May 14, 2007 (070514)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Militant groups in the Niger Delta have stepped up attacks on oil
installations following last month's election. Since the beginning
of May, pipelines have been sabotaged and at least 29 foreign oil
workers have been kidnapped. A spokesman for the Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) warned that attacks would
continued until the government opened a dialogue about restoring
the oil wealth to the people in the region.
The crisis over oil is perhaps the most explosive. Chevron has
announced the temporary evacuation of all its off-shore personnel,
and analysts predict continued attacks. But Nigerians around the
country are also pessimistic about prospects for improvements after
an election generally regarded as lacking credibility.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several updates from the UN's
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) on the aftermath of
the election and the situation in the Niger Delta in particular.
[This material from IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information
service, may not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Nations or its agencies.]
Lagos, 4 May 2007 (IRIN) - Nigerian civic and opposition groups
warn of an impending showdown with the government as they attempt
to have the flawed presidential and regional elections annulled,
although other analysts say public frustration is unlikely to turn
into mass civil unrest.
"We can still expect to see people come out in the streets by the
hundreds, but not by the thousands," the head of the United Nations
Development Programme's Governance and Human Rights team in
Nigeria, Sam Unom said.
For Unom the anger is already moving away from the streets to
rhetoric in the editorial pages in the media. "Eventually things
will end up in court where the various losing candidates will
dispute the results," he said.
Local and international independent observers of the 14 April state
elections and 21 April presidential elections concurred that there
were serious flaws, yet President Olusegun Obasanjo's chosen
successor, Umaru Yar'Adua, was declared president-elect 23 April.
"People are definitely unhappy with the way this happened but they
are reluctant to fight for what they believe in because they feel
that, no matter what, only the elite benefit," Unom said.
The police and army have also been quick to use force; some 200
people were killed in election violence in towns and cities around
the country before and during the elections, according to reports.
Civil society groups nonetheless say they will still challenge the
"There will be a challenge to [president-elect Umaru Yar'Adua's]
legitimacy and he will try to crush that challenge." said Emma
Ezeazu, leader of Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), a
coalition of civic groups that had been critical of the
organisation and conduct of the elections.
"There are going to be turbulent times ahead," said Ezeazu who was
arrested and questioned on Monday by the secretive state security
police known as State Security Services. The police accused him of
fomenting civic unrest and confiscated piles of posters they found
in his office which were critical of the elections.
Other civic groups also warn of more unrest to come. "It is likely
there'll be increased use of force," Lanre Ehonwa, who heads the
Civil Liberties Organisation, Nigeria's oldest human rights group,
May Day protests muted
Opposition and civil society groups chose 1 May, Labour Day, to
launch protest marches calling for the cancellation of the vote
but, Inspector General of Police Sunday Ehindero warning repeatedly
on radio and television that force would be used to quell any
street protests and turnout was generally less than organizers said
On that day, armed police and soldiers could be seen in cities and
towns across Nigeria. More than 300 people were arrested as
security forces clashed with protesters, according to police and
In Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos, at least 80 people at a trade
union rally were arrested for distributing leaflets condemning the
elections and calling for their annulment, union officials said.
And near the capital, Abuja, 235 people travelling in 30 mini-buses
to join protests in the city were arrested by the police, Lawrence
Alobi, the top police official for the city, told reporters.
In Daura, the home town of the main opposition candidate, Muhammadu
Buhari, in the north, police and soldiers battled stone-throwing
demonstrators using tear gas and firing in the air, witnesses said.
Police officials said at least 50 people were arrested.
Despair and apathy
"Many Nigerians were disappointed that the efforts against military
rule produced the present corrupt civilian rulers," said Nigerian
political commentator Lekan Adegoke. "There is a pervading sense of
despair and apathy that nothing good will come out of continued
protests against this government."
Opponents of the election acknowledge that the government's
readiness to use force combined with widespread apathy among
Nigerians that could undermine more serious protests.
In 1993 the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled
a presidential vote widely considered to be free and fair and tried
to cling to power, sparking weeks of protests in Lagos and other
Although Babangida handed power over to a transitional government,
which was soon pushed aside by iron-fisted Gen Sani Abacha,
pro-democracy activists and civic groups continued to lead
protests, helping isolate his government internationally until his
death in 1998.
Nigeria: Basic services a challenge to Nigeria's new leaders
Lagoos, 24 April 2007 (IRIN) - Despite huge oil revenues that go to
the government, basic services such as a potable water supply,
primary healthcare and electricity remain out of the reach for most
people except the rich in Nigeria, and few believe this record is
likely to change any time soon.
