With President Clinton’s trip to Nigeria, there is a great deal of protest over the US deal-making with the Nigerian military; a military notorious for its human rights abuses. But Clinton’s visit is just the most recent move in a series of efforts to bolster Nigeria’s armed forces. And, though Clinton will not be traveling there, many human rights activists are concerned that US training and weapons will be used against the people of the oil rich Niger Delta.
In fact, a couple of months ago there was an interesting article in the oil industry publication Africa Energy and Mining called Niger Delta To Come Under U.S. Protection? It begins:
Nigeria’s growing share in American oil imports has finally drawn the attention of American decision-makers to the Niger river delta where four American groups operate: Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Texaco and BP Amoco.
The Pentagon and the American intelligence community have begun examining ways to settle conflicts in the Niger delta, long a hotbed of unrest. And the attempt to resolve deeply-rooted problems stemming from the oil riches of the delta could lead the United States to cooperate both militarily and economically with the Nigerian authorities.
It was the Central Intelligence Agency which kicked off the process. The Environmental Center of the Directorate of Intelligence (the CIA’s analysis division) commissioned a report on Nigeria’s environmental problems from the business intelligence and risk-assessment company Evidence-Based Research (EBR) late last year.
The company works regularly for the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s J-5 planning unit and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as well for many American multi-national groups. It boasts a huge data base, Aladun, that tracks political and economic developments in 27 African countries.
Aladun is used by several government departments but also by American oil companies. ERB tabled its 50-page report on the Nigeria in late January. The survey pinpointed environment problems and political tension in Nigeria, focussing particularly on three regions, including the delta itself.
The report produced a number of forecasts on probable changes in the region over the coming 10 years. Following an analysis phase, the U.S. administration will embark on a simulation phase. The National Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership organized a war games session concerning the delta between May 31 and June 2. The oil companies, and particularly Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, took part alongside the State Department’s African Affairs Bureau and the Pentagon, the Environmental Protection Agency and officials from the CIA and DIA.
More surprisingly, officers from EUCOM, the Stuttgart-based command for American forces in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, also took part in the session. AEM understands that war games will include scenarios involving possible EUCOM intervention in the Niger delta.
As for the "cooperation" phase, officials from the Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) company will also take part in the exercises. The presence of the latter is noteworthy because it has been working since August 1999 to help modernize the Nigerian army with funding from the defense department and the United States Agency for Development (USAID).
Military Professional Resources Inc’s first contact with the Nigerians came in March of last year during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit to Washington, and a contract was signed on July 9. In addition to helping "integrate the Nigerian army into the new civil administration," MPRI has also been tasked with "creating opportunities in the private sector for recently retired officers."
For its part, the Pentagon is stepping up consultations with the Nigerian army and its government leaders to decide on cooperation projects. The programs were unveiled in early April and AEM has learned that one of them will focus on what the US planners have termed "semi-riot zones."
- Ken Silverstein, author of the new book ??Private Warriors, which looks at the generals, the gunrunners and national security staffers who were cast adrift by the end of the Cold War and who now operate in the private sector.