What are the police for?

Back when I lived in Nigeria it was fun on slow afternoons to browse the news reports online. A lot of them were unintentionally amusing (see here, for example), but some gave an idea as to the regularity with which vigilante mob-justice is seen in the country. It was not uncommon for a newspaper report into some alleged crime to end with words to the effect of:

A mob formed, and the miscreant was beaten to a pulp.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, consider this report:

A police corporal, Olufemi Ajayi, was yesterday set ablaze in Ayete, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, by an irate mob, after he allegedly shot and killed a commercial driver at a checkpoint.

Ajayi, who is attached to Igboora Police Station, allegedly shot the victim, Mr. Emiola Kolade, after a minor argument.

Kolade died in a hospital in Igboora.

An eyewitness, Alhaji Salau Adele, said: “It all started at one of the many illegal checkpoints on Idere-Ayete road, when the corporal flagged down the driver and demanded a bribe. The driver gave him N100, but the policeman said the money was too small and refused to accept it.

“This led to an argument between the two. We heard a gunshot later and the driver was found injured on the ground. The policeman tried to escape, but he was caught.”

It was learnt that the policeman was beaten and set ablaze by the mob.

Let me take a step back from Nigeria for a minute. Back in early November I wrote a post on the matter of Swedish policemen resigning by the lorryload in which I wondered to whom Hillary Clinton would turn to enforce the law in American cities should she be elected (now a redundant question, thankfully). In the comments underneath “Duffy” made the following remark, which hitherto had never occurred to me:

Here’s what many people often seem to forget. Police are there to protect us from criminals. But they are also there to protect the criminals from mob justice.

When I thought about this comment later on, I realised that in the absence of a justice system that is seen to be working, the mob steps in. Then last week I came across this article:

We have often suggested that, if we wish to know what is coming politically, socially, and economically in jurisdictions such as the EU and US, we might have a look at countries like Argentina and Venezuela, as they are in a similar state of near-collapse (for the very same reasons as the EU and US) but are a bit further along in the historical pattern.

Such a bellwether was seen in Argentina recently. Although the event in question is a very minor one, it is an illustration of the social tipping point—the manner in which a government loses control over its people.

Briefly, the events were as follows: Two men on a motorbike cruised a posh neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, seeking opportunities for purse-snatching. The pillion rider dismounted and snatched a purse from a woman. Bystanders saw the act, ran down the thief before he could re-mount the motorbike, and knocked him to the ground. Other onlookers (very possibly fed up with street crime caused by economic hardships) joined in. In a fury, they beat the thief senseless.

A policewoman managed to calm the group and handcuff the thief. Twenty minutes later, police assistance and an ambulance arrived.

Furious neighbours complained bitterly that the police had protected the thief but are generally doing little to protect law-abiding citizens.

It’s not quite Nigeria, but it’s heading in that direction. The entire article is worth reading, particularly its description of the 6-point process which leads to such incidents occurring.

Around the same time we had this comment thread at Mr Worstall’s in relation to the UK:

The State’s “legal protection” benefits the middle classes and prosperous working classes far more than the wealthiest.

In the absence of a State the wealthiest could easily afford to hire whatever protection they needed – they did, after all, do this for centuries and even millennia before “States” started to appear with their “legal protection”.

And:

Police forces are relatively modern. Under Good Queen Bess, for example, if you were wealthy your only chance of getting around London without being set upon by pickpockets and cutpurses was to surround yourself with an armed retinue. State protection came in maybe under Robert Peel but it’s not the wealthy who benefit most from it. The very rich still have bodyguards. The police drink tea in their huge office buildings.

And:

The rich would sort out their own guards if the State left the scene. It’s the low income communities which most benefit from the Rule of Law. Bring in effectively policing to a pit village in Durham and kick out disruptive children from schools and those who want to get on in life have a chance. Take the State away and a local strongman and his gang will take over.

And:

In my experience of a few years living in a village with lots of City fat-cats, they get better policing because they hire private security instead of relying on the public sector police who exist primarily to protect criminals from their victims.

