Nigeria: Kidnapping Gets Political


December 15, 2006: Over 70 foreigners, mostly oil workers, have been kidnapped for ransom so far this year. Most of these kidnappings were committed by Ijaw rebel groups. There are eight million Ijaw people in the Niger Delta, where most of Nigerias oil is. The Ijaw believe they have not gotten a fair share of the oil revenue. They are probably right, because there has been little public investment in the area, and it's now known that most of the government oil revenue, over the last few decades, was stolen by corrupt government officials. Nigeria is widely recognized as one of the most corrupt nations on earth.

The police force is also corrupt, and the source of some pretty atrocious behavior. There's currently a lot of unrest in central Nigeria, because of a recent police operation that resulted in ten dead civilians.

The Ijaw MEND rebels are still holding four foreigners in the Delta. MEND does not want a cash ransom, but the release of two of their leaders, and aid projects for the Delta region. MEND expects the hostages to be held through Christmas, and probably much longer, as the government has resisted giving into the MEND demands.

December 8, 2006: The navy now has one frigate and 15 smaller warships (many of them just patrol boats) in the Niger Delta, trying to provide security for the thousands of oil production facilities in the area. The navy is concentrating on the oil stealing (called "bunkering") operations, which fund the many criminal gangs, and rebel movements, in the area. Oil pipelines are punctured, the oil is transferred to larger and larger containers, until it ends up in small coastal tankers, that take the stuff to nearby countries, where oil brokers will buy the oil (at a discount, because it is stolen.) The navy is out looking for those small coastal tankers, and confiscating the ships, and the oil, and arresting the crews. Sometimes, the gangster tankers have very convincing counterfeit documents, which makes the policing job even more difficult. So far, the oil stealing gangs are winning, but the navy is taking tankers out of the illegal trade.

December 7, 2006: In the Delta region, MEND rebels kidnapped four foreigners and demanded that two rebel leaders be released, and a large ransom paid, before the foreigners would be freed. The MEND raid was made at 5:30 AM, and the military guard was asleep.




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