Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Nigerian Blood for Oil

Violence in Nigeria's oil-rich but impoverished Niger Delta has exacted a steep cost in both blood and treasure. Oil theft and sabotage, according to an April report by the Niger Delta Technical Committee, cost the country nearly $24 billion and some 1,000 lives in the first nine months of 2008 alone. The violence — perpetrated by locals who resent the government's lack of development efforts — continued unabated into 2009: in May, human-rights groups reported that thousands of villagers were displaced or caught in the crossfire between the Nigerian army and the militants, while aid groups and journalists were barred from entering the region. Faced with a growing crisis, in the latter half of the year President Umaru Yar'Adua mounted perhaps the most vigorous peace efforts yet in the region — including the establishment of an amnesty program for gunmen that prompted numerous warlords and militants to surrender their grenades, guns and explosives, often as thousands of people looked on. The government has also promised education and job training to former militants. Hopes are high, but the peace remains shaky at best.