Nigeria: Iran Casts A Bloody Shadow

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January 11, 2009:  The government has another MEND leader, Sobomabo Jachrich, in jail, and MEND wants their guy out. Arrested at the end of December, MEND has promised increased violence if Jachrich is not released. The military, however, are finding that MEND is not the biggest obstacle in the delta. Corrupt officials, businessmen and gangsters are a larger part of the local problems than MEND (who sustain themselves by stealing oil, and explain themselves by demanding less corruption and more oil money for the people living in the Niger river delta.) The problem is that no matter how much oil money you direct to the delta states, most of it will be stolen by corrupt officials. The population will remain poor and unhappy, and that will sustain groups like MEND. And groups like MEND are not going away, mainly because the living conditions in the country, not just the Niger delta, continue to get worse. For example, the government corruption has destroyed the national health system to the point where, in the last few years, the average lifespan of Nigerians has declined from 52 years, to 49 years. This is just another example of how the corruption in government and business is literally killing the population. MEND is simply the population trying to fight back.

Members of the national legislature are trying to reboot the anti-corruption drive by demanding new management for the Central Bank and government owned companies that deal with oil and utilities. There is much evidence of corruption in all these organizations, and that makes it difficult to clean them up. All that  money provides the incumbent officials with the ability to hire lots of lawyers, and pay lots of bribes to court officials and potential witnesses.

January 9, 2009:  In the northwestern town of Zaria, fighting between members of a radical Shia group, and more moderate (and representing the majority of Moslems) Sunni group left at least five dead and over 30 wounded.  The Shia movement in Nigeria began about 25 years ago, with little help (but much inspiration) from Iran (where a religious revolution in 1979 put Shia clergy in charge of the government by the mid-1980s). There are 5-10 million Shia in Nigeria and most of them want a religious dictatorship like Iran, run using Islamic law. While many in the Sunni majority agree with this, the religious differences between Shia and Sunni causes tension and violence. There have been assassinations (of Shia and Sunni leaders) as well as riots and some battles. While the Nigerian Shia are considered less-than-orthodox by the senior Shia clergy back in Iran and Iraq, they are still recognized as Shia, and Iran has provided some support (most of it illegal, in the form of cash smuggled in to help sustain Shia organizations.)

January 4, 2009: Pirates in five speed boats surrounded and seized an oil company supply ship off the coast. The pirates seized the ship and its crew of five Nigerians and four foreigners (from Cameroon, Ghana and Lebanon).

January 3, 2009: The religious violence in Central Nigeria (the city of Jos) continues after the assassination of a prominent Christian by unidentified gunmen.

January 2, 2009: In the Niger Delta, someone blew up an oil pipeline. This attack appears to be the result of a feud between two towns over the ownership of the land the pipeline runs through. Such attacks on pipelines are often made by oil thieves, who collect oil before the police and repair crews arrive. All it takes is a few sticks of dynamite, which can be obtained easily on the black market.

 

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