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Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan has his hands full on home turf

By Nicholas Norbrook
Posted on Friday, 15 March 2013 10:58

He has had some success. Initially, the government’s amnesty programme meant that fewer militants were running kidnapping syndicates or hitting oil installations.

Now tensions are rising again.

Turf battles between local politicians, chilling threats from former militants, corruption allegations and attacks on oil companies are forcing Jonathan to pay attention.

In the Niger Delta, pirates attacked an Indian-owned boat, killing four people, on 5 February.

They are also spreading their attacks across the region.

Authorities suspected Nigerians of hijacking a Luxembourg-flagged ship off Côte d’Ivoire and attacking a Russian ship off Cameroon in February.

By backing his ally Dickson Seriake for the governorship of Bayelsa State against the rebellious Timipre Sylva in 2012, Jonathan won an important local victory.

Yet fires are breaking out elsewhere as activists protest against Jonathan’s promotion of his Ijaw compatriots to powerful jobs in Abuja and the Delta.

Behind the war of words between minister for the Niger Delta Godsday Orubebe and Rivers State governor of Rotimi Amaechi lie claims that the administration has skewed the distribution of spoils among the Delta political clans.

Ex-militants such as Mujahid Dokubo-Asari have joined the political offensive, claiming the amnesty – which received $450m in last year’s budget – is a sham and lined pockets instead of contributing to development.

Other former militants such as ‘General’ Boyloaf and Ateke Tom have criticised Jonathan’s government despite accepting lucrative security contracts from it.

Ex-militant Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, won a $104m contract for maritime security.

Keeping Tompolo on side is vital if Jonathan wants to pacify the region.

Among Jonathan’s leading defenders in the Delta is chief Edwin Clark.

Clark champions the oil-producing communities who claim Delta governors have been stealing the region’s development funds.

The 1999 constitution gave an extra 13 percent of oil revenue to oil-producing states.

Local activists say the governors have stolen more than N7.2trn ($58bn).


“The funds being provided for my ministry are a far cry from what is needed to deliver our mandate,” minister Orubebetold an audience at Benin University in late January.

Such appeals are undercut by corruption cases such as the N25bn fraud at the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission.

A January victory by a Nigerian farmer in a Dutch court against Royal Dutch Shell puts the spotlight back on the international oil companies.

Speaking in Washington DC, oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, another Delta indigene, tried to share out the blame: “Multinational oil companies are not adhering to global standards […] at the same time government itself did not ensure that its standards and policies in terms of the environment were implemented to the letter.”

Her critics in Abuja argue that this raises questions about her own ministry and the failure to pass substantive reforms.

A report in January by the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative accuses institutions under her command, such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, of failing to pass on N2trn from oil sales – roughly 10% of oil income between 2009 and 2011.

The state oil company rejects the arithmetic, but serious revenue losses continue●

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