Poor access to these services has contributed to Nigeria being
among the countries with the worst human development indicators in
Africa, apart from those nations that were recently at war,
according to the United Nations Development Programme.
"One of the big contradictions Nigeria has faced is the stark lack
of access to basic social amenities for the vast majority of its
people in contrast to the huge revenues that accrue to the
government," said Laide Akinola, a programme officer with a local
civic group, Social Rights Action. "It is a situation that is
crying for remedy, Nigerians need a government that can show them
Nigeria's new leader, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua of the ruling People's
Democratic Party (PDP), was elected last Saturday in a vote that
local and international observers criticised as unfair,
disorganised and in many cases blatantly rigged, raising fears of
a crisis of legitimacy that will undermine the government's ability
to meet the needs of its citizens.
Analysts say Yar'Adua, if allowed to stand given the anticipated
judicial challenges to his victory, has tremendous work ahead of
him to improve the services the federal government is supposed to
provide Nigeria's 140 million people.
A joint UN children's agency (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation
(WHO) report in 2006 showed national good water coverage failed to
improve across Nigeria and instead fell from 49 percent coverage in
1990 to 48 percent 14 years later. The report predicted that
Nigeria was unlikely to meet millennium development goals since
coverage of 65 percent was required by 2004 to meet the targets.
Both UNICEF and WHO see a close correlation between an inadequate
supply of clean water and the rise in cases of water-borne diseases
in many parts of the country, with cholera and typhoid among
"A majority of the patients that come to our clinic these days
either have typhoid or stomach upsets, pointing to water-borne
infection," said Angela Ezeobi, a doctor who runs a clinic in the
Surulere district of Lagos.
The Lagos Water Corporation, in charge of water supply to the city
of at least 10 million people, recently took out newspaper
advertisements blaming a poor power supply by the state electricity
company for a recent inability to pump water to millions of
customers, leading to an acute scarcity.
Official statistics show that only 10 percent of rural dwellers and
40 percent of people in the cities have access to electricity in
Nigeria. More than 60 percent depend on traditional medicine while
there are only 18.5 doctors for every 100,000 people in the
Although the federal government is responsible for providing
electricity to Nigerians, as well as a degree of water and health
services, state and local governments are also required to meet the
needs of their constituents. To this end, the government has taken
serious steps to try to reduce corruption at the state and local
level that bleeds their areas of development funds. Most of the
country's governors are currently under investigation for graft.
Promises and discouragement
President Olusegun Obasanjo defends his eight-year record in
providing basic services, citing a jump in spending for the
provision of water alone from about US$63 million before he came to
power in 1999 to $430 million in 2006. He promised during a
campaign rally in Abuja that the foundation he has set will be
built upon by Yar'Adua as president.
In the meantime, people like 35-year-old Lagos resident Riskat Muri
continue to make due on their own, like many Nigerians, to get the
services they need.
For drinking water Muri relies on vendors who push jerry cans on
carts through the streets, although what she can afford falls far
short of her family's needs. If someone in her family gets sick,
she relies on herbs and roots that women sell in a market nearby,
although she would prefer to go to a clinic if it weren't so
expensive. And at home her baby often cries because of the humid
heat but the electric fan doesn't work because of perpetual power
"We live in the city but we don't enjoy any of the services of a
city," said Muri. "Our leaders just don't seem to care how we
Aluu, 8 May 2007 (IRIN) - Prince Wegwu and his family own land in
the Niger Delta with 31 oil wells on it. Oil companies pump out
thousands of barrels of oil a day and yet Wegwu says neither he nor
his family have benefited.
"The oil companies tell us, 'We are not allowed to give you money
directly,'" said Wegwu, who heads a youth association in Aluu, a
village in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region where militants
have mounted an increasingly violent armed insurrection, attacking
oil facilities and kidnapping foreign oil workers.
"The oil companies say, 'We pay the government for the use of the
land', and yet they know they are using our land," Wegwu said.
The Niger Delta is the eighth most productive oil region in the
world; the people living there are amongst the poorest in Nigeria,
and the poorest anywhere on earth.
