Nigeria: Another Triumph Of Hope Over Experience

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October 4, 2009: MEND leaders Ateke Tom, Government Tompolo and Farah Dagogo have accepted the amnesty, but MEND has not. Farah Dagogo claims to speak for all of MEND, but there are still several factions out there, containing a thousand or more gunmen, who vow to continue the fighting. But the government forces have not diminished, thus the remaining MEND fighters are at a much greater disadvantage than before.

Ten percent of more of the 6,000 rebels who have accepted the amnesty, have not been paid their monthly allowances. There have been several demonstrations by the unpaid men, and threats that they would return to violence. The government can keep these guys quiet for a few months, by making the $866 in cash payments to those who accept the amnesty, and provide some job training. But finding jobs for over 6,000 former rebels will be difficult. If attractive jobs are not found, a lot of these fellows are going back to the gangster life. Moreover, if the amnesty does not work, and it probably won't (based on past government performance), making a future amnesty deal work will be much harder. But the government sees that as an acceptable risk, as the current amnesty has crippled MEND, perhaps for several years, and this will allow more oil to flow, and give the government back the billion dollars a month in oil revenue it has been losing.

The amnesty effort is another triumph of hope over experience. Success is a possibility, but a slim one based on past performance of the government bureaucracy. The government estimated that there were 10,000 armed rebels out in the delta backwaters, living in 50-60 camps. By this calculation, there are still several thousand outlaws still in play.

September 30, 2009: Rebel groups in the Niger Delta oppose government plans to allow Chinese companies develop new oil fields. The Chinese have a bad reputation in Africa, as they bring in many of their own workers, and accompanying traders drive locals out of business. Chinese efforts to get oil deals in Angola and Libya were recently turned down.

September 26, 2009: The government refused to extend the October 4 amnesty deadline.

September 25, 2009: The navy has begun enforcing a six year old law that reserved most coastal shipping jobs for Nigerian ships. In the last two month the navy has seized five foreign tankers it caught moving oil products along the coast. Two foreign ships were pursued, but got away. The foreign ship owners, mainly Indian and Pakistani, claim that their coastal ships are safer, cheaper and more efficient. There's some truth to that, but the Cabotage (coastal shipping) law was passed because countries have the right to reserve coastal shipping business for local firms. By providing legitimate work for Nigerian ships, there is less temptation for these ships to get involved in illegal activities (like moving oil stolen from Niger Delta pipelines).

 

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