i-657a7f02ca12b6cf40101adf3a83c796-Nigeria_mend.jpg

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) commandos
Nigeria is where Western graduate students in political science who study corruption go to do their fieldwork. There appears to be an ensconced elite and externally connected ruling body and a down trodden underclass organized into various resistance groups. The discovery of abundant petroleum reserves in the Niger Delta and vicinity meant that the elite ruling group and external forces (including but not limited to Big Oil) have conspired to extract this resource at maximum profit largely setting aside the possibility of in situ development and long term improvement in areas of education, health care, infrastructure, and so on for actual Nigerians. It is not surprising at all that there are militant rebel groups in this area. (See: Nigeria’s Delta blues, Human Rights Watch)

Naturally, once you get militant rebel groups forming you also get a new power structure with its own elite and elitism. This was true for the Palestinians, and it was true for the Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland, to give two significant recent examples. At some point, even if there is not an overwhelming reason to keep fighting … in reference to the cause or causes that originally gave birth to the militantism … the elite militants will find a way to keep themselves in power.

At this point, in Nigeria, we may be at a tipping point of sorts. With increased international attention focused on oil exploitation, and a long period of time over which the same disgustingly corrupt system has been in place, the Nigerian situation appears to be heating up.

Over the last few days, there have been a number of incidents (see below) indicating a notable escalation. Militant leaders are now vowing that a major action will take place soon, possibly this weekend. Security warnings are going out to ex-patriots in the region. Expect the ongoing, in the background events that never boil to the top of the US news ticker to emerge on the front page any time over the next few days.

The following is a summary of some of the recent events in the region. Just over the last couple of days there have been numerous reports of events that have not hit the news yet, or have been reproted but are still not sorted out (it is unclear to me how many hostages there are, there are some reports of killing, and one report of a plane crash). So the following is only a bare skeleton of what is going on. It does, however, give an idea of the nature of the escalating situation.

July 7th

The treason trial of suspected Nigerian militant Henry Okah resumes Monday at a closed federal high court in the central city of Jos. From the Nigerian capital Abuja, Gilbert da Costa reports Okah could face additional charges.

Henry Okah, a suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is facing 55 counts of treason, terrorism, illegal possession of firearms and arms trafficking.

“They’ve increased the charges from 55 to 62,” said the lawyer. “They want to pre-empt our appeal but it won’t be acceptable to us. Already, we are on appeal and one of the things we are appealing against is the fact that out of the 55 charges, the judges only read out two to him. By criminal procedure law, they are supposed to read all of them, even if he keeps mute or not. This is the fourth time they are amending the charges since we started.” [source]

July 10th

A previously declared cease fire called off by A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. [source]

July 12th

Nigeria’s biggest construction firm, Julius Berger, is pulling out of the oil-producing Niger Delta because of the deteriorating security situation there, a senior company executive said on Saturday.

Gunmen kidnapped two Germans working for the firm, the Nigerian unit of German builder Bilfinger Berger, on Friday, blowing their armoured vehicle off the road with dynamite and killing a soldier in their convoy.

The ambush by around 15 gunmen on three senior employees, who were travelling in armoured jeeps accompanied by 28 soldiers, had been so brutal that there was no alternative but to suspend operations, the company official said.
“The current security environment makes it impossible for us to continue our operations in the Niger Delta and to protect our employees,” he told Reuters, asking not to be named for security reasons while staff were being pulled out.
“Since yesterday, we have already stopped at our three major sites,” he said.

Friday’s attack was the latest on expatriates working in the Niger Delta, the home of Africa’s biggest oil industry, which has become notorious for kidnappings and raids on oil sites since militants launched a campaign of sabotage two years ago. [source]

July 25th

Abuja – Niger Delta militants abducted five Russians on board a Swedish vessel, the Herkules, offshore Bonny River Friday, security officials said.
The vessel was sailing to Akpo oil field when the militants seized it at 19 nautical miles offshore. it was on charter to Saipem, a subsidiary of ENI group of Italy.
Local reports said that 11 Russians and one Ukrainian were on board the vessel when the militants attacked it from speedboats.

The militants took control of the vessel and steered it toward Sombereiro River, 15 nautical miles west of Bonny River, the reports said.

The militants later freed seven of those on board and took five Russians hostage. [source]

Today:

The Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta has deployed gunboats in the Chanomi Creeks in Delta State, following threats by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to blow up the pipelines of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in the area.

