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Friday, March 24, 2006

Nigeria Census

ABUJA, March 24 (Reuters) - The normally hectic streets and markets of Nigeria's main cities were deserted on Friday with residents ordered to stay at home and be counted as the first census in 15 years entered its final stage.
The restricted movement measures, which last until 1500 GMT on Friday and Saturday, are part of the authorities' strategy to try and ensure that Africa's most populous country gets credible census results after a series of past fiascos.
Lagos, the sprawling, overcrowded commercial capital in the southwest, has been eerily quiet since Tuesday as the Lagos state government ordered a five-day shutdown to increase its chances of having its enormous population counted.
State television showed children playing football and men staging ram fights outside their homes in streets normally crowded with hawkers, cars and buses.
Other major cities had been conducting business as usual, but on Friday they too were like ghost towns. In Kano, the biggest city in the north and a major centre of trade, and in southeastern Onitsha, a huge and frenetic market city, the only people in sight on the streets were police.
In the capital Abuja, even the vendors of newspapers and mobile phone recharge cards who normally crowd every road intersection had vanished. Census takers in their bright orange jackets were slowly making their way down the streets.
Estimates of Nigeria's population range from 120 million to 150 million. The government says the census is designed to provide better data on demographics and housing that will help improve social services.
But censuses are fraught in Nigeria because rival ethnic and religious groups have tried to use them to assert their numerical superiority and claim a larger chunk of oil revenues and political representation. Rows over results have discredited several counts since independence from Britain in 1960.
The worst trouble in this census has occurred in the southeast, where six suspected members of a separatist group were killed on Tuesday in a clash with police after trying to stop people from being counted.
Suspected members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) have also attacked census takers with machetes and acid. Two of the officials died in hospital of their injuries, state radio reported on Friday.
MASSOB campaigns for the southeast, a region dominated by the Ibo ethnic group, to secede. It argues that the Ibo should not be counted in the Nigerian census as they are Biafrans. The Ibo are Nigeria's third largest ethnic group.
There have been violent incidents in other parts of the country. In southwestern Ondo state, five people were killed just before the start of the census in fighting between two ethnic groups over ownership of a village.
In northern Gombe state, public radio reported that a boundary dispute between two ethnic groups was disrupting the census in part of the state as villagers refused to be counted until the row was settled. Several government buildings were torched by irate local residents.
Elsewhere, problems in paying census takers and a dearth of materials have caused delays and arguments.
Several prominent figures including state governors are calling for the census to be extended beyond Saturday, its scheduled final day, arguing that there have been too many delays and hitches for the count to be completed on time.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Nigerian militia MEND

"We ARE not terrorists," screamed a black-masked militant brandishing an assault rifle. "We are freedom fighters!"
He had arrived minutes earlier in a motorboat bristling with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades held by fighters in camouflage body armour and balaclavas.
White flags, a tribute to their tribe's god of war, fluttered from the stern.
This is the Niger Delta, the heart of Africa's biggest oil producer. But despite the billions of dollars in oil wealth, this region - about 70,000 square kilometres - is home to some of the world's poorest people. Most of the fishermen in these creeks live in the same huts and use the same bark nets that their fathers did. More than 60 per cent of Nigeria's 128 million inhabitants scrape by, earning less than $1 a day, with no hope of employment or education.
In many places, the frustration with a government ranked by Transparency International as the third most corrupt in the world has spilled over into violence.
"We have no water to drink, no schools, no electricity, no jobs," complained one machine-gun-toting youth from the latest Delta-based insurgent group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
"Have you been to Abuja (the capital)? It is paradise there. Why can't we have that down here?"
MEND has masterminded a spate of attacks and two mass kidnappings in the past three months. The first abduction, in January, ended with all four foreigners released unharmed. But after the Nigerian military ordered retaliatory strikes on strategic targets or innocent villagers, depending on who you talk to, a second group of nine expatriate workers were seized last month. Six have been released, but the group still holds two Americans and a Briton.
Alex Vines, head of the African program at London's Royal Institute for International Affairs think tank, believes the attacks are linked to next year's elections. "This type of activity and violence happens during every electoral cycle. The surprise is not that it has happened but that is has happened so soon," he said.
The violence has shut down a fifth of Nigeria's production. The damage to Africa's biggest oil producer, which normally pumps 2.5 million barrels a day, is sending shockwaves through a market already jittery about instability in the Middle East.
The militias know that with 90 per cent of Nigeria's export earnings coming from oil, attacking oil installations is the quickest way to make the Government take notice of their demands. They want an inquiry into killings by the military, promises of development and the release of key tribal leaders.
One of those they want freed is Alhaji Dokubo Asari, whose threats of an all-out war on oil interests drove prices to record highs two years ago. Asari, on trial for treason, has said he was originally armed as a political enforcer to ensure the election of current Rivers State governor Peter Odili in 2003.
"Don't forget, most of these militants received their first weapon from the ruling party," local human rights activist Dimieari Von Kemedi said.
"When the elections were over, the guns melted into the swamps. Given the weapons now available in the Delta, any serious politician will be looking for bigger and better weapons for their own boys."
Twenty-year-old Akpoviri Igbeh, unemployed and looking for work around Warri's docks, approves of what MEND is doing. "They kidnap those foreigners so that people know what is going on here," he said. "We have the right to use force because nobody is listening. We are like the goose that laid the golden egg, but nobody cares for us."

source: news agency

Friday, March 10, 2006

Got Me-Self a Blog Yeeaaaa

I got myself a Blog....i do not think i will be writing much very soon but hey watch this space. I am going to scroll google for ideas and i do not mind your ideas too *wink wink*