Nigeria: China Gets A License To Kill

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July 9, 2010: The religious violence in central Nigeria has calmed down, after nearly 500 people were killed this year. The religious, and tribal, tensions remain, and all the government can do so far is urge people not to kill over religious differences. That has not changed many minds at the village level, but Christian and Moslem politicians have shown an increasing willingness to work together.

In the Niger delta, where the oil business results in a lot of wealthy (by Nigerian standards) people, there has been an explosion in kidnapping. Until the ceasefire deal in the delta last year, some of the organized gangs found that kidnapping foreigners would usually result in a ransom of over $100,000 per victim. But the ceasefire coincided with much improved security for foreigners. Wealthy Nigerians had long been accompanied by serious security, so the kidnappers have turned to any Nigerians with money, and come to accept ransoms as small as a few hundred dollars. This growing plague of kidnappers is spreading fear throughout southern Nigeria. The police are corrupt and ineffective (and believed involved in some of the kidnapping) so many cases are not even reported. But there are currently believed to be several hundred a month. If the trend continues, Nigeria will soon be the kidnapping capital of the world.

The Nigerian football (soccer) team did badly at the World Cup, not winning a single game and being eliminated in the first round. The government vowed to investigate those in charge of the team, and examine the financial records for signs of corruption.

Responding to threats to resume fighting, the government is hustling to deliver promised benefits to 20,000 rebels in the Niger delta oil region. A ceasefire deal was worked out late last year, but since then, few of the promised benefits have arrived. The former rebels suspect corruption and threaten to resume the violence (even though the military and police are better prepared to deal with it if they do.)

July 7, 2010: China and Nigeria agreed to allow a Chinese firm to build an $8 billion oil refinery in the coastal city of Lagos. This, and two other refineries, will be able to refine 750,000 barrels of oil a day. Nigeria already has four refineries, that can handle 445,000 barrels a day. But only a third of that capacity is used because of mismanagement and corruption. But the Chinese built refinery will be run by the Chinese, who are expected to get the most out of their investment (80 percent of the money for construction is coming from Chinese sources.) The Chinese often bring in their own security personnel in such situations, and obtain license to kill from local authorities.

July 4, 2010: Pirates off the coast, released their 12 foreign kidnap victims, to a fishing trawler. The twelve had been kidnapped from a German cargo ship two days earlier. It's unclear if a ransom had been paid, or the pirates had been threatened, or what. Attacks on merchant ships off the coast are on the rise, as the Nigerian criminals can obtain higher ransoms for the foreign sailors (who are held prisoner in remote coastal areas.)

 

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