Grievances Fuel Insurgency, Says Nigeria Media

Americans are held hostage in an oil-rich nation.

Guerrilla attacks drastically cut the country's electrical capacity.

The government seeks U.S. military assistance.

No, the situation in Nigeria is not another Iraq, but a growing insurgency in the impoverished Niger River delta is rattling international oil markets and dominating commentary in the country's online media.

The story broke Feb. 19 when armed men from a group calling itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) kidnapped nine employees of the Willbros Group, a Houston-based oil and gas construction contractor.

At the same time, the militant group launched a sabotage campaign that reduced the country's electrical power output by 40 percent in three weeks, prompting one Lagos daily, This Day (registration required) , to editorialize, "Dark Days Are Here."

The MEND militants are seeking to gain more benefits for the poor people of the oil-rich region. They are demanding that the Shell Oil immediately pay $1.5 billion compensation to indigenous Ijaw communities for environmental damage created by the company's wells. They also want the government to increase the royalty rate paid by oil companies, disband a military strike force which has attacked rebel strongholds, and release two jailed politicians who support their cause.

On March 1, six of the employees were released, leaving three in captivity: Cody Oswalt of Jackson, Miss., Russell Spell of Texas and James Hudspeth of Great Britain. They are reportedly being held in the vast mangrove swamps in southern Nigeria.

This past weekend, the Nigeria government began a massive deployment of troops in the city of Warri, suggesting that hostage negotiations "may have broken down," according to This Day.

A columnist for the Daily Champion news site fears the government is leaning toward a military solution.. A top police official told another daily, Vanguard, that security forces could free the hostages but want to avoid bloodshed.

Last month, Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar told the Financial Times (by subscription) the U.S. had been too slow to help protect the Niger Delta from the insurgency. He said talks with the U.S. over security plans for the region did not "appear to be moving as fast as the situation is unfolding."

State Department and Pentagon officials told the Daily Sun that the United States was reluctant to get involved in the Delta conflict because of "a high level of corruption in the Nigerian military."

Commentators, while not condoning the hostage-taking, are critical of the government and foreign oil companies.

The editors of Vanguard charged yesterday that the Nigerian government's "indifference to the region has dictated the attitude of the multinational oil companies."

The oil companies' efforts to ameliorate environmental damage are "sheer propaganda," they wrote. They say quelling the Niger Delta uprising lies "in treating the people as human being, not some minor and dispensable irritants routinely labeled criminals."

The Daily Independent says the oil revenues, "derived from nature's bounteous bequeaths to the Niger Delta, should not sit in the vaults of foreign banks" but should be used for a massive development program that "addresses the social and economic grievances which lie at the heart of the current hostage taking and slow motion slide into guerrilla warfare."

Kevin Dumouchelle contributed research to this column

By Jefferson Morley |  March 15, 2006; 8:55 AM ET  | Category:  Africa
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Well to continue with the (poor?) analogy, a successful liberal democratic Nigeria (liberalism and democracy are not the same thing!) could transform the politics of all of west Africa. And right now Nigeria is much closer to it than Iraq, which as corrupt and factionalized as Nigeria is, may not be very close. Plus the agitators for justice in the delta have gone from using naked breasts to kidnappings... things aren't exactly heading in the right direction. However as great as the opportunity is in Nigeria the world should be doing whatever it can to help Nigeria succeed. What "it" is exactly I don't really know...

On a somewhat different note, though they may be thankful for it, I wonder why Sub-Saharan Muslims get so little mention in the western punditry as a locations at risk from al-qadea influence. (Imagine if the MEND militants where Muslims! You know this whole story would have a different tone in the western media.) Everyone worries about failed states, well guess what: Somalia is a failed state. Is al-queda active there? I mean after the East African embassy bombings did the terrorists say, our job is done here and just leave? Or has East African officials just been very effective, or maybe the terrorists never had much support among the local populations. I don't know, but these are interesting questions.

Posted by: David George Ferguson | March 15, 2006 10:44 AM

Posted by: David | March 15, 2006 10:46 AM

There no head of state in Nigeria who could rightly call any body millitant. They draw the constitution up and continued to disregard it, with every bit of impunity,and disregard of the citizenry of the Country,Land use decree was promolgated by General Obasanjo more/less gave the generals access to aquire millions of dolars for personal purpose and not to be invested in any kind of project beneficial to country The people from whose land the oil can not just look on for punitive injustic I am very sure if the revenue acrued from oil sales are invested that improve the living standard of some of the people every Nigeria would be happy.There will be no millitant But where the MIPs will feel they are only sets of people with right to good standard of living is the root cause of Nigerian's problem. These sets of head of state decreed firing sqaurd for those whereas they robed Nigeria every bit of drvelopement the country would have attained,so they decreedit these so called heads of states should face the music too.