My point in all of this, in case you were wondering, is that for policing to work a critical mass of ordinary, law-abiding people across both the middle classes and working classes must see them as being on their side against the criminals. Not necessarily on their side per se, just on their side against the criminals. It doesn’t really matter what the rich think, they can hire their own security and/or lobby government to have the police look after their interests as first priority. It is the masses that need to be kept on side.

Clearly this has failed in Nigeria. It has failed in Argentina, and the results in either case weren’t pretty. When London descended into rioting in 2011, the police stood by idly as property got trashed and businesses destroyed. When I saw this happening I wondered who the police were actually serving, because it sure as hell wasn’t the ordinary citizen. The comments at Tim Worstall’s, although perhaps not representative of Britain as a whole, suggests there is some disagreement as to whom the police actually serve. If this attitude is reflected in the broader population there could be trouble brewing.

It’s worth keeping this in mind when looking at the United States, too. Over the past few years there has been an increase in rioting: firstly that connected with the shooting of black folk by policemen, later the election of Donald Trump, and more recently people with unpopular opinions speaking at universities. More and more often the police are standing by idly as property gets destroyed and people’s lives put at risk.

If the police in Britain and the USA want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches. The criminals might want to urge them to get on with it, because the mob is probably closer than they think.

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Root Cause Missed

There’s a reason for this:

A software engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, is claiming that he was made to sit a written test by US airport immigration officers because they weren’t convinced he was telling the truth about his skills.

According to social networking site LinkedIn, Celestine Omin, 28, landed in New York’s JFK airport last Sunday after a 24-hour flight from Nigeria.

After being asked a series of questions by a US Customs and Border Protection officer, he was taken into a room for further checks.

The practice of forging credentials and passing yourself as something you are not is rife among Nigerians, more so than among anyone else. Mr Omin might well have been the real deal but far too many of his countrymen are not, hence he’s been hauled aside for extra questioning.

He says he was then given a piece of paper and a pen and told to answer these two questions to prove he is actually a software engineer:

I’ve done exactly that with a Nigerian claiming to be a piping engineer with 15 years’ experience. The results were laughable. I can well believe the Border Protection people didn’t cover themselves in glory in Mr Omin’s case, but the root cause of the problem does not lie in the USA.

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A Follow Up

In attempt to address some of the reoccuring themes in the comments to my previous post, I’ve decided to write a follow-up.

Firstly, I did not write that post for the benefit of only Nigerians.  I don’t write for a particular audience, I write primarily for myself.  Insofar as I have a readership, I have an idea that it consists mainly of people who have known me in the past and a smattering of people who are interested in the oil and gas industry.  Other than that I have no idea who reads this blog, or how many of them there are.  I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, and I’ve never tried to slant a post in order to appease or anger a particular set of people.  I just write what I think, based on what I’ve seen, and present it as my personal opinion, nothing more.

With that in mind, let’s put to bed the idea that I am lecturing Nigerians on the state of affairs in their own country.  I put the article on my blog, and a whole load of Nigerian websites republished it without my permission.  This doesn’t bother me as they did credit me as the source (swiping my photo too on some occasions), but this article was not written with the intention of informing – or misleading – a Nigerian audience.  Some commenters claim I am saying nothing new, and they’d be correct.  I wouldn’t expect any expat to spend a mere 3 years in Lagos and be able to tell a Nigerian anything they didn’t already know about Nigeria.  Like I said, I didn’t write it for Nigerians, I wrote it for myself and anyone else who happens to be reading.  And for those who aren’t Nigerian, there was an awful lot of new stuff in there.

I note that some people have complained that I have not offered any solutions, just a list of problems.  There are two reasons for this.  For a start, I have no idea whatsoever what the solutions would be.  And also, it is hardly the place of an expat assigned for 3 years in Nigeria to start offering solutions to the country’s problems.  That would be arrogance in the extreme.

