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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Peaceful, calm, unified Nigeria

Nigerian oil well

Nigerian militia threatens armed struggle

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Dulue Mbachu

Sept. 28, 2004 | Lagos, Nigeria -- Militiamen trying to wrest control of the oil-rich Niger Delta threatened on Tuesday to launch a "full-scale armed struggle" on petroleum-pumping operations in Africa's largest crude oil producing nation, urging foreign oil workers to leave the region.

A military spokesman, however, called the threats "empty." Major oil companies played the warnings down, saying they won't seriously affect exports and issuing no orders to staff to pull out.

The threats, nevertheless, helped push world oil prices to historic highs of $50 per barrel Tuesday.

"Any part of Nigeria, wherever we have the opportunity to strike any target, we will strike," said militia leader Moujahid Dokubo-Asari, who heads the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force.

Dokubo-Asari, seen as a folk hero by many poor residents who complain they've never shared in the country's oil wealth, said foreign workers will be considered targets as of Oct. 1 -- the 44th anniversary of Nigeria's independence from Britain.

Dokubo-Asari claims to be fighting for self-determination in the region and greater control over oil resources for more than 8 million Ijaws, the dominant tribe in the southern delta region, which accounts for nearly all of Nigeria's daily oil exports.

The government dismisses Dokubo-Asari's group as criminals, accusing them of illegally siphoning oil from pipelines.

Some Nigerian analysts say the militia could disrupt oil operations, but doesn't have the power to shut them down.

"I think the militia group is engaging in a bit of psychological warfare by issuing those threats," said Mike Ikelionwu, an oil expert with NigeriaInvest, a business research firm in Lagos. "It's certainly beyond (their) capacity to force oil companies to shut down and pull their workers out of the Niger Delta, especially at a time a government offensive has put them to flight."

Nigeria's military launched its latest offensive against Dokubo-Asari's fighters early this month in response to deadly raids in August by the militia into Port Harcourt, the country's main oil industry center.

Nigeria has neverbeen stable. The reason the oil market jumped is fear of this:

The Biafran War

The war began with ethnic rivalry in the armed forces. After the military coup in January 1966, in which Tafawa Balewa's government was overthrown by junior Ibo officers, Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Ibo, was the appointed head of government by ministers that survived the January 1966 coup. Anti-Ibo riots followed with traditionalist Muslim attacks on Ibo people residing in the north, in September of 1967, which resulted in a massacre; 30,000 deaths and massive Ibo flight of over 1 million, from the north to the east. Easterners, who had previously supported the idea of a united Nigeria, now opposed it based on fear of safety outside the eastern region. The Federal Military Governement (FMG) made peace offerings and invited military governor of the eastern region, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu to peace talks in Lagos, (the former capital located in the west), but Ojukwu rejected them.

In January, 1968, Ojukwu finally met with Gowon, some other regional leaders and police on neutral territory - Aburi, Ghana under the protection and mediation of the Ghana's military government. The agreement reached at this conference was that a loose confederation of the regions might solve Nigeria's ethnic problems. This agreement was violently opposed by civil servants in Lagos. Awolowo, the leader of the western region demanded the removal of all northern troops in the west, and threatened to leave the federation if the east did so first. The FMG subsequently removed northern troops from the west; "and issued a decree resurrecting the idea of a confederation discussed at Aburi." Ojukwu and the other eastern leaders rejected it, by voting in May to secede from Nigeria. The mid-western region, the present location of Nigeria's capital - Abuja - announced that it would remain neutral in the event of a civil war.

On May 30, 1967 Ojukwu formally announced that Biafra would be an independent Republic. He stated that Nigerian government's inability to protect the lives of easterners and its collaboration in genocide forced the Ibo to seceed from the federation. In July army combat units were dispatched to the east, but were met with rebel troops. Biafrans retaliated by taking control of strategic points in the mid-western region. The FMG reacted by sending large numbers of the armed forces to fight in a full-scale civil war. The FMG regained control of the mid-west and the delta region, and terminated Biafra access to the sea by the end of 1967, yet, they were unable to penetrate the Ibo heartland - resulting in a stalemate.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the rebel troops had the advantage of excellent leadership and morale. However, the FMG invaded Owerri, an oil rich area of the Niger delta, in 1968 and increased their army to 250,000 men. The Biafran rebels liberated Owerri. However, but a new federal offensive in the south forced the rebels into submission.

Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon proclaimed a state of emergency and announced plans for abolition of the regions and the redivision of the country into twelve states. This effort was recognized as a concession to the eastern region that removed northern domination, and as a strategic move, which won over eastern minorities and deprived the rebellious Ibo heartland of its control over the oil fields and access to the sea. The division of Nigeria into 12 states took effect in April 1968 and the East Central State, formerly Biafra, was reintegrated into Nigeria after the cease-fire in January of 1970.

This is only one problem Nigeria faces.

Another is increasing Muslim restlessness in the north. While this was dramatized in the west over an adultery case and riots over Miss Universe, there is a far more serious problem.

Nigerian police vow to get armed gang and safeguard villagers

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria - Nigerian police vowed to seize or kill Islamic militants blamed for a police station raid which claimed five lives, and also sought to reassure scared villagers in embattled mountains.

For days, the security forces have been pursuing the self-styled Taliban, an armed group which killed four policemen and a civilian on September 20 when they attacked a police station at Gwoza in northeast Borno State.

The clashes and the arrival the military have scared people in Gwoza and in villages in the nearby Mandara mountains straddling the border with Cameroon, where the gang has sought refuge.

In all, 28 of the assailants have been killed in the manhunt, according to officials.

"We are aware of the concerns of the people in the state, especially in Gwoza, about this group of criminals and we are doing everything possible to track all of them down," Borno State Police Commissioner Ade Ajakaye told AFP. One of the militants was captured alive on Sunday, Ajakaye said. The insurgents took seven people hostage, two of whom they have killed, throwing their bodies down the mountainside while one escaped, survivors said.

"This is why the current operation will continue on the mountains until we are able to arrest or kill the remnants of this group. We have broadened our intelligence strategies all over the place," Ajakaye said.

Police were also trying to the fears of residents, after the chairman of the Gwoza local government council, Umar Sa'ad, said fear was palpable among people in the state over the presence of the extremists in their region.

Fifty assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were recovered from militants shot dead by soldiers last week, along with books in Arabic about Islam, according to official.

Two points: Nigeria has a large, effective army which has been used as peacekeepers. It is the backbone of African peacekeeping which is no small thing

Without Iraqi oil, Nigerian oil and Nigerian stability are serious issues of national security.

posted by Steve @ 1:20:00 AM

1:20:00 AM

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