Many people in the Delta blame their poverty on two federal laws,
the 1969 Petroleum Act, which gave the state sole ownership and
control of the country's oil and gas reserves; and the Land Use Act
of 1978 which makes the government the owner of all land in
Many activists in the Niger Delta say oil companies should pay
rents and royalties for the use of the land directly to land owners
and to local communities instead of to the central government. They
are also calling for a return to Nigeria's 1960s constitution which
calls for revenue to be shared equally between federal and local
But they say the land act has undermined efforts by individuals and
communities to get compensation when their land is requisitioned
for oil activities or when oil companies pollute the land.
The Land Use Act was enacted by Nigeria's current president
Olusegun Obasanjo, when he was military head of state in the 1970s.
It states that land was to be "held in trust and administered for
the use and common benefit of all Nigerians."
"The rationale at the time," according to Lagos property lawyer
Tayo Odubanjo, "was that the government should act as the primary
agent for the country's development". The act deliberately overrode
customary rights to land, even if people had lived on it for
generations, he said, because at the time local communities and
land owners were seen as obstructing the government's efforts to
use land more effectively.
"There would be a very strong case for the law [but] the law failed
to achieve this assumed role in practice," said Odunbanjo. Its
negative consequences are being felt not just in the Niger Delta
but throughout Nigeria, according to numerous studies.
"The Act concentrates both economic and political powers in the
hands of few individuals who are abusing its spirit," according to
the summary of a 2006 paper on the subject by academics Lasun
Mykail Olayiwola and Olufemi Adeleye
Urbanist Geoffrey I. Nwaka writing in 2005 in Global Urban
Development Magazine said the law made "the procedure for obtaining
and developing land become excessively bureaucratized, obstructive,
and riddled with corruption. Restrictions on the availability of
land, especially for the poor, encouraged the growth of more and
more irregular settlements on the fringes of the towns or on vacant
public land," he said.
Delta in mind
The law has also been blamed for the massive decrease in Nigeria's
agricultural production in the decades subsequent to its enactment.
Also, in the Islamic north of the country the law exacerbated what
has been an almost feudal social system as the government
disinvested farmers of their land and put it in the hand of the
emirs, thus forcing farmers to work for them.
Though the law has clauses providing compensation to local farmers
who were using requisitioned or polluted land, the prices they have
got in lieu of farming have been well below market prices and many
locals say they have never received anything anyway.
Fishing communities have rarely been compensated as they have no
visible evidence on which to base their claims. The government and
oil companies have also generally refused to recognize the value
locals place on communal land. Thus claims of loses from
communally-owned shrines or sacred forests on which people rely for
medicine or wild cane for goods such as raffia furniture have been
However experts agree that the law was initially created with the
Niger Delta in mind, to make it cheaper and easier for the
government and oil companies to start up oil ventures. They also
agree that that is where the government applied the law most
systematically thus leaving more people dispossessed.
"Before 1978, oil companies had troubles negotiating with the
occupants of the land to access the oil," said Patterson Ogon the
founding director of the Niger Delta-based Ijaw Council for Human
Rights. "After the land act was implemented occupants could wake up
one morning to find oil companies already drilling on their
property and there was nothing they could do about it."
Towards a new law?
During the recent election campaign President-elect Umaru Yar'Adua
did pledge to repeal the 1978 law and he will take office on 29
May. He seems to be taking a gamble, going against the interests of
the elites who have supported his campaign and who have greatly
benefited from the law.
For the election campaign Yar'Adua selected governor of Bayelsa
State, Goodluck Jonathan as his running mate. That he is an Ijaw,
the dominant ethnic group in the Niger Delta, was widely seen as an
attempt by Yar'Adua to win the confidence of people in the Niger
With the country now set to have an Ijaw vice-president, prominent
Ijaw leader Edwin Clark has called on the Ijaw militants to put
down their arms. Still many younger activists campaigning for local
control of oil resources remain skeptical of Yar'Adua's intentions.
The burning question they are asking is what kind of land law will
Yar'Adua create to replace the current one. "He hasn't revealed
that," said Ijaw rights activist, Wuloo Ikari. "By implication a
repeal of the obnoxious law will mean oil resources will be
immediately [transferred] from the federal government to the ethnic
groups and communities that own all the oil land."
If this fails to happen, Ikari adds, Yar'Adua's promise will be
seen as "a gimmick [and] the struggle for resource control in the
Nigeria delta will continue".
But lawyer Odunbanjo warns that simply giving land rights back to
locals is likely to create a whole new set of obstacles to
Nigeria's development and the equitable sharing of resources. "I
don't think it will work to simply reverse the law; there has to a
compromise between the two extremes."
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