Nigeria


Chatham House hosted a discussion in January, Nigeria in 2012: Crises and Reforms. In it Garba Sani gave a brief history of Boko Harum that is one of the best I have seen.

View of Zuma rock from Madalla market, taken October 2008, photo from Christian Blanchard on Flickr. Madalla was a site of the 2011 Christmas day bombings by Boko Haram.

Garba Sani:

Garba took a narrower and more focussed perspective analysing the issues facing Northern Nigeria and the role of Boko Haram. From the perspective of Northern Nigerians, ever since the days of colonialism Western style education and Christianity have been imposed upon them as a package from the south. The response to this has been a resistance to Western education and the Western way of life. However, this is not simply a cultural sentiment. The civil servants and politicians produced by this system are seen conspicuously wasting money. Poor Nigerians see their politicians flying abroad, shopping in Dubai, and sending their children to expensive Western schools. Consequently people feel that the leadership is devoid of justice, and when they call for the establishment of Sharia law it is not about religious piety but reflects a desire for a more just system.

The resentment fostered among the youth of Northern Nigeria is where Boko Haram has its beginnings. Whilst Boko Haram started as a non-violent breakaway group, persecution and aggressive crack-downs from the security services brought a violent response. Boko Haram was at first a small and controllable problem, but the issue escalated in 2009 after heavy crackdowns were ordered by President Yar’Adua. The crackdown was brutal and disproportionate; around 700 innocent people were killed, some of them publicly executed on suspicions that they were member of Boko Haram.

Following the killing of their leader the movement went underground but emerged a year later with renewed attacks. Even at this point the situation was controllable, yet the government response was again heavy-handed. Local people felt more intimidated by the soldiers deployed to fight Boko Haram than they did by Boko Haram itself. This sentiment was compounded by the violent and indiscriminate responses of the security forces, which frequently caused the destruction of property and the loss of innocent lives. It is quite possible that the Boko Haram situation may have been encouraged by the Federal Government to undermine the North. The fact that the government refuses to negotiate with the group fuels these suspicions.

With regard to international actors and what helpful role they may play, the main problem is that internationally the current situation in Nigeria is seen very simplistically. It would be helpful for international actors to instead look at the problem from a local perspective. For example, calls for Sharia law and Jihad are exaggerated in the Western discourse. There is also no affiliation between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda. Rather, the statements made by Boko Haram’s leaders reflect local grievances and in this sense there is some sympathy for the group in the North. That said, Boko Haram is not representative of Islam and has been condemned by Muslims in northern Nigeria. Both the international community and the federal government should
proceed with caution – they need to understand the local nature of the problem. A good start would be to consult diasporas from the northern communities.

Following a policy of wherever there is oil we must engage terrorists, the US Dept. of Homeland Security has just issued a report that examines the threat of Boko Haram predictably simplistically.
Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the US Homeland PDF.

The shorter version of this report is: We don’t know anything about Boko Haram but even without any evidence we think they are collaborating with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al Shabaab in Somalia. This creates a huge threat to the United States. Therefore we need to crank up a massive military and diplomatic response.

Keep in mind that the US is constantly looking for terrorists to feed the anti-terrorism industry. US corporations need terrorists to justify selling their anti-terrorist products. More terrorists equals more sales. And the US Africa Command needs terrorists to justify its ongoing security activities all around the continent.

The US report does recommend consulting with the Nigerian diaspora. However judging by experience to date with expat Muslim communities in the US, and particularly the Somali community in Minnesota, consulting with the diaspora consists of spying and intimidation rather than actually listening to what the diaspora has to say.

The African Partnership station is mentioned in the report, and right on cue, the African Partnership station is back visiting Nigeria. You can view pictures of APS activities at AFRICOM Along the Coasts and In the Creeks.