Saturday Punch gathered that the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Owoye Azazi, handed down the order to the Commander of JTF, Brig.-Gen. Wuyep Rimtip. MEND threatened to destroy the pipeline, identified as System 2C and other major oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region, within 30 days to prove that it did not collect protection funds from the NNPC. The NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr. Abubakar Lawal Yar’Adua, had claimed that $12 million was paid to militants in the region for pipeline protection but MEND said it did not receive such funds which it described as “Jacob’s bowl of porridge.”[source]

… and …

The main militant group in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta said on Wednesday it would attack major oil pipelines in the next 30 days to prove it had not received payment from the government to end its campaign. The head of the state-run oil firm NNPC was quoted in Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday as saying the company had paid militant groups $12 million (6 million pounds) to protect facilities including the Chanomi creek pipeline in Delta state. NNPC later issued a statement saying it had… [source]

Oil workers in the region are at present on lockdown awaiting opportunities to evacuate or, if things settle down, going back to work. A threat has been made against government or police units in the region.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 26, 2008

    I am sorry to say that if it weren’t for the fact that one of my friends is in lockdown, I might not be so concerned about the situation.

    Before she left she talked extensively about what is going on in Nigeria. The corruption, violence and threats are one aspect of the Invisible Hand that libertarians forget about.

  2. #2 Lorne
    July 26, 2008

    Even if you didn’t have a friend there Mike, you’d probably still care. Nigeria is the America’s #5 source for oil imports (http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html)
    IIRC, that’s about as much oil as was shut in by Katrina a few years back.

    Also, as a libertarian, in my utopia there would be no corporations to be involved in corruption. There would also be no government money for roads, and thus much lower demand for oil, theoretically. But that’s a bit off topic.

  3. #3 laurisa
    July 26, 2008

    Since 1979, nigeria has been a top world exporter of oil and the staggering majority of people do not have clean drinking water, much less anything else. it’s completely sad. It IS all about money. Those in charge will do EVERYTHING in their power to keep that power/money. Lie, cheat and steal has a new meanings to me now.

    The people I see every day are the ones suffering. You can’t blame them for being upset. It’s just that they will harm me, maye with, maybe without reason given an opportunity. When the mob forms, as it inevitably does as when we gave out rice or generators, the pushing becomes heated struggle and then thoughtless acts of violence.

    Watching someone get killed around here is an everyday occurrence. People pay it little mind, I guess only glad it is not them. Passing a burning or bloated body has become the norm. No one dares touch it, as that individual now becomes responsible for disposing of the dead.

    So you can imagine our problem when the soldier from the attack mentioned above came into our clinic and died. So now what do I do this dead man? The report doesn’t mention that another died later on. He left our clinic with our ambulance en route to an army station for further transport. The villagers know our ambulance, and we can only go so far without problems on the road. The way to the military operation is clear (relatively), because military salaries are paid by us. So when our ambulance shows up with a man stabilized but needing further medical treatment in a bad way, there was no action taken. The military demanded a dash. Now, we had a local Nigerians in the ambulance (driver and a nurse), and it’s not like we load them down with money to transport a victim. So the second soldier from that attack on Julius Berger died. Money. No reports offer that.

    But then the Joint Task Force, kind of like the cops in the US, right? They just went in and destroyed a village in response to killing these soldiers. Killed some villagers and burnt some huts. As if that solves anything.

    As far as I know, the 2 Germans have not been demanded for. It’s still to hot for those holding them to demand ransom, poor bastards. And yes, Julius Berger is pulling out of the Delta.

    These stories happen every day. This one got my attention front and center because it happened 30 km down the road, and soon came to involve me directly. But it is commonplace for attacks, kidnappings and killings.

    My buddy Mark Wilson was killed 17 March 2008. Ambushed on his way from one site to another, carrying two computers and some tools. There were only 18 people on our site that day from which he left. The reality is one of those people are responsible. In other words, people I know, people I probably like will kill me given the chance. Senseless? Shit, in that part of Nigeria, as with so much of it, you can’t find electricity. What good do computers do you? You’d have to rent a ride up to Lagos to sell them on the black market, and bring enough people so that you too were not robbed. For how much money did my buddy die for?

    money. Everyone claims not getting paid, sometimes true, sometimes not. Remember when the government of Angola claimed that British Petroleum wasn’t paying them (90′s?), so bp tried to publish their payment schedule. Oh no, my friends! They were publicly warned not to do so…meaning if they did, their whole operation would be in jeopardy. It probably doesn’t seem to make sense to the audience which I write (if you bother to read this), it didn’t make sense to me until I got here. The natives will kill everyone there, blow up facilities. Why? It’s the same ones that work there, feed their families with that job. Well, because they feel entitled to more (not unfounded, either). And the government, the liers and stealers will continue to tell their “brothers” that the white man is doing this, when in fact the money never leaves the president’s hands. It’s the same story of Mubotu, Mugabe all over this continent.

    finished. I’m sick to my stomach. and hope to see another day.

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    July 27, 2008

    Thanks, L.

  5. #5 fuguez
    July 27, 2008

    Laurisa – wow! Where are you?

    I got to this page from my Google News/Blog alerts.

    I am in the UK and am on my way to Yenagoa this very week.
    I tend to take reports with a pinch of salt, but there does appear to have been a real and significant escalation recently. I am not really sure what has caused it but the Okah trial appears to be my number one guess.

    It is true. The leaders are simply not sincere in solving the problem, or in having the facts laid out and presented to all. I could go on, but it will only depress me.

