Nigeria: The Good Guys Are Losing

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December 29, 2007: The behind-the-scenes effort to foil the anti-corruption effort has succeeded. The chief investigator, Nuhu Ribadu, has been ordered away to a yearlong "training course" that senior police commanders like himself are assigned to periodically. But to most Nigerians, this assignment is an indication that the corrupt politicians have gotten through to the new president, and gotten this very effective corruption investigator off their backs. At the same time, the national police agreed to re-hire 3,109 policemen fired for corruption.

Because of corruption investigator Nuhu Ribadu, governors from seven of the 36 states have been indicted for corruption. One of those, from the wealthiest state (where all the oil is) offered police a $15 million bribe to back off. But there was too much attention being paid to this case, and the cops knew they could not get away with it. However, the accused governors from the Niger Delta have another ally in the ethnic rebels that are interfering with oil production, and demanding more autonomy and oil money for "the people." It's not as simple as that. Many of these armed gangs have long been hired by politicians to help manipulate elections. A lot of the organized crime in the country has evolved from these politically connected thugs. Now the gangsters are returning the favor, and demanding the release, from prison, of a former oil region governor. If their former employer is not released, the rebels threaten even more damage to the oil production facilities. Currently, about two million barrels of oil a day are being shipped. Rebels have managed to keep another half million barrels a day off the market, because of attacks on pipelines and pumping stations.

The army, navy and police have developed defenses for the oil infrastructure, and have made it much more difficult for the rebels to take out key sites, or kidnap foreigners. The government had to do this, or the foreigners that run the oil operations threatened to pull out, and let oil shipments collapse to practically nothing.

The main problem for Nigeria, and the major contributor to instability, is the corruption. Most of the oil wealth has been stolen by politicians and gangsters. The population is left with very little, and the people are growing more and more angry. That has led to more cases of civil disorder and outright insurrection. A minority of elected officials, and a majority of the voters, favor a vigorous anti-corruption campaign. But at the moment, it appears the good guys are losing.

 

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