The suspect in the Madalla bombing was captured by the Nigerian authorities, and then “mysteriously” escaped. As Teju Cole put it in one of his eloquently understated tweets:

@tejucole
The Madalla bombing mastermind, arrested in a state governor’s lodge, coincidentally, has escaped from jail, quite by chance.
19 Jan (2012)

This escape proved such an embarrassment that Nigeria has recaptured the suspect Kabiru Abubakar Umar Dikko, who is also known as Kabiru Sokoto. Getting caught came as a shock to Kabiru Sokoto who is quoted:

The source quoted Sokoto saying in an emotional tone: “For instance, I never for once believed I could be arrested.

“I thought I was invincible. But now I’ve realised that if I could be arrested; if Abdullahi Damasak, the spiritual adviser, could disappear (arrested), then it’s a matter of time before everyone is caught.”

Sokoto is now said to be cooperating and providing a great deal of information which is being compared to the information provided by Abdul Qaqa, captured separately, who is being interrogated about the money trail:

It would be recalled that Monday, one other chieftains of the sect, Abdul Qaqa said the group engaged in criminal activities, breaking banks and seeking for money from every available illicit sources.

He spoke on the exploits of the dreaded body and stated that though they agreed to split such monies into five, “nobody dared ask how the money was spent and nobody dared ask questions for fear of death”.

Sokoto said the members feared the leadership of the group more than the security agencies.

Sokoto is said to have provided details of the sponsors of the sect who comprise mainly politicians, traditional rulers and some influential business men.

“The man is co-operating well with us. He has said a lot, though some of the revelations he made are chilling and nerve racking. He has named some top personalities in the society as their sponsors.

“He has also named some of the bank managers who have been facilitating them to make some transactions and how they bring in their deadly weapons, including the explosives they use in their bombings.

“We have put some construction companies on surveillance and we shall screen the permits they obtained for dynamites and explosives and we shall cross-match these with the activities they had to carry out for which they applied for such explosives,”

At the moment Nigeria appears on the right track regarding Boko Haram. It is important for genuine security that Nigeria handle this internally. The more the CIA and US military Special Operations go beetling around playing at counterinsurgency, the more damage they will do to Nigeria and Nigerians.

Nigeria needs to find some way of addressing corruption, and needs to avoid heavy crackdowns on the innocent. The Occupy Nigeria protests in response to the sudden removal of the fuel subsidy may have given Nigeria a nudge in the direction of trying to do something about corruption. The Nigerian police have been trying to upgrade their image. So far that does not seem to include modifying police behavior. I haven’t read anything that indicates people believe they can trust the police more than before. Teju Cole addresses this with another relevant tweet.

@tejucole
To ensure that Nigerians see the police force in a new way, Inspector General Abubakar announced a redesign in police uniforms.
15 Feb (2012)

Kano from Dala Hill, November 2005. Recently Kano has suffered several bomb attacks by Boko Haram

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RT is featuring a documentary about oil in Nigeria called Blood of Nigeria, directed by Philippe Lespinasse. It is well done and worth a look. RT is showing it in two parts. They will be consecutive on the schedule, but there may be other programs in between, and the RT schedule does not indicate which is part 1 and which is part 2. You can see the scheduled times here: Blood of Nigeria, and you can check the program schedule in Moscow time. If you don’t get RT, you can watch it in their streaming video feed at the scheduled broadcast times.

The Niger Delta, one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world, has experienced an average of one oil spill per day, collectively the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill per year, for five decades, 50 years.

Blood of Nigeria film crew travelling on the oil covered water in the Niger Delta. The oil covers the water and nothing lives beneath it.

You can watch the film online narrated in French at Le sang de Nigéria. The full film is about 53 minutes long. You will find more information and another link to the film here.

Dead mangrove in the Niger Delta, suffocated by oil. These wetlands are part of the lungs of our planet.


The approach to an informal oil refinery in the Niger Delta

An FPSO, Floating Production Storage and Offloading, an offshore oil & gas industry vessel, glittering in the sea off the coast of the Niger Delta

After 50 years of massive oil spills the Niger Delta is a Laboratory For Oil Spills In Coastal Wetlands. Even so, no one is studying it, and attempts to study it are prevented.

