Nigeria: The Dark Side Is Winning

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November 2,2008: While northern Somalia is the site of much pirate activity, Nigeria has also suffered a growing number of attacks on its fishing fleet that, so far this year, 64 Nigerian coastal fishing boats have been attacked by pirates. Currently, eight of these fishing boats are being held for ransom. Unlike the oil companies, the fishing boats cannot afford to hire armed guards, and a very vulnerable to attack by seagoing bandits. The dozens of ships that service the offshore oil facilities now have armed guards most of the time. So the pirates go looking for less dangerous prey.

The legislature has established a committee to investigate what happened to the $42 billion that has been spent, in the Niger River delta oil region, over the last eight years, on development projects. Nothing appears to have been developed, and the money is unaccounted for (and presumed embezzled or otherwise diverted.) The usual routine with this sort of thing is for the corrupt officials who stole the money, to use some of it to bribe whoever needs bribing to make sure the investigation goes nowhere.

Corrupt officials have used their power and influence (especially bribes) to largely cripple anti-corruption efforts. Officials who have clearly stolen large amounts of government money are avoiding prosecution. Those that do get convicted, serve only a few years, and some that are getting out, are successfully suing to get some of their seized money (stolen from the government) and property (bought with stolen funds) back. The good government crowd is losing ground. Much of the best political talent in the country goes over to the Dark Side, and uses their skills to steal government money, and hold on to it.

October 29, 2008: The president fired twenty ministers, in an attempt to find officials who could get things done. Most ministries are inefficient, or prone to inaction. Corruption is widespread, and any officials who try to clean things up, is overwhelmed by the larger number of officials who like things as they are.

October 26, 2008: In the Niger delta, navy patrol boats encountered three speedboats full of gunmen. Shooting broke out, and five of the gunmen, who belonged to one of the many gangs in the region, were killed. The police and military armed boat patrols are forcing the gangs to be more cautious, but that's it.

October 25, 2008: Gunmen boarded an oil company support boat, robbed the 17 crew members, and took whatever loot they could carry, and left. A second oil company boat was also attacked, but managed to speed up and escape with only a few bullet holes.

October 24, 2008: In the Niger delta, the government of Rivers state has offered amnesty to several of the larger and better organized of the rebel groups. The rebels responded with a demand that the security forces withdraw from the rural areas the gangs claim as their own, before the amnesty offer will be considered. Thus the amnesty effort appears headed nowhere.

October 20, 2008: Cameroon is sending more soldiers and police to defend its 1,700 kilometer frontier with Nigeria. This is in response to attacks by Nigerian gangs, including one (the NDDSC, or Niger Delta Defense and Security Council) that claims to represent the interests of the 200,000 Nigerians who are being forced to leave the Bakassi peninsula. Cameroon is installing radar along the coast near Nigeria and increasing naval patrols.  The new violence comes in the wake of Cameroonian troops moving into the Bakassi peninsula. This is the final part of a two year process of turning Bakassi over to Cameroon. This oil rich area was long controlled by Nigeria, but an international court awarded it to Cameroon. Nigeria began handing it over two years ago, but some Nigerian groups have continued to fight for a return to Nigerian rule. The Nigerian gangs are taking advantage of the less well armed and numerous Cameroon security forces. Most of the inhabitants of Bakassi do not want to become Cameroon citizens and must move to Nigeria. Some of the gangsters from this population of over 200,000 people. Gunmen in speedboats have been clashing regularly with Cameroonian security forces.

 

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