Nigeria: Religion and Oil Spark Violence

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February 23, 2006: In the Niger Delta, the oil gangs are in a quandary. For years, they have grown rich from stealing oil from pipelines. Many of these gangs are clearing over a million dollars a year. You can see evidence of this in the new cars, speedboats, clothes and homes. But for the last year, the government has been hitting back. Armed sailors in small boats are going after the thieves that tap into pipelines that cross waterways. The thieves put the oil into small barges, which are then towed away to the coast, and larger tankers run by gangs that smuggle the oil out of the country. The navy is making life more difficult for these smugglers as well. But corruption is showing up more often. Naval officers who stop smuggling ships are more likely to face a bribe offer, than gun fire. But either is possible. The oil gangs don't like the interference, and the increased pressure from the national government to shut down the oil thieving completely. So the new nationalism angle is an attempt to get a share of the oil money legitimately. But this won't be easy. The national government has been taking nearly all the oil profits since oil pumping began in the Delta decades ago. The politicians in the capital don't want to give it up, but may have to compromise if military and police forces cannot shut down the tribe based oil gangs. The gangsters know the territory, as they are locals, and they have spread the money around. That makes these guys Robin Hood like figures. Fellow tribesmen of the gansters will not help the cops. The oil companies are caught in the middle, although for years they have paid off locals, and written off the oil thefts as a cost of doing business. But now production is shut down in some areas, and no money is being made at all, by anyone.

February 22, 2006: Nigerian Christians are fighting back, in response to Moslem attacks over the Danish cartoons (that depicted the Prophet Mohammed in unflattering situations). In this case, Christian mobs went after Moslems and mosques, killing over a dozen Moslems and destroying over half a dozen mosques. Nigerian Christians have found that the only way to stop Moslem attacks, is to fight back. This usually works.

February 21, 2006: In the Niger Delta, oil gangs blew up an oil pipeline. As a result of all the violence, about 20 percent of the nation's oil production has been halted.

February 20, 2006: The Danish cartoon dispute came to Nigeria, and Moslem mobs not only demonstrated, but attacked Christians, and Christian churches. Over a dozen Christians died and 30 churches were burned down. The country is about half Christian and half Moslem. Most of the Moslems are in the north, most of the Christians in the south. But there are many areas where mixed communities exist, and these often become targets of Islamic radicals. It's largely the Moslems who attack Christians, because of the popularity of Islamic radicalism in the past few decades.

February 19, 2006: The oil gangs have refused to negotiate with the government on the release of the nine foreign oil workers they hold.

 

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