suffer most from the oil production, and do most of the stealing) and gangster theatrics (the oil gangs are trying to use ethnic movements for cover.) MEND is making the usual demands; more oil money for the Ijaw people in the oil production areas. The oil gangs don't want to shut down production completely, because then there won't be anything to steal. One way or another, the locals are getting a piece of the action.

Another increasingly popular angle is kidnapping, and today, nine foreign oil workers were seized from an off-shore barge. The captors belonged to one of the oil gangs, and they are looking for ransom.

February 17, 2006: The Niger Delta oil gangs have retaliated by setting fire to a pumping station, forcing the armed forces to divert resources to guard the oil company crews putting out the fire and making repairs.

February 16, 2006: Governor Joshua Dariye of the Plateau state, was charged with taking part in stealing over six million dollars of government funds. Because governors have immunity, he cannot be arrested until he is impeached, or his term of office ends. Six others, who don't have immunity, were also charged. Such corruption costs Nigeria (and most other African countries) a large chunk (if not most) of their government income each year.

The air force used helicopter gunships to attack the barges, used by Niger Delta oil stealing gangs, to move their loot to the brokers who buy it and get it out of the country. This is an escalation of the battle between the oil gangs and the police. During the raid, at least eight people were killed, and ten buildings burned down. But hitting the illegal barge traffic, the military hopes to force the gangs to move their stolen oil covertly, and in smaller quantities. This means less profit for the gangs, and less money to use for buying weapons. The oil gang sent an email to the press insisting they had driven the helicopter off, and that it was actually an oil company helicopter equipped with rockets and a machine-gun.




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