Posted by: Engr. Rowland Ederenor | March 15, 2006 12:38 PM

Let's not kid ourselves over the NIGER DELTA issue. The entire matter and aggitations of MEND is double-edge sword.
First: You have foreign Oil Companies, namely CHEVRON, SHELL, AGIP and other minor companies (all are Western Companies with oil as only and sole interest in Nigeria, Africa). These companies treat and see residents of Niger Delta as Black slaves that can be ignored, mistreated, denied of jobs in their own habitat, and even treated as "animals". This has been going on since 1954 when Oil was discovered in Delta Region. Shell even has the guts to disobey Nigeria's Court Order, and the decisions of Nigeria Senate and representatives. MEND knows exactly that much, and thus explains why Nigerians are not being taken as hostages. MEND knows and understands fully well that Western Companies, Western Media, and Western nations have no regards for their (residents of Niger Delta) existence, human rights, and all the laws that are supposed to support, and protect them. YOU JUST CANNOT GO TO PEOPLE'S HOME TOWN AND START DIGGING, AND MESSING UP THEIR WAYS OF LIFE FOR OVER 50 YEARS THEN EXPECT THEM NOT TO REACT. Those Oil companies in Nigeria are fully responsible for whatever befall them in Nigeria Niger Delta. Why Should those foreigners ravage, plunder the environment, and also enslave the minds on the people of Niger Delta?. Why are those companies disobeying the rule of law in Nigeria?. Now, think about this. How would westerner nations react to such wastage of human resources, and devastation and creation of the worst environmental destruction?. MEND has been very patient for over 50 years, now the world is finally experiencing the color of dehumanized, humilated,enslaved, Africans in modern times.
SHELL, and other Oil Companies operating in Nigeria must bond with people of Niger Delta, give them some sense of right to their communities, pay the court ordered money to the residents, live amongst them, treat them as human beings, clean up their environments, stop the constant gas flares that disturb and beseige those communities, then you can see a sudden and drastic U-turn in attitude of Niger Deltans. If you cannot, then get the hell out of their God given land for goodness sake. These companies are also fueling the socio-ethno-political aggitations, and sense of injustice that Niger Deltans also feel. The Federal Government (the 3 branches must listen to MEND rather than dismiss their greivances, afterall it is their community, and they have absolute right to defend its further degradation caused by the westerners. All said, MEND must be careful, listen to reasons, be patient, and use both dialogue & diplomacy, rather than violence to approach this matter. Niger Deltans must be able to identify the enemy. Your sole enemy has always been and remain western Oil Companies who are ravaging your communities, but not the FG. If Niger Deltans become allies of Federal Government, you would see turn around because the FG, as a responsible government would never tolerate kidnapping foreigners on Nigeria soil. It makes FG and Nigeria look "bad" in international diplomatic circle. Niger Deltans must forget about United States of America [USA]and its government completely. USA is a country that historically, and till present day continues to mistreat blacks who are their citizens. Just an example and food-for-thaught, there are 100 senators in USA Congress, only one (I MEAN ONE) is a senator. Think about that. USA does not do anything for free. If you continue calling on these western nation to help you, who do you think the westerners would support and defend?. YOU or SHELL, CHEVRON, TEXACO, AGIP, etc. These are all western Oil companies where these western nations have vested interest.
These are but two clear examples. My sincere advice to you- MEND, and other groups is simple: Put down and destroy your weapons, and join Nigeria Nation. Use truthful and sincere dialogue with diplomacy to get what you want for your communities. It may be hard to understand this concept now, but I am sure that it is the only way.
Release those you have as hostages immediately. It is unAfrican, and definitely un-Nigerian to take another human being as hostages. You would loose respect in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa, and definitely on international arena.
May GOD LESS YOU. Those who have ears let them hear. Amen.

Posted by: Afam Anyakora | March 15, 2006 01:26 PM

CORRECTION:

Only one black is a senator out of 100 USA senators.

Posted by: Afam Anyakora | March 15, 2006 01:53 PM

Please will someone be kind enough to answer this question for me."What do our leaders intend to do with all the money they are sending overseas?" Is it going to be their second home after death? Any Nigerian with a good head on his or her shoulders will agree with the Niger Delta people that they have had enough.They have pleaded with this government, begged and cried and no one seems to care.So what do we want them to do? Instead of looking into this humiliating issue we are going about legislating another four years of political robbery.
"O GOD OF ALL CREATION
GRANT THIS OUR ONE REQUEST
HELP US TO BUILD A NATION
WHERE NO ONE IS OPPRESSED"

You can see that I am from the old school. I have been wondering if that anthem was changed to make room for what is going on now. I wonder! I really wonder!!

Posted by: chigozie | March 15, 2006 02:24 PM

The Big Oil Companies have their interests. I think the Nigerian Govt should make it clear to Oil Companies, in order to do business in Nigeria they should pay their dues. Plus NG(Nigerian Govt) should not cut deals with companies for personal gains. A lot of poor world problems stem from Elites looking after their own interests but not the public. African people should not just simply blame 'West' for all their own illnesses. You can't clap with one hand.