For a quick and clear explanation of why Nigeria erupted in protests when the fuel subsidy was removed, see Naijablog.
Here is a brief excerpt:

“… the lived reality of citizens of the Nigerian state is that it provides little or no security, no infrastructure, no education and no employment opportunities (apart from mostly McJobs in the civil service). Everywhere in Nigeria, the basic elements of civilised existence have to be taken care of house-by-house, compound-by-compound. You must sink your own borehole for water, buy, install and fuel a generator for power, hire security guards to keep the wolves from the door, pay school fees to ensure your kids get a half-decent education because the public school system is in perpetual meltdown. And to earn enough money to get through the day, you must hustle.

For the past few decades, cheap fuel has therefore been the only form of social contract between ordinary Nigerians and the state and the principle lever to control inflation during times of rising oil prices. With most Nigerians subsisting on US$2 or less, subsidised fuel has also been a survival mechanism, making life only just bearable.

As it is, most Nigerians are poor, and will simply not be able to survive with any comfort on US$2 a day and a doubling of living costs.”

I noted these selected paragraphs from articles I read today. The topics are most certainly related.

From an article in Nigeria’s Daily Independent:

On Sudan, my country Nigeria was made to ratify the break-up of that country into North and South so that the powerful nations can have access to the oil fields in the South which they currently cannot control under the incumbent regime. Will Nigeria allow UN to split it into North and South? Never! …

Gradually, White House is bringing Al Qaeda to Nigeria even when Nigeria has no issue with Al Qaeda. The US attempt to force its Africa Command (AFRICOM) base on Nigeria is responsible for the current bombings being tagged ‘Al Qaeda bombs’, so that Nigeria can accept the inevitability of US forces in Nigeria. What’s more, with CIA agents now prowling Nigeria, more bombings should be expected, as the US is determined to pursue its 2015 prediction that Nigeria will break-up. (Cornelius Segun Ojo)

——–

Which country has the biggest military budget per year?

——–

The US military budget in context

From the Narco News Bulletin:

State Department cables recently made public by WikiLeaks do seem to confirm that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn’t linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually.

As the death toll mounts in the drug war now raging in Mexico, it pays to remember that weapons trafficking, both government-sponsored and illegal, is a big business that feeds and profits off that carnage. Bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored Merida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit margin on the bloodshed. (Pentagon Fingered as a Source of Narco-Firepower in Mexico)

There is an election this week in Uganda. Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire records some of her observations:

We have also seen Museveni try to tell the youth in the last few days, through the New Vision newspaper, which largely leads with his stories that they shouldn’t vote the opposition for it will sabotage a government plan to give them jobs. I don’t think Ugandan youth are fools to think that what a man has not done in 25 years can achieve in 5 years. Uganda produces about 400,000 graduates from higher institutions of learning every year but less than 50,000 jobs are created annually. President Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh have even gone into security business sending hundreds of Ugandan youth to Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce the numbers of idle youth. The truth is there’s no real plan for the youth and many will not be voting for the ruling party.

… But because many have for long trusted Museveni on security, few Ugandans bother to know or even ask why their sons are fighting in Somalia.

For a regime that has enjoyed such trust on security matters, there shouldn’t be thousands of police officers at every corner in Kampala right now. … no wonder people are now anxious …

We wait for the next three days and see if every home will have a policeman attached to it in the name of security.

Museveni is one of the US’s prized client dictators, sending proxy armies to Somalia and around the world, and also, a favorite of the US Africa Command.

Meanwhile, back at home in the US, the US government fails its own people and fails to do the job of governing:

Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War

As a result of your going without heat next winter, we will be able to afford almost one whole week of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost about $468 million a day. Although when you add in the many hidden costs like increased long-term veteran’s health care due to the conflicts, your sacrifice is probably only really going to cover maybe half a week.

