Thursday, June 01, 2006

War on Terror in Nigeria

From UPI [emphasis mine]:
The U.S. presence in the Gulf of Guinea is said to be a result of the U.S. Navy protecting Nigerian oil plants from terrorists ...
We're already there. However, the stated purpose of the Navy's presence in the Gulf of Guinea, according to Admiral Harry Ulrich, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, is less sinister than it would seem. According to Reuters AlertNet:
Ulrich described the situation in African waters as "grim". He said an estimated $1 billion were lost annually to illegal fishing off Sub-Saharan Africa, and stopping this could increase the continent's gross national product by 3 to 9 percent.

Nigeria alone loses at least $1.5 billion per year in cargoes of stolen crude oil, Ulrich said. He also cited a report that ranked Somalia second in the world and Nigeria third for pirate attacks. Number one is Indonesia.

Ulrich said a big part of the problem was that African countries had little information about what went on in their territorial waters, and AIS [Automated Identification System] was a cheap way to solve this.

The system consists of radio receivers, worth between $2,000 and $5,000 each, that can pick up signals from ships at sea. Under U.N. and International Maritime Organisation rules, ships of 300 tonnes or more must carry AIS transmitters that continuously broadcast their position, destination and cargo.
Fair enough.

Ulrich's speech, at the Seapower for Africa Symposium held at the Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria, was followed by remarks from President Olusegun Obasanjo (Daily Sun), who "called for closer ties among African navies in order to put an end to the frequent threat to lives and economic activities, operations of sea pirates and crude oil thieves as well as all kinds of crime on the African waterways."

My not unreasonable concern is that naval cooperation in the hopes of generating "increased security" is code for calling Niger Delta militants "terrorists" and forever ignoring their needs.

Like I've said before, a tighter oil market makes dealing with the Delta's political and environmental problems economically feasible. Do that, and the crisis will fade.

But history tells us that shorter term solutions to the Delta are strongly favored by the Nigerian government, and far more violent.

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