US planning to deploy troops in Nigerian oil producing region
Johannes.Schneider at gmx.net
Wed Jul 9 02:54:02 MDT 2003
United Nations news agency IRIN has an article providing some background on
what the US is really to deploy troops in the Niger delta:
NIGERIA: Niger Delta moving from agitation to rebellion?
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
LAGOS, 8 Jul 2003 (IRIN) - On a street by the river port in the oil town of
Warri, dozens of Nigerian soldiers and marines shelter behind sandbags,
pointing their machine guns towards an unseen enemy. They are mounting a
24-hour watch on the southern approaches of the Warri River.
Twice in the past two months, the security forces have fought pitched
battles at this point with armed militants of the Ijaw tribe who attempted
to storm the town.
There is also deep-seated resentment against the foreign oil companies. They
are accused of filling the government coffers with petro-dollars and
repatriating fat profits to their shareholders while leaving the inhabitants
of the delta in miserable poverty.
"The situation in the Niger Delta has graduated from restiveness to
insurrection," Enilama Umoku, a political science lecturer at Delta State
University near Warri, told IRIN. "Just as the region is getting more
militarised, the youths are in turn becoming more militant and taking
increasingly to the gun."
The Ijaw, who are mostly fishermen are to be found throughout the 70,000
square kilometre Niger delta, wherever there is water. Many live in deep
poverty in remote villages where they lack access to the most basic
government services. Consequently they have suffered the worst effects of
oil operations. Their waterways and fishing grounds have been polluted by
oil spills which have messed up their traditional way of life, and they have
received little in exchange.
However, the Ijaws are not the only ones to complain. Other ethnic groups in
the delta, such as the 500,000-strong Ogoni, have voiced similar complaints
about the oil companies.
For centuries the Ijaws, the Itsekiris and the Urhobos lived in harmony in
the western delta, intermarrying with one another. But the Itsekiris made
early contact with Portuguese traders in the 16th century and many acquired
Western education early. That gave them a head-start against other ethnic
groups in gaining influence with the British colonial administrators, who
ruled Nigeria from the 19th century until independence in 1960.
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