Secondly, I do appreciate that I only spent time in a very small part of Lagos and barely saw anywhere else in the country.  I cited security reasons to explain why this was the case, and a few commenters seem to think these were exaggerated.  Now I’ll admit, I could have explored more of Lagos than I did.  Our company security protocols were far more strict than those of other organisations, and objectively there were opportunities for me to have got out more.  But let’s be honest here: there is no chance a foreigner can go off exploring Nigeria on his own.  A foreigner driving himself about in mainland Lagos would be putting himself at serious risk of being car-jacked or robbed.  This is no mere paranoia, the statistics support this.  All the Nigerians I knew advised strongly against any expat going to the regional cities on a private trip.  I was invited to a wedding in Owerri and briefly looked at the possibility of going, before quickly abandoning the idea.  For a start, the guy getting married – who was from Owerri – was nervous about making the trip himself!  Returning from Lagos to a regional town is a signal for the local criminals that a “rich” guy is coming.  I know a guy from Warri who never goes back for much the same reasons.  If Nigerians are abandoning their regional cities due to the levels of lawlessness, what chances does a foreign tourist have of showing up and enjoying a weekend away?  Even foreigners travelling in groups would be a target for any number of dodgy officials, corrupt traffic police, area boys, and other criminals.  During my time in Nigeria one of my compatriots, a telecoms engineer, was kidnapped and murdered in the north of Nigeria by Boko Haram or one of its offshoots.  I’m sorry, but anyone who suggests I could have just taken off and explored Nigeria either doesn’t know the place very well or is being disingenuous.

On that note, I am quite prepared to believe what I experienced in Lagos was not representative of the whole country.  Contrary to what some people think, I am not a professor submitting a thesis to accurately describe every aspect of life in Nigeria.  I’m just a bloke who lived there giving my opinion based on what I saw.  However, I don’t believe that anything I’ve written is specific to Lagos and cannot be found across most if not all of Nigeria.  If there is a city, region, or state where everything I have described does not exist, then please feel free to point this out in the comments.  But I’m going to remain pretty skeptical of comments which claim my remarks are not representative but avoid citing any examples.

Thirdly, I am a Brit and British English is my first language, and the language in which this blog is written.  As I said, I don’t write for Nigerians, I write for myself.  The term “lad” in British English is not derogatory, and nor was it used with such an intent in my post.  The term “lads” in this context is a term of endearment used to convey friendship and warmth, and is a common term of reference in the UK.  There are few terms of praise in the British oil and gas business greater than being described as part of “a good bunch of lads”.  I suspect most people know this, but unfortunately one of the traits of a minority of Nigerians – and again, they are far from alone in this – is to seek offence at every opportunity, especially if this allows them to embark on a rant against “racist” British, colonial overlords, etc.  It is pretty tiresome.  The term “lads” is not racist nor derogatory, and those who think otherwise might want to consider that three of my lads were Scotsmen.

Finally, I do appreciate the comments, especially the many positive ones.  I am always glad when my articles reach out to somebody, and I value and greatly appreciate both your readership and the feedback.  Many thanks to all of you who read and commented on my piece.

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The End of an Assignment in Nigeria

Okay, so now I’ve got a post about Melbourne out of the way it’s time for me to say a little something about Nigeria.  With the exception of a week in October when I need to clear out my apartment, I’ve pretty much left Nigeria.  My assignment there officially finished on 31st July, although I will have to return for business trips over the course of the next 3 years because the project I am on in Melbourne is for Nigeria.

Somebody once said that there is much to write about Russia, but when one tries you can never find the words to write the first line.  Nigeria is much the same, and indeed there are many similarities between the two countries.  I have tried to describe Nigeria to people who have never been there, and failed on most occasions.  A colleague of mine stopped telling people back home about the place because he was getting a reputation as somewhat of a bullshitter, even though he didn’t exaggerate anything.  I was at a seminar in Paris some time ago and I was describing the working life in Nigeria to a group of Frenchmen.  One of them quipped that I was exaggerating and that “it couldn’t be that bad”, which prompted another Frenchman, sitting beside me, to nudge me in the ribs and remark “wait until he does his Nigerian assignment”.  He was based in Port Harcourt.

Nigeria has a reputation, and I knew about it before I arrived.  Most of what I’d heard proved to be completely true.  Almost all of it, in fact.  To get a general picture of Nigeria, just read the news, and you’ll not be far wrong.  It isn’t a place like Russia, the US, or France which surprise visitors when they see the contrast between what they’ve imagined (based on exposure to their tourists or foreign policy) and the individuals they encounter.  But beyond the general picture, there are some subtleties worth mentioning.

