Nigeria: Pay Or Pray


October 24, 2009: Things have quieted down over the last few months, as many rebels ceased fighting. Oil shipments in September were 1.805 million barrels a day, up 1.4 percent over August. Three years ago, before the rebel groups like MEND began attacking the oil facilities, Nigeria shipped 2.6 million barrels a day. Some months, during the last years, were so bad that shipments fell to 1.1 million barrels a day. But many rebels, including those who accepted the amnesty, and those who did not, have made it clear that if the government did not quickly get money to the villagers in the polluted oil production areas, the violence would resume.  

The ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), which keeps track of pirate attacks worldwide, believes that half the attacks in Nigeria go unreported. Only 20 attacks (out of 306 worldwide) were reported in Nigeria during  the first nine months of this year, mostly against oil service boats in the Niger delta. Apparently the oil companies find it cheaper to repay the crews for lost stolen belongings, rather than deal with the insurance companies. Not reporting pirate attacks also makes the area seem safer, and thus it is easier to hire foreign oil workers.

October 23, 2009:  A group of rebel leaders who accepted the amnesty have given the government two weeks to make good on their promises to improve the lives of people in the Niger delta, or face a resumption of widespread violence in the area.

October 19, 2009: In order to achieve peace, the government has proposed to give people living in oil producing areas, be given ten percent of oil revenues (that the government normally gets). This would amount to $338 million the first year, and money would be paid to residents through a trust. This would be subject to possible corrupt practices and theft, but if money did get to the villages, it would quiet down the unrest.

October 16, 2009: MEND announced that it was resuming hostilities as of today. But there was no unusual increase in violence in the Niger delta.

October 14, 2009: The government granted amnesty to about 8,000 rebel fighters in the Niger delta. Nearly as many are still being investigated to insure that they are not bogus, and just trying to get the amnesty benefits. The government has expected as many as 15,000 armed men to accept amnesty, so they believe at least 5,000 armed men are still out there. MEND has threatened to resume attacks if the government does not come up with an acceptable peace deal.  


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