Nigeria: Guns Everywhere

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December 8, 2007: The Niger River Delta has become heavily armed. The country, as a whole, is believed to contain over seven million illegal weapons, and a disproportionate number of them are in the delta. Anything connected with the oil business (facilities, boats, trucks) is accompanied by armed men. This has reduced the violence, but not eliminated it. The gangs just do the math and hit targets with enough manpower to, hopefully, overwhelm the security. But the sailors, soldiers and police are less likely to flee when attacked, and the bandits don't fight to the last man when their attacks initially fail. Usually the criminals accept defeat, and run away if they meet resistance.

December 6, 2007: The government has signed a peace deal with twelve smaller resistance groups in the Niger Delta. The largest separatist group, MEND, was not part of this deal. The problem is a lack of trust. For over four decades, the oil money has been going to about twenty percent of the population, leaving most of the rest worse off today than they were half a century ago, before the oil was discovered. The people in the Niger Delta are up in arms because most of them have not benefited from the oil production, but have suffered from the oil spills and other disruptions that accompany oil drilling and shipping. Groups like MEND are no longer willing to take the word of government officials that the Niger Delta will get more money, but want direct control over a share of the local oil. Even then, the lack of civil society (fair and corruption-free government administration) is still something only a minority of Nigerians buy into. Most people still believe in grabbing all you can when the opportunity presents itself.

December 5, 2007: While the violence in the oil producing areas has shut down daily production of 900,000 barrels (worth about $30 billion a year), Nigeria has still been able to use excess capacity to continue shipping its agreed OPEC production of 2.1 million barrels a day.

December 3, 2007: Discipline has been increased in the army, especially for officers. The latest round of promotions were touted as fair and honest, and not just favoring friends, or someone offering a bribe. Without naming names, the army announced it was holding officers responsible for the loss of weapons in some areas. It's been widely known, for years, that officers at some bases were willing to "lose weapons" and sell them out the back gate. The government ignored this until recently. But too many bandits and rebels were being caught with weapons that could be traced back to the military, and voters were losing confidence in the military, and politicians who looked the other way. It remains to be seen if the current enthusiasm for cleaning up the mess, makes a difference.

 

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