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Yet More News from Nigeria

Arrested Osun goat dies in custody:

The five goats arrested by the Osun State Waste Management Agency (OWMA) in Osogbo last week were on Tuesday dragged before an Osogbo Magistrate Court along side their owners. Three owners of the goats including Mrs. Aduke Adetona, Mrs. Esther Ibikunle and Adedoyin Adetayo were docked, while the goats were not allowed into the court hall but kept in the premises of the court.

The court presided over by Mrs. A. O. Ajanaku discharged Mrs. Adetayo, who had already lost her goat in the custody of OWMA and ordered other accused persons to pay N2, 500 fine to the coffers of the state government. The court pardoned one of the owners, Mrs. Adedoyin Adetayo whose goat had died, but warned her to comply strictly with the provisions of the state environmental laws and the rules of OWMA.

The court ruled that the accused persons violated article 101, cap 11 of the laws of Osun State, which prohibited birds and other animals from straying into residential areas. The prosecutor, Mr. Femi Ogunbamiwo who is also the Director of Environmental Management and Sanitation in OWMA told the court that the accused persons committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the environmental laws of the state. Mr. Ogunbamiwo told the court that the accused persons committed the offence on January 5, 2013 by allowing animals under their control to stray into public domain in a manner that was injurious to the health of the public.

Counsel to the accused persons, Mr. Jimoh Daramola pleaded with the court to be lenient with his clients and temper justice with mercy, adding that the accused persons would henceforth obey the laws of the state. Article 101, cap 2 of the 2002 Laws of Osun State, which was passed by the state House of Assembly states that: “No bird or animal shall be allowed to stray to any road or public place or urinate or defecate in any public place in the state.”

The Special Adviser to the governor on Environment, Mr. Bola Ilori who spoke with reporters after the court session urged residents to keep their pets in a cage to prevent violation of the state environmental laws and guide against transmission of diseases from animal to man.

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Snippets and Snapshots

Firstly:

The Rivers State police command said a loud blast heard in Port Harcourt earlier today was that of a missile accidentally fired from an airforce jet on routine maintenance at the Airforce mechanic hangar in Port Harcourt.

Commissioner of Police Mohammed Indabawa told Saharareporters that the missile hit an uncompleted building three kilometers from the scene of the accidental discharge. He said no death or injuries were reported.

Panicked residents had reported hearing a deafening explosion in Worji area of Port Harcourt around 7:30 AM.

Then we have this, located just behind our office building and photographed by a colleague who heard a loud crash:

I think they might have a spot of bother returning that the the hire company.  “Hey, I had bit of trouble retracting the boom…”

Meanwhile, they’re erecting a huge tent out the front of our office (insert jokes about clowns and circuses here), which was halfway up when one of the mainstays fell over.  Before and after pictures are below.

 Finally, some scaffolding:

 I’m still alive, somehow.

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Some More News from Nigeria

Sodomy: Man Rapes Friend, Then Begs Him With Bread

The police at Takwa Bay Division, Lekki, Eti Osa Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, have arrested a man known as Denis Oteri, 19, and arraigned him before the Igbosere magistrate’s court on a one count charge of sexually assaulting God’s Love Stephen by having carnal knowledge of him through the anus.

The police stated in suit No. M/5/2012 that the accused was arrested following complaints lodged by Stephen that Denis Oteri lured him into the bush and forcefully had sex with him through the anus.

Narrating his ordeal to the police, Stephen stated: “I met Denis, my senior whom respect very well at the NNPC gate at Takwa Bay and he begged me to help him take a keg of petrol to his house and I obeyed him because I know him.

“As we were going, he told me to follow him inside the bush to check something. Not suspecting anything, I followed him, but I was surprised when he suddenly stopped and barked at me to remove all my clothes or else he would kill me inside the bush.

“Before I could ask what the problem was, he wrestled me to the ground, forcefully removed my clothes, held me down and had sex with me through the anus and release sperm inside my body.

“He thereafter begged me not to tell anybody and gave me a loaf of bread in return which I threw away.