    Take care.

    Fuguez

  6. #6 laurisa
    July 27, 2008

    Fuguez:

    Bayelsa!!! Howdy neighbor! I’m outside Port Harcourt, buried here in Rivers State.

    Yes, you read the reports and they are changed around so much that it’s hard to make sense of. YOU know, it’s just like living here. It’s hard to explain to others. There IS no way to explain it and for the reality of it to sink in. At least that’s what I find.

    You too my friend, stay safe and come back to the blog. Never know when an evacuation might lead us to cross paths.

    StephanieZ:

    been missing you, but find your wit all over the fav blogs! Be good my sister, and see you on the return!

  7. #7 Stephanie Z
    July 27, 2008

    L, you gotta make up your mind. Do you want the wit, or do you want me to be good? ;)

    Be safe.

  8. #8 fuguez
    July 28, 2008

    Laurisa – evacuate? Hardly. I am a returning local.
    Admittedly more re-pat than ex-pat.
    There is a real and observable downward spiral at the moment – aggravated by rising fuel and food prices.
    Unfortuneatly, I do not believe that the Federal Government has the brains to remedy this situation. The Okah situation is completely unnecessary but they can’t back down now so they will continue to ham things up.

  9. #9 laurisa
    July 28, 2008

    Fuguez:

    so i’m already a jerk. i’m sorry.

    My Point:
    food prices are double here in rivers than they are in bayelsa or anywhere else in nigeria. the reason is that with all the oil coming out of the ground, there should be revenue.

    Wrong. starvation kills more than most right here.

    My point: today two eruptions in Shell’s pipeline. what does a militant group get out of harming this? NOTHING>the same as what the indigineous people get from the government.

    I don’t know a name for MEND, nor do I care. there are much more pressing factors for me to adhere to in order to stay safe, stay alive.

  10. #10 fuguez
    August 1, 2008

    Apologies – was away from an internet connection.

    A jerk? (Hmm – how? I did not mean to imply anything).
    Did I forget a smiley? :o)

    Food prices. I assure you that Yenagoa is more expensive than PH. The transportation links here are markedly worse. But the whole N/Delta suffers from this transportation issue and this will continue for a while. More so if we are to believe Berger’s pullout.

    The issue is that “The Structure” cannot succeed.
    Abuja calls the shots and expects people to be grateful. The curse of centralisation

    From what I understand: MEND’s actions seem to be to hurt the only constituency that can effect change – The Federal Government. Unfortunately the locals are not important in effecting change as recent elections demonstrate.

    The problem is that “The FG” is really made up of many and various ad-hoc non-cooperative groups. In Rivers, you have a similar problem (in microcosm) with your ‘cults’. No-one is really in sufficient charge at either The State or The Federal levels, and this results in a lack of co-ordination of response.

    I believe that MEND will continue to hit the FG in a way to make things financially painful and also (just as significantly) to prevent the possibility of power generation – which is causing industry to leave PH and Lagos.

    Something will have to give and I really do not think it will be MEND. They will do all that they can to prevent the remainder of the country from developing. Apart from Lagos and the Oil states, all states are financially non-viable without FG help for any level of development. Life in these states is slowly getting worse no matter what our foreign reserves and bond ratings are doing.

    The indigenes are unfortunately stuck in the middle.
    As you mentioned above, it is the unreported stuff that is really frightening.

    Stay safe and stay alive.

  11. #11 kelly
    December 15, 2008

    bayelsa bayelsa bayelsa, our dear rich state that every one from all works of live wants a piece of but still the leaders and so called freedom fighters have no clue or wisdom on how to go about it. tell me some one after all the war and violence it will still come to dialogue to bring about peace and stability so why dont we start that now. to the best of my knowledge, the leaders encourage militancy cos its the only way they think they can get at their political opponents, how stupid, on knowing to they they keep killing innocent souls and retarding development and growth. whom ever that is reading this should know that the problems of the niger delta can never be stopped until GOD brings us a messiah as a leader (WHO IS READY TO RENDER SELFLESS SERVICES, I.E. NOT SELFISH AND HAVE THE HEART OF THE PEOPLE AT HAND TO FIGHT FOR)to discourage bad and corrupt governance it is only then we can be free from this nightmare.

  12. #12 ONIGHOROBOH.E.C.
    July 21, 2011

    I WILL WANT TO BECOME A MEMBER OF MEND, PLEASE INFORM ON HOW TO BECOME ONE. MY IDEALOGY RHYM WITH THAT OF THE ORGANIZATION. LOOKING FORWARD TO A FRUITFUL RESPONSE.

  13. #13 onighoroboh. e.c.
    July 21, 2011

    I WILL WANT TO BE A BONIFADE MEMBER OF MEND.PLEASE MY IDEALOGY IS IN TONE WITH THE ONE OF THE ORGANIZATION.THANKS I LOOK FORWARD TO A FAVOURABLE RESPONSE.