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Analysis: Nigeria looks for outside help?

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Carmen Gentile
Miami (UPI) Oct 11, 2007
Nigeria's vice president has asked the United Nations to assist the government's efforts to stop the flow of illegal arms to the oil-rich Niger Delta, though he stressed Abuja did not want to internationalize the issue.

Speaking to officials Monday, Vice President Jonathan Goodluck said U.N. help was essential to tackle the problems of arms coming into the delta and falling into the hands of militant groups and gangs.

Militancy and other forms of violence in the delta have been blamed for the estimated 20-percent reduction in oil output over the last few years. Goodluck assured leaders, however, that asking the United Nations to play a role in reducing arms trafficking was not a concession that the problem had outgrown the scope of Abuja's abilities.

"The Niger Delta issue is still a domestic problem. We are not internationalizing it, because it has not reached that level," Goodluck said earlier this week.

Despite his claims, many energy analysts, at least in part, blame the increasing unrest in the region for a spike in global oil prices.

Just exactly what role Goodluck would like the United Nations to play is unclear, though his request appeared to imply that military intervention was not an option.

Others see improvement in the delta since President Umaru Yar'Adua took office in May.

Since then, the Yar'Adua administration has created benchmarks to improve oil and gas production in the delta. Earlier this week, Shell Nigeria announced an end to its yearlong force majeure on Forcados, an important channel connecting the delta to the Bight of Benin that was often the scene of attacks by militants on foreign oil companies operating in the region.

Shell's apparent new confidence in the waterway "is a further indication that the Niger Delta is gradually stabilizing," said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an analyst for the Eurasia Group consulting firm.

Still, many consider the delta's woes troublesome, particularly its residents, most of whom are poor.

Since the 1970s, Nigeria, Africa's No. 1 oil producer, has pumped more than $300 billion worth of crude from the southern delta states, according to estimates. High unemployment in the delta, environmental degradation due to oil and gas extraction, and a lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity have angered the region's youth, who have taken up arms, many times supplied by political leaders, and formed militant groups and local gangs.

"Many political figures openly recruit and arm criminal gangs to unleash terror upon their opponents and ordinary members of the public," reads a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday.

Frustration with the Nigerian government and foreign oil operations recently prompted Nigeria's leading militant group to resume attacks on foreign and domestic oil and gas operations following a four-month cease-fire intended to allow the new president to make good on vows to reform the petroleum sector and root out corruption.


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Beijing (AFP) Oct 11, 2007
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