“I decided to report the matter to the police because it is an abomination for a man like me to penetrate into me through the anus and release sperm inside my body and my anus has been aching me after the ungodly incident.”

During interrogation, the accused allegedly confessed to the crime of forcefully having sex with Stephen through the anus inside the bush.

When asked what he derived from having sex with a man like himself, he allegedly told the police that he was deceived by the devil to do it and that he prays to God for forgiveness.

He was charged to court for sexual assault.

Man accused of witchcraft hacked to death by relatives

The killing of a 45-year-old Akwa Ibom man, Mr. Mfon Edung, by people believed to be his relatives over allegation of witchcraft is generating concerns among the family of the slain man.

It was learnt that the father of three, who hailed from Mbokpu Eyoima in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area of the state, was killed on his way to collect his church’s pulpit from Mr. Ini Edung on Friday.

An eyewitness, who preferred anonymity, said the deceased was riding on a motorcycle when he saw some men at Oyoku Ubighi, drinking and eating dog meat at a joint.

The eyewitness explained that the men jumped inside a vehicle immediately they sighted him and chased the deceased.

He said, “We saw Mfon riding on a motorcycle and almost all the men that were drinking left immediately to close him. They followed him and when they got to a desolate area, hit him with their vehicle.

“As he tried to get up and run, people around the area, who thought it was an accident, rushed to the scene to rescue him.

“But no fewer than five persons got out of the vehicle, with axes and cutlasses and hacked the deceased. They shot into the air sporadically to scare the crowd, and took the body away to an unknown destination.”

Also, a bicycle rider, who also craved anonymity, corroborated the eyewitness’ account.

He added that as he was running to the scene to rescue the deceased, he saw some men coming out of a white Volvo car with no number plate.

He said, “When I saw them, I was afraid and quickly retreated. In the process of killing Mfon, I heard one of them say, ‘You use your witchcraft power to kill my mother. I warned you if the woman died, you too would die. And let us see if your witchcraft will be able to save you.’

“I held my breath. When they finished cutting the deceased up, they took the body away, and nobody could trace them anymore.”

The wife of the deceased, Ikwo, said her husband was going to ask Etim how far he had gone with the aluminium pulpit he was making for the church.

She said from what she learnt, when her husband was returning home around 5pm at Mbokpu Oyoima, a vehicle was trailing him but he didn’t notice it.

She said she learnt her husband was killed at a desolate area, opposite a church at Oyoku Ibighi, in Urue Offong/Oruko LGA.

She said her husband had abandoned home to live with friends following repeated threat messages by his relations.

She said, “All along they had been sending threat messages to the extent that a Deacon in a church, summoned my husband and advised him to avoid some of his relations because of the threats.

“My husband had on two occasions been mercilessly beaten by his own people and some cult men in the village. When I reported the matter to the police who came to my husband’s rescue, his relations blamed me and fined me one she-goat and 10 bottles of locally-made gin for insulting them by calling the police.

“They blamed my husband for the sickness of her sister and said if the woman should die, my husband would also be killed. And so, they carried out their threat.”

Ikwo said when she reported the matter to the police in the area, they asked what she expected them to do after the man had been killed.

Reps flay foreign airlines’ treatment of Nigerians

The House of Representatives on Wednesday criticised the operations of foreign airlines in Nigeria, particularly their high fares and alleged maltreatment of Nigerian passengers.

A motion sponsored by Mr. Emmanuel Ekon and 31 others also frowned on the practice of spraying insecticides on Nigerian passengers before take-off.

The House also observed that the crew members of all the foreign airlines were non-Nigerians, despite the huge business benefit they enjoyed in Nigeria.

The House passed a resolution asking the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and other regulatory agencies to ensure a reduction in fares and to “compel international airline operators to improve on their services and adhere to the Nigerian Local Content Law.”

The House noted that ticket for flying from Nigeria to Europe, America and other parts of the world “are the highest when compared with other countries where these airlines operate.”

The House also observed that from available records, “each airline carries a minimum of 300 passengers daily into and out of the country, making Nigeria one of the most lucrative routes in the world.”

