With the president ignoring the growing influence of a bloody terror sect, more than $1 billion worth of environmental damage caused by an oil spill, rampant corruption, daily violence throughout the country and its most revered citizen deprecating the nation, Nigeria is in a state of peril.
TERROR SECT GROWS
Boko Haram, an Islamic terror sect responsible for killing hundreds of people this year, is gaining influence in the country’s economically depressed and geographically isolated northeastern region.
After Christians abandoned the towns of Maiduguri and Damaturu in the wake of attacks last week, Boko Haram now occupies the two cities. The Nigerian government sent troops to monitor suspected terrorists, running checks on vehicles and homes and outlawing the use of motorcycles – Boko Haram’s preferred vehicle.
President Goodluck Johnathan told business representatives at a meeting late last week that Boko Haram has no influence in the country – a refrain that the persecuted and victimized masses in the northeast are beginning to resent. Johnathan referred to the sect as a “temporary” problem.
Though most Muslims in the country disagree with Boko Haram’s fundamentalist tactics and beliefs, the terror sect is growing by appealing to poor youth from nearby nations.
The country is split almost in half between Muslims and Christians. Christians in the north and central regions are easy targets for Boko Haram, which wants to implement Sharia law.
The terror sect also targets a government that engages in mass corruption.
Indeed what now provides a stark, prescient symbol of the nation’s troubles is a vacated mansion in Maiduguri, towering over dusty streets and dilapidated shacks, once occupied by the state’s governor.
A newborn on the government payroll has been earning $150 a month for the last two to three years, according to reports. It is yet another example of the corruption that economically cripples the country, where most people live on two dollars a day.
The newborn also has a college degree.
He is a “ghost worker” – an avenue through which Nigerians, particularly those connected to local government, can pocket money allocated, but not regulated, by the federal government.
Indeed corruption is most rampant at the local level, where money is siphoned from government works projects and given to members of local government.
"There is no state in Nigeria that doesn't have ghost workers," Thompson Ayodele, director of Initiative for Public Policy Analysis in Lagos, told the AP. "In this case, at least the baby is alive, what about the thousands of ghost workers who don't even exist?"
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, and one of its richest. One of the world’s top oil producers, Nigeria exports much of its product to the U.S. Experts estimate that more than $380 billion has been lost due to corruption.
Amnesty International is calling for calling for Shell to cover the $1 billion it will cost to clean up a decades-old oil spill in the Niger Delta.
The U.N. Environmental Program (UNep) found in August that Shell and other oil companies were responsible for a yet-to-be cleaned oil spill that has resulted in soil and water contamination that has crippled the region.
Shell says it hasn’t drilled in the city, Ogoniland, since 1993 and blames sabotage and theft for the disaster.
UNep said Shell took responsibility for two oil spills that destroyed a community of 69,000 people, yet provided little to no relief in the clean-up. Shell was ejected from the region in the mid-90s.
In 1995, nine activists were executed for a non-violent campaign to protest the damage inflicted on the region.
It is unknown whether Shell will respond to the calls from activist groups to clean up the spill.
ACHEBE REJECTS HONOR
Chinua Achebe, Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart, and who is widely regarded as the father of African literature, rejected a national award presented by President Johnathan for the second time.
Achebe was offered a prestigious national award in 2004, which he rejected citing the nation’s troubled state. He rejected this year’s award because he said the problems that plagued the country almost ten years ago have not been fixed.
Achebe, who lives in the U.S., said the country was only getting worse.
Johnathan, who has been accused by Nigerians of not being in touch with the truth on a number of situations across the country, said Achebe probably wasn’t aware of the true state of Nigeria.