I hope you understand that when we had to choose between providing basic necessities to our citizens or fighting about five more days in Iraq and Afghanistan because of [insert newest justification here], we clearly just had to choose the wars over you.

These few bits of news are worth considering in relation to each other. Our choices have consequences.

We have a laboratory that shows us what happens to a vital and sensitive coastal wetland subjected to massive and repeated oil spills. So far very little has been done to study it. The Niger Delta, one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world, has experienced an average of one oil spill per day, collectively the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill per year, for five decades, 50 years. Half the life created in a warm coastal wetland is created in the top two millimeters of slime on the surface of the marsh mud, the food base of the entire coastal wetland, as illustrated below. If this layer is covered by oil and dies, all the animals up the food chain risk starvation. In the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold. you can hear a man telling us that in his Niger Delta fishing community where they have fished for generations, there is now no one who can make a living as a fisherman.

Half of the all the life created in the nature-rich Louisiana coast, one of the world's most productive estuaries, or in any warm coastal wetland, takes place in the thin layer of slime on top of the marshes. Microscopic creatures are a key part of the Gulf marsh ecosystem. (nola.com, click to enlarge enough to read)

Right now BP’s Deep Horizon well is spilling what may be the equivalent of one or more Exxon Valdez spills per week. The well may be compromised downhole (from dougr at the Oil Drum) and leaking in multiple locations. How, and even if it can be stopped are open questions to which no one appears to know the answer. In the Niger Delta we have the laboratory for how this massive a spill might effect people, plants, animals, land, and water. But it has been very little studied. The effects of this oil spilling on people has been almost completely ignored.

Meredeth Turshen wrote of the Niger Delta in 2004:

Specific effects of oil development on women’s health seem not to have been investigated. Although I found an article on the effects of exposure of crocodiles to sub-lethal concentrations of petroleum waste drilling fluid in the Niger Delta basin, I could find nothing on the health of women who live near oil wells and oil production stations, and nothing on reproductive outcomes in areas adjacent to petrochemical plants. Yet it is known that cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead are contained in the refinery effluents that are constantly discharged into nearby bodies of water. At high concentrations these metals cause metabolic malfunctions in human beings. They enter the food chain through the drinking water and the local fish that people consume.

Right now we are just beginning to see similar exposure to US citizens.

Oil spills have destroyed lives and livelihoods throughout the Niger Delta. You can see and hear what has happened to people:
Click here to view the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold.
It is based on Ed Kashi’s book of the same name, Curse of the Black Gold.

Neither the oil companies nor the Nigerian government want anyone to know what is going on. Investigation and research is actively discouraged. Those engaged in research or reporting may find themselves threatened and at risk of arrest, beatings, injury and death. And now The Mercenaries Take Over, mostly hired by the oil companies to protect their interests and prevent interference and investigation.

The same thing is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has hired mercenaries to keep the news media and the public away from the places the oil has come ashore and prevent investigation.
Louisiana response to Gulf of Mexico oil spill obstructed by BP and federal agencies, state officials say
or
Barriers to news coverage of Gulf of Mexico oil spill remain despite promises

Journalists covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been yelled at, kicked off public beaches and islands and threatened with arrest in the nearly three weeks since the government promised improved media access.

The threats and dangers are not now as pervasive and severe as in the Niger Delta. But they are there, and this is just the beginning. You can see in the following picture the vast extent of the oil spill, covering 18, 473 square miles on June 19, and growing. Much of that oil will be coming ashore in the wetlands. Storms are likely to drive it to land and inland. Much oil remains suspended in the water along with a great deal of methane that has been escaping with the oil. The oil and methane will kill marine life and make their habitat uninhabitable.