Moving the motion, Ekon told the House that in spite of the business advantage of operating in Nigeria, Nigerians paid 23 per cent more on all classes of tickets than travellers in other parts of the world.

To buttress his position, Ekon said while a first class return ticket on the Lagos-Dubai route cost $4,695.5 on Emirates Airline, the airline charged $3,512 on the Dubai-Johannesburg route, which had the same mileage as Nigeria.

Similarly, he stated that Delta Airlines charged $5,874 on a Business Class for Lagos-Atlanta route, but charged $3,689.9 on the Atlanta-Bombay route.

He added, “First Class passengers on Air France pay $8,984 for Lagos-Paris route with 2,919 miles, while the same ticket for Paris-Bombay route with 4,349 miles costs $8,739.

“Even in Ghana, South Africa and other African countries where these airlines operate, the air fares are far lower than in Nigeria.”

The lawmaker expressed concern that aside not having Nigerian crew members on board, most of the airlines did not serve Nigerian dishes on board.

“But, more disturbing is the insulting and dehumanising practice of spraying insecticides on Nigerians.

“This has health implications; this is one of the issues that our regulatory agencies must address,” he said.

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Some Snippets of News from Nigeria

Policeman set ablaze in Oyo for ‘killing’ driver

A police corporal, Olufemi Ajayi, was yesterday set ablaze in Ayete, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, by an irate mob, after he allegedly shot and killed a commercial driver at a checkpoint.

Ajayi, who is attached to Igboora Police Station, allegedly shot the victim, Mr. Emiola Kolade, after a minor argument.

Kolade died in a hospital in Igboora.

An eyewitness, Alhaji Salau Adele, said: “It all started at one of the many illegal checkpoints on Idere-Ayete road, when the corporal flagged down the driver and demanded a bribe. The driver gave him N100, but the policeman said the money was too small and refused to accept it.

“This led to an argument between the two. We heard a gunshot later and the driver was found injured on the ground. The policeman tried to escape, but he was caught.”

It was learnt that the policeman was beaten and set ablaze by the mob.

Niger police nab man in possession of baby’s head

The renewed efforts of the Niger State police command to rid the state of criminal elements may have started yielding results, following the discovery of a severed head of a few months old baby girl in a polythene in possession of a young man suspected to be one of the arrow-heads of a syndicate that specialises in using human parts for ritual purposes in parts of the state.

The discovery of the strange object with the suspect (names withheld) occurred early last week, during a stop and search duty by a team of policemen on the highway at Erena, in Shiroro Local Government area of the state .

The Nigerian Tribune further learnt that trouble began for the young man, when he was allegedly sighted by a policeman, holding a wet Bagco Super sack and attempting to board a commercial vehicle from the village (Erena) with the bag allegedly containing the fresh human head.

It was further gathered that, as the suspect was about to board the vehicle, the policeman allegedly observed that a liquid substance which was a mixture of blood and water was said to have been oozing from the bag.

A police source at the homicide section of the state Criminal Investigation Department(CID), Minna, the state capital, informed the Nigerian Tribune that, as a result of that, the policeman became suspicious and requested to know the content of the bag.

The source who craved for anonymity in a chat with the NT stated that the suspect allegedly told the Policeman that the bag contained some pieces of fresh Tomatoes , just as the policeman insisted that he must be allowed to see whether it was “Tomatoes” or not.

“It was however at the point of a very serious struggle between the suspect and the policeman, that some concerned on lookers who were either passing by of attempting to board commercial vehicles near the scene who assisted the policeman in apprehending the suspect. And when they forced the bag opened, they now saw the head of human being concealed in the sack” the source stated.

NT was further informed that no sooner that the strange object was discovered with the suspect that an irate mob gathered with the view to beating him into a pulp, but that the policeman was allegedly able to maneuver him to the nearby police outpost in the village where he was kept in the police cell as he was said to have confessed to the crime during investigation by the police.

“He now confessed that another person gave him the head and at the point of the police trying to track down the person he also escaped from the police’s cell that fateful night , while the police went to look for the person whom he said gave him the head . But after apprehending the man, fortunately for the police, the following morning, he was re-arrested and the two of them have been transferred to the state CID for further investigation” said the source.

