Nigeria: The Long War May Never End

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August 9, 2010: Nigeria has been an independent nation for fifty years, and it's been downhill most of that time. Economists point out that half a century ago, Nigeria had higher per capita income than many East Asian nations, like South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. Now, Nigeria is far behind these nations. Many blame it on oil. In the last 38 years, the government has earned over a trillion dollars ($1,200 billion) in oil revenue, most of which has been stolen or misused. This corruption is the main cause of the unrest in the country, especially the oil producing areas. Since 1980, the poverty rate (the percentage of people living on less than $400 a year) has gone from 28 percent to over 60 percent today. About five percent of the population lives on over $1,000 a year, and these are usually connected with the corrupt politicians who have stolen all that oil wealth. For over four decades, the oil money has been going to about twenty percent of the population, leaving most of the rest worse off today than they were half a century ago, before the oil was discovered. The people in the Niger Delta are up in arms because most of them have not benefited from the oil production, but have suffered from the oil spills and other disruptions that accompany oil drilling and shipping. The four decades of theft have left the national infrastructure (roads, water supplies, power production, etc) in ruins.

The general climate of corruption affects everything. For example, there is so much corruption, and delays, in running the ports that importers are diverting shipments to neighboring nations, and trucking the goods into Nigeria. And then there is the declining availability of Internet service. Higher government fees (and bribes demanded), plus more irregular electricity supply, are causing Internet cafes and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to go out of business because of a lack of customers. The corruption and lawless attitude have been an even bigger tragedy in the oil producing region (the Niger river delta.) In the last four years, there have been over 3,000 oil spills, ruining farmland and killing people when they catch fire. Most of the oil spills are caused by oil theft (cutting or drilling into the oil pipelines and stealing the oil for sale to smugglers who take it to neighboring nations and sell it.)

Most Nigerians acknowledge that the corruption is the root cause of its problems, and agree that something has to be done about the stealing and general dishonesty. More corrupt officials are being prosecuted, including more senior ones. But the number of corrupt officials is vast, and they are fighting back with lawyers, bribed judges and armed thugs. It's going to be a long war, and victory is not assured.

Religious tensions continue to simmer in the north, where some states are increasing pressure on non-Moslems to adhere to Islamic (Sharia) law. For example, some officials are no longer taking bribes to allow southern breweries to truck in beer for Christian (and Moslem) customers in Christian neighborhoods. This makes Christians, who are not supposed to be subject to Sharia, angry, thus laying the groundwork for another round of religious violence.

August 5, 2010: In the north (the town of Tafawa Balewa), religious and political disputes led to a mob marching on a police station to demand the release of five prisoners. The police opened fire to disperse the mob, killing three people.

August 2, 2010:  Nigeria has threatened to pull its troops from UN peacekeeping operations if the UN does not change its ROE (Rules Of Engagement) and allow peacekeepers more freedom to defend themselves and go after local armed groups that threaten, and sometimes attack, peacekeepers. Nigerian troops comprise about five percent of over 100,000 UN peacekeepers deployed worldwide.

July 30, 2010:  The police finally released the names of policemen killed a year ago fighting Islamic radicals in the north. The police were reluctant to admit that 32 of their personnel were killed by the Islamic rebels. The general religious violence a year ago left over 500 dead, mostly Moslem and Christian civilians killing each other.

July 28, 2010: Police seized .45 ton of cocaine, which was found in a cargo container that came from Chile, by way of Peru, Bolivia and Belgium.

 

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