Strong thunderstorms form large, dense masses of bright white cloud in this MODIS/Aqua satellite image of the northeast Gulf of Mexico taken the afternoon of June 19, 2010. But it's clearer than the MODIS/Terra image taken the day before, and reveals fresh oil upwelling around the location of the leaking Macondo well, source of the ongoing BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Slicks and sheen span 18,473 square miles (47,847 km2) on this image. Thin patches of slick and sheen appear to be making landfall from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Perdido Key in Florida, and from Grayton Beach State Park to the Seacrest / Rosemary Beach area along the Florida coast. (from SkyTruth on Flickr: flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4722626008/ , click to enlarge)

In Nigeria Claytus Kanyie says:

The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.

And another Nigerian fisherman speaks:

If you want to go fishing, you have to paddle for about four hours through several rivers before you can get to where you can catch fish and the spill is lesser … some of the fishes we catch, when you open the stomach, it smells of crude oil.

Soon this will be true in the Gulf of Mexico, as will all the health effects and economic impact of wetlands saturated with oil, and of a sea depleted of oxygen and filled with oil and toxic chemicals.

no country has been developed by outsiders. International relationships are simply not defined by sentimentalities but by cold, calculated self-interest. This is a lesson that African leaders refuse to learn. Outsiders might help, but it is the citizens of a country led by an intelligent leader with vision that develop nations.
Femi Akomolafe

Map of Ghana's Jubilee Field

Back in December the Vanguard published an editorial recording a conversation between Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information for Nigeria, and Venezuela’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell. There is much in Mr. Arrundell’s words that Ghanaians should take to heart.

Lessons from Venezuela
Dec. 4, 2009

VENEZUELAN Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell, could not have offered his advice on Nigeria’s management of its petroleum resources at a better time. The anchor of government’s argument is that higher prices would draw foreign investors to the down stream sector of the industry.

Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information had solicited Venezuelan investments for our refineries.
Mr. Arrundell’s response was without diplomatese. He launched a profound lecture on Nigeria’s oil and gas.

“In Venezuela, since 1999, we’ve never had a raise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with N12, 000 here (Nigeria), in Venezuela I’ll pay N400. What is happening is simple. Our President (Hugo Chavez) decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of foreigners.

“You have to have your own country. The oil is your country’s. Sorry I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations in the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of Venezuelans.

“Before 1999, we had three or four foreign companies working with us. That time they were taking 80 per cent, and giving us 20. Now, we have 90 per cent, and giving them 10. But now, we have 22 countries working with us in that condition.

It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 per cent of the income goes to social programmes. That’s why we have 22,000 medical doctors assisting the people in the community. The people don’t go to the hospital; doctors go to their houses. This is because the money is handled by Venezuelans. How come

Nigeria that has more technical manpower than Venezuela, with 150 million people, and very intellectual people all around, not been able to get it right? The question is: If you are not handling your resources, how are you going to handle the country?

“So, it is important that Nigeria takes control of her resources. We have no illiterate people. We have over 17 new universities totally free. I graduated from the university without paying one cent, and take three meals every day, because we have the resources. We want the resources of the Nigerian people for the
Nigerians. It is enough! It is enough, Minister!

Femi Akomolafe (his blog) adds some words of advice:

There are, however, some fundamental truths that we must begin to tell ourselves. First and foremost is the belief that we can continue to depend on other people’s (especially Western) charities for our development. I have said several times that no country has been developed by outsiders. International relationships are simply not defined by sentimentalities but by cold, calculated self-interest. This is a lesson that African leaders refuse to learn. Outsiders might help, but it is the citizens of a country led by an intelligent leader with vision that develop nations.

And as I have recounted several times in this very column, our five hundred or so years of “relationship” with the West has been to our utter detriment. We have nothing but slavery, colonialism, and the more pernicious neo-colonialism (aka imperialism) to show for it. We can also throw in the disease of rabid racism that still pervades the Western world.

And yet African leaders continue to parrot the same inanities about partnering with “developmental partners!”

