Nigeria: China Delight

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April 3, 2009: A government committee, set up last year to study all past studies of the Niger Delta problems, has reported its findings. Not surprisingly, it advocates more oil money for the Niger Delta (25 percent, up from the current 13 percent), and that more jobs be allocated for the unemployed young men (who otherwise tend to become criminals). It was also suggested that MEND rebel leader Henry Okah be granted bail, and an open trial on treason (rather than the secret one now planned). Okah is very popular, although he is also a gangster and, if elected as a state (there are several states in the Niger Delta) governor, he would likely be as corrupt as past governors. Thus allocating more oil money to the Niger Delta states would probably just mean more for the local officials to steal. The main problem has always been the corruption that prevents government revenue (mostly from oil), from getting to the people.

Meanwhile, the JTF (Defense Ministry Joint Task Force) is going after the large oil stealing gangs, including at least one operated by a former army general. The JTF is not large enough to shut all the gangs down any time soon, and is accused of taking bribes to leave some criminal operations alone. That is unproven, but certainly possible considering the amount of money in play in the delta and past performance of police and army units there.

The government has proposed amnesty for the Delta rebels, but most of the gangs there, especially MEND, turned down the offer. MEND wants autonomy, and more oil money. The local politicians don't like the idea of being replaced, or at least having to compete with, a new bunch of populist politicians, and support trying to defeat the gangs. There are no clear winners one can see, and it's a bloody and expensive stalemate. This is especially true as rebel activity still keeps over 20 percent of potential oil exports from leaving the country. That, plus the falling price of oil, has meant less money for the rest of the country, and politicians nation-wide. The government is trying to break this deadlock by giving the JTF more money, and more authority, in the Niger Delta. Many politicians have been able to get their own gangsters exempted from JTF raids, but this will be ending. Throughout the country, politicians are patrons of criminal gangs which, during elections, do street level dirty work to ensure that their patron gets elected, or re-elected. A lot of the stolen (by politicians) government funds goes to pay off these gangs. This is not a unique situation. Saddam Hussein, and many other dictators, had street gangs on the payroll. Even the Soviet Union, one of the more "professional" police states, had many gangsters working for the secret police.

March 28, 2009: In an increasingly common event, police freed a foreign worker from a kidnapping gang. The Lebanese construction worker had been held outside Lagos by a criminal gang. Six of the kidnappers died fighting the police raiders. While MEND and the oil gangs also kidnap, they have more secure facilities to stash their victims.

March 25, 2009: China has agreed to replace, at no cost, a communications satellite it launched for Nigeria in 2007. The satellite failed a year later. This is largely a good will gesture, and avoids a legal battle over whether China should pay. China has been developing economic ties in Nigeria, and throughout Africa. Unlike Western countries, China will do whatever it takes to obtain resources and economic opportunities, and the generally corrupt African officials like that just fine.

 

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