Posted by: brown | March 15, 2006 02:54 PM

The current insurgence in the Niger Delta of Nigeria is as a result of many years of misrule that made the elites restructure the country in a way to suit their interests at the expensive of the people. Nigeria is a federal state in writing but 'de facto' what is practised is centralised governement where one man at the centre takes all and share with his families and associates. They allocate oil blocks to their people and these people in turn sell off the 'blocks' to foreign oil companies.

The way out is to correct the ills consistutionally and abide by the rule of law.

Posted by: Olaniyan Tunde Daniel | March 15, 2006 04:02 PM

The bigger trend that some have missed is that the days when one could secure billions in oil leases for a few hundred millions in the pockets of a friendly dictator seem to be vanishing.

Of course, the Democrats are to blame. If not for Gore and his invention of the Internet, we could still be buying the equivalent of Manhattan for a few trinkets, or in this case a few hundred million dollars after correcting for inflation. LOL

Posted by: Oscar Mayer | March 15, 2006 06:01 PM

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Congressman_writes_White_House_Did_President_0315.html www.wsws.org
www.takingaim.info

Congressman writes White House: Did President knowingly sign law that didn't pass?

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) has alleged in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that President Bush signed a version of the Budget Reconciliation Act that, in effect, did not pass the House of Representatives.

Further, Waxman says there is reason to believe that the Speaker of the House called President Bush before he signed the law, and alerted him that the version he was about to sign differed from the one that actually passed the House. If true, this would put the President in willful violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The full text of the letter follows:

March 15, 2006

The Honorable Andrew Card

Chief of Staff

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Card:

On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law a version of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005 that was different in substance from the version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Legal scholars have advised me that the substantive differences between the versions - which involve $2 billion in federal spending - mean that this bill did not meet the fundamental constitutional requirement that both Houses of Congress must pass any legislation signed into law by the President.

I am writing to learn what the President and his staff knew about this constitutional defect at the time the President signed the legislation.

Detailed background about the legislation and its constitutional defects are contained in a letter I sent last month to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which I have enclosed with this letter.[1] In summary, the House-passed version of the legislation required the Medicare program to lease "durable medical equipment," such as wheelchairs, for seniors and other beneficiaries for up to 36 months, while the version of the legislation signed by the President limited the duration of these leases to just 13 months. As the Congressional Budget Office reported, this seemingly small change from 36 months to 13 months has a disproportionately large budgetary impact, cutting Medicare outlays by $2 billion over the next five years.[2]

I understand that a call was made to the White House before the legislation was signed by the President advising the White House of the differences between the bills and seeking advice about how to proceed. My understanding is that the call was made either by the Speaker of the House to the President or by the senior staff of the Speaker to the senior staff of the President.

I would like to know whether my understanding is correct. If it is, the implications are serious.

The Presentment Clause of the U.S. Constitution states that before a bill can become law, it must be passed by both Houses of Congress.[3] When the President took the oath of office, he swore to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," which includes the Presentment Clause. If the President signed the Reconciliation Act knowing its constitutional infirmity, he would in effect be placing himself above the Constitution.

I do not raise this issue lightly. Given the gravity of the matter and the unusual circumstances surrounding the Reconciliation Act, Congress and the public need a straightforward explanation of what the President and his staff knew on February 8, when the legislation was signed into law.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman Ranking Minority Member

Enclosure

[1] See Letter from Rep. Henry A. Waxman to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Feb. 14, 2006).

[2] See Letter from CBO Acting Director Donald Marron to Rep. John M. Spratt, Jr. (Feb. 13, 2006).

[3] U.S. Constitution, Article I, � 7.

Posted by: che | March 16, 2006 02:04 PM

I am aghast at the recent pronouncement of the Nigerian VP. “Last month, Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar told the Financial Times the U.S. had been too slow to help protect the Niger Delta from the insurgency”.65% of Nigerian oil revenue ends up in the hands of the Military both officially and under-handed. How would you rely on an overbearing oil-hungry foreign power for your security. You may as well relinquish your sovereignty to a foreign power.

The Nigerian FG is undeniably culpable for the ills of Niger Delta. A government must protect its people from the pillage of the vicious foreign oil companies. They come in and suck the life out of the environment, leave the ecology in total devastation and most of the Delta people living in sub-human conditions. Then these foreigners then turn around and pacify the FG with billions . We all know what happens to those billions. The previous commentator was absolutely correct, “….. the oil revenues derived from nature's bounteous bequeaths to the Niger Delta, should not sit in the vaults of foreign banks, but should be used for a massive development program that addresses the social and economic grievances which lie at the heart of the current hostage taking and slow motion slide into guerrilla warfare."

Long live MEND, Nigeria is ready for a long overdue mending.

Posted by: | March 16, 2006 05:02 PM

I strongly feel both the oil companies and Nigerian gov't have treated the people of the oil producing region very poorly and should pay them reparations and royalties.

Posted by: mike g | March 20, 2006 07:32 PM

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