In Ghana:

In the name of “investment,” the Western multinationals will bring in ancient equipment (tax free) to come and set up shop to extract our resources. To attract their “investments,” they are given tax breaks and other packages that made them pay their expatriate staff out-of-this-world salaries and emoluments. They will employ the brute force of our compatriots whilst their planes and helicopters are waiting to ship out our gold and diamonds in their raw state. For this they pay us a pittance in royalty and employ the best PR outfits who will dazzle us with enough razzmatazz to make us dizzy. A few years down the road, the mines are depleted, our land and environment polluted, and our people’s lives wretched. The wily Westerner is already outta the country.

This is the very sad story that keeps repeating itself year in year out and like mindless children, we seem not to learn any lesson. Since the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah’s government in 1966, no government in Ghana has deemed it fit and proper to build a gold or diamond factory in order to add some value to them.

This has been our sad story and yet our leaders have stubbornly refused to learn a thing.

There is a law in this country against causing financial loss to the state and it is high time we start to use it seriously and effectively. How on earth can officials of our country, paid from the treasury of mother Ghana, and in this age and time, sign agreements with foreigners to cart away our crude oil unrefined for twenty years! What on earth informed that reckless decision? Who said that slavery is over? And please, what crime is that if not the criminal cause of financial loss to the state of Ghana?

There is a state-owned oil refinery at Tema that is in perennial struggle to get crude oil from Nigeria, and yet some unconscionable Ghanaians appended their signature to ship our oil to foreign refineries unrefined!

Africom’s budget of $763 million in the coming fiscal year, compared to the Africa Bureau’s allocation of $226 million, is enabling the US military to take on roles previously played by American diplomats and civilian development experts. (from the East African)

KARAMBO, Rwanda - Members of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) show Lieutenant Darren Denyer, from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a water distribution point built by the RDF during ’Army Week’ — the RDF’s civil-military operations campaign conducted throughout Rwanda. CJTF-HOA sent Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 104 to Rwanda, August 1-8, 2009, to strengthen the partnership between the Rwanda and U.S. militaries and to observe civil-military operations throughout the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jon E. McMillan)

KARAMBO, Rwanda - Members of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) show Lieutenant Darren Denyer, from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a water distribution point built by the RDF during ’Army Week’ — the RDF’s civil-military operations campaign conducted throughout Rwanda. CJTF-HOA sent Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 104 to Rwanda, August 1-8, 2009, to strengthen the partnership between the Rwanda and U.S. militaries and to observe civil-military operations throughout the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jon E. McMillan)

“The US military is stepping into void created by a lack of resources for traditional development and public diplomacy,” the inspector general warns.

That finding appears to confirm charges by some independent analysts that American policy toward Africa has grown increasingly militarised in the years since the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

… the Obama administration is continuing to move in that direction, despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emphasis on development issues during her recent seven-nation Africa tour.

The inspector general’s report contrasts the work of Africom’s “military information support teams” (Mist) with what it describes as the “failure” of the State Department’s 10-year-old effort to integrate public diplomacy into its operations. “Mist teams have exponentially more money to spend in a country than do embassy public affairs offices,” the report says

For more on the spending inequities the August OIG report, PDF reports:

In Somalia, for example, the Embassy had $30,000 to spend on public diplomacy while the MIST team had $600,000. Given the urgency of combating terrorism in Somalia, money was needed and the reported successes of MIST programs elsewhere served as a recommendation. Under MIST, AFRICOM inherited an established military practice of working closely with embassy public affairs officers to develop and fund effective programs.

In Somalia so far there is no evidence of any success resulting from MIST, or any other US spending. Although if one assumes the purpose of US spending and intervention is to weaken and destabilize Somalia, then the policy has been a success. Spending this money would have been the responsibility of US Ambassador to Kenya Ranneberger, who is tasked with managing Somalia relations, and who has engineered a consistently disastrous policy for Somalia, as well as damaging Kenyan democracy.