Nigeria loses N700b on Kaduna refinery, pays N12b annually to idle workers

A NERVE-RACKING revelation has come from the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) that the Federal Government is losing over N700 billion yearly due to the comatose nature of the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemicals Company (KRPC).

The chairman of the committee, Senator Magnus Abbe who disclosed this on Tuesday when the committee visited the plant on oversight function added that the Federal Government spends a whopping N12 billion yearly on staff salaries in the company.

Abbe who spoke after a tour of the plant lamented that instead of focusing on the core mandate of the company which was refining of petroleum products, the company has resorted to producing of drums for oil companies due to decay in its infrastructure. He equally expressed displeasure that the company established over 20 years ago with production capacity of 110, 000 barrels per day could not refine even 30,000 barrels per day.

“We are not happy with the situation in this refinery. It is shocking that the refinery built over 20 years ago with a capacity of 110,000 barrels is operating at low capacity. One appalling thing is that a plant built for refining products is converted to a container-making firm. We are doing this when we are paying N12 billion annually as staff salaries.”

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Complaint Revised

I present these excerpts from two articles about the burning of a Chevron drilling rig offshore Nigeria without comment.

The first:

“Crude oil” has reportedly washed ashore and been spotted around a partially submerged rig which suffered a gas explosion and continues to burn off Nigeria, a country official has claimed.

Some community leaders in the state of Bayelsa have complained of pollution reaching the coast following a blowout on the Chevron-chartered jack-up KS Endeavor early on Monday morning, Peter Idabor, director general of Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency (Nosdra) told Upstream.

“This is a very serious explosion. You have drilling fluids and oil seen around the rig itself.”

Idabor said his department has received complaints from government officials in some parts of Bayelsa state about pollution washing ashore.

“There are several communities already impacted,” he claimed. “The first one is Koloma towns 1 and 2, the second one is Fishtown and the third is Frupa.”

When it was put to him that the KS Endeavor was drilling a gas exploration well, Idabor replied: “Yes, it is, but maybe some oily substances are coming out. I think the fire is actually on the water too. That’s why I was saying there must be some oily substance. They are also talking about drilling fluids. But no volume estimates have been completed at this time.”

On Tuesday Chevron had said that “a small sheen [was] visible in close proximity to the well” with the sheen estimated at 13 barrels.

The second:

A local official also backtracked over claims last week that oil was visible at the drill site on the Funiwa field in Block 86 and some had reached shore, but also aired new claims of complaints from locals of toxic fumes from the blowout incident on 16 January.

“Contrary to some erroneous media reports, at this time there is no oil spilled as a result of this incident,” Chevron continued.

“We reiterate that this is a natural gas well. With the gas flow, fine silt and mud on the seabed floor is disturbed and rises to the surface. Discolouration of the water is visible near the well site.”

On Monday Idabor told Upstream: “The issue I told you about oil touching the coastline appears not to be true, because it was independently verified by [a Nosdra representative].

“Primarily it is not oil…I think [the main problem is] gas, the problem of gas affecting the atmosphere.

“People from the communities say that their problem is the gas – noxious gas – coming from the area. So I have got to link them with the director of petroleum resources to see what can be done.”

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Troubling Reports

As Nigeria’s General Strike enters its second week, there are reports coming in of troops being deployed on the streets of Lagos.  It appears little progress was made over the weekend (when the strikes were called off and we all managed to do some grocery shopping).  Equally worrying are the reports that President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the arrest of those believed to be behind the protests.

Firstly, that a politician can order the arrest of anyone speaks volumes about how Nigeria is run.  Secondly, arresting those behind a protest is hardly compatible with granting people the right to protest (and they’ve hardly been violent, not by local standards anyway).  And finally, when did sending soldiers to break up protests ever have a happy ending, especially in Africa?

I thought over the weekend that these protests would have a day or two left to run until a deal was reached.  Back in the office on Wednesday, I thought.  But if the leaders have been arrested and troops deployed, this could turn ugly very fast.

UPDATE

Strikes have been called off.

UPDATE II

Back to work tomorrow.  That’s ugly enough.

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