Daniel Volman writes that:

In May 2008, the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, hosted “Unified Quest 2008,” … it was the first time the war games included African scenarios as part of the Pentagon’s plan to create a new military command for the continent: the Africa Command or Africom.

There were 4 scenarios gamed, including one in Somalia and one in Nigeria, about which we have some information:

… set in 2013 — which was a test of how Africom could respond to a crisis in Nigeria in which the Nigerian government is near collapse, and rival factions and rebels are fighting for control of the oil fields of the Niger Delta and vying for power in the country which is the sixth largest supplier of America’s oil imports.

As the game progressed, according to former U.S. ambassador David Lyon, it became clear that the government of Nigeria was a large part of the problem. As he put it, “we have a circle of elites [the government of Nigeria] who have seized resources and are trying to perpetuate themselves. Their interests are not exactly those of the people.”

Furthermore, according to U.S. Army Major Robert Thornton, an officer with the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, “it became apparent that it was actually green (the host nation government) which had the initiative, and that any blue [the U.S. government and its allies] actions within the frame were contingent upon what green was willing to tolerate and accommodate.”

This information should not have been a surprise to anyone with even a moderate knowledge of Nigeria. I’m sure most Nigerians could have told the wargamers this same information. I think one thing it makes clear is that diplomacy, NOT military force is what is needed now, and what will be most useful going forward. So far, despite examples such as this, or the ongoing disaster in Somalia, continually made worse by US interference, the Obama administration seems committed to the military path. And despite all the talk of cooperation and development from those promoting Africom:

… neither the commander of Africom, General William Ward, nor his deputy, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, are under any illusions about the purpose of the new command.

Thus, when General Ward appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2008, he cited America’s growing dependence on African oil as a priority issue for Africom and went on to proclaim that combating terrorism would be “Africom’s number one theater-wide goal.” He barely mentioned development, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping or conflict resolution.

And in a presentation by Vice Admiral Moeller at an Africom conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008 and subsequently posted on the web by the Pentagon, he declared that protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market” was one of Africom’s “guiding principles” and specifically cited “oil disruption,” “terrorism,” and the “growing influence” of China as major “challenges” to U.S. interests in Africa.

So far President Obama, rather than seeking the civil and diplomatic route, has decided:

… to expand the operations of Africom throughout the continent. He has proposed a budget for financial year 2010 that will provide increased security assistance to repressive and undemocratic governments in resource-rich countries like Nigeria, Niger, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to countries that are key military allies of the United States like Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Rwanda and Uganda.

And he has actually chosen to escalate U.S. military intervention in Africa, most conspicuously by providing arms and training to the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, as part of his effort to make Africa a central battlefield in the “global war on terrorism.” So it is clearly wishful thinking to believe that his exposure to the real risks of such a strategy revealed by these hypothetical scenarios gave him a better appreciation of the risks that the strategy entails.

________
h/t b real of africa comments for source material

Up to 13 million barrels of oil have spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years, representing about 50 times the estimated volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989. Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project, PDF.

Oil spill in the village of Ikarama, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, 7 February 2008  © Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR

Oil spill in the village of Ikarama, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, 7 February 2008 © Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR

These spills equal the amount of 1 Exxon Valdez sized oil spill per year. And this is taking place in one of the most sensitive wetlands of our planet, part of the lungs of the planet. The spills pollute the land, pollute the water, clog the creeks, and gas flaring pollutes the air and the rainwater, bringing down toxic acid rain on land and water and all that live there.

As one Niger Delta fisherman stated:

If you want to go fishing, you have to paddle for about four hours through several rivers before you can get to where you can catch fish and the spill is lesser … some of the fishes we catch, when you open the stomach, it smells of crude oil.

The Niger Delta is one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world and is home to some 31 million people. The Niger Delta is also the location of massive oil deposits.

Under Nigerian law, local communities have no legal rights to oil and gas reserves in their territory.

This report focuses on one dimension of the crisis: the impact of pollution and environmental damage caused by the oil industry on the human rights of the people living in the oil producing areas of Niger Delta.

This report is a report from Amnesty International Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta – Report PDF. The report was released June 30, 2009.

The main human rights issues raised in this report are:

  • Violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food – as a consequence of the impact of oil-related pollution and environmental damage on agriculture and fisheries, which are the main sources of food for many people in the Niger Delta.
  • Violations of the right to gain a living through work – also as a consequence of widespread damage to agriculture and fisheries, because these are also the main sources of livelihood for many people in the Niger Delta.
  • Violations of the right to water – which occur when oil spills and waste materials pollute water used for drinking and other domestic purposes.
  • Violations of the right to health – which arise from failure to secure the underlying determinants of health, including a healthy environment, and failure to enforce laws to protect the environment and prevent pollution.
  • The absence of any adequate monitoring of the human impacts of oil-related pollution – despite the fact that the oil industry in the Niger Delta is operating in a relatively densely populated area characterized by high levels of poverty and vulnerability.
  • Failure to provide affected communities with adequate information or ensure consultation on the impacts of oil operations on their human rights.
  • Failure to ensure access to effective remedy for people whose human rights have been violated.

The report also examines who is responsible for this situation in a context where multinational oil companies have been operating for decades. It highlights how companies can take advantage of the weak regulatory systems that characterize many poor countries, which frequently results in the poorest people being the most vulnerable to exploitation by corporate actors. The people of the Niger Delta have seen their human rights undermined by oil companies that their government cannot or will not hold to account. They have been systematically denied access to information about how oil exploration and production will affect them, and are repeatedly denied access to justice. The Niger Delta provides a stark case study of the lack of accountability of a government to its people, and of multinational companies’ almost total lack of accountability when it comes to the impact of their operations on human rights.

More oil is being prospected and discovered throughout Africa. Rather than an outdated holdover from an ugly past, Shell’s pollution of the Niger Delta is probably the model for oil exploitation across the African continent. Only if African countries stand up for themselves and their people, can the devastating effects be mitigated. Far too many governments in Africa are not accountable, or only barely accountable to their people. And even where there is a will, the outside powers and donor countries will not make it easy. Look at what is happening in Somalia, another potential source of oil. The international donor countries are keeping it destabilized in the name of fighting “terrorism”. When Somalia did develop its own government in 2006, it was rapidly crushed by the US using Ethiopia as a proxy. This is what is known as stability operations.

In response to a question, I was talking to someone in the neighborhood where I work about pollution and oil exploitation in the Niger Delta. He was not really interested and brushed it off, saying, “we have to get our oil from somewhere.” This is someone with whom I’ve had a number of friendly conversations, and generally think of as a nice guy. I think his response typifies the attitude of people in the US, and in the developed and rapidly developing world.

Just as the European colonial powers spoke of bringing Africa the 3 Cs, Christianity, Civilization and Commerce, the US, and the US Africa Command speak with straight faces of bringing Africa the 3 Ds, Defense, Diplomacy, and Development. It was a mirage the first time, and this is pretty much the same thing, minus Christianity. It is not done to benefit the people of Africa but to fool them. It is like the distraction of a magician, so you don’t see how he does the trick.

As Dr. Wafula Okumu testified:

To paraphrase Kenyatta’s allegory, “when the Whiteman came to Africa, he was holding a Bible in one hand and asked us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened our eyes after the prayer, his other hand was holding a gun and all our land was gone!” Africa’s colonial history was characterised by military occupations, exploitation of its natural resources and suppression of its people. After testing decades of independence, these countries are now jealously guarding their sovereignty and are highly suspicious of foreigners, even those with good intentions.

There are many professed good intentions, and very few genuine good intentions among the powers gathering around for this latest scramble for Africa, particularly in the search for oil. It behooves Africans to be very wary indeed.

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