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What's New In W. Africa (Nigeria)

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What's New In W. Africa (Nigeria)

Old 14th Oct 2006, 12:27
  #1241 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Germany
Age: 73
Posts: 1,561
I sense a disturbance in the Force...

I like your metaphor for achieving balance, NEO, but there's a little more to it than that.

So you balance your two buckets, when life is good, so long as the quality of the beer is acceptable. Sometimes, even, our masters get it wrong and overfill the bucket full of money, when life is taken to be really great.

Meanwhile, though, one is never quite sure of the Specific Gravity of sh*t, so that anyone with even a speck of wit thinks that there just might be something wrong with the picture.

What about all those new guys who show up and disappear after just one or two tours, or the old hands who somehow manage to get reassigned someplace completely different? Do they know something you don't?

Then you get the bad surprises, such as someone's chopper being hi-jacked in a way that seems to show insiders working with the bad guys. Who's a bad guy and who's a good guy? Some of us remember Viet Nam, where they all wore black pajamas. Who can you really trust? If that's cynicism, well, it is also common sense to ask that question.

Too, you may get a personal bad surprise such as being robbed or shot at, when you really begin to wonder what the SG is for that bucket in your left hand.

It seems to be getting heavier and heavier while the one full of money hasn't changed or even seems to be getting a bit lighter since now you have to pay for ticket upgrades or you find that inflation is beginning to bite, perhaps your kids need even more expensive toys such as cars or your wife runs off with your accountant. Sh*t happens.

Taste comes into it in a big way; lots of guys happen to like messed up situations, and they don't come much more messed up than the Niger Delta at the moment. There's some weird impulse to stick it out rather than to cut and run, and Management know just how to push that button.

I remember one evening when I went along on a trip to buy some 'naira' over at the Aero Bar in Port Harcourt. My chauffeur was a madman of the Hungarian persuasion so that my nerves were already taut like banjo strings but when we got there it was clear that there had just been big trouble of some sort, with tipped-over furniture, broken glass, puddles of... what?, and various uniformed indigenes standing around shouting at each other as is their wont, emphasising various points in the dialogue by waving their guns and clubs.

That was enough for me, so that I just wanted us to conclude our business and get out. But there in the middle of the mess was this figure propping up the bar, smoking a fag, drinking a cold one and looking very pleased to find himself at the epicentre of a small sh*t-storm, one he had even helped to reach its full potential.

No naming names but the guy looked a lot like you, in fact! I really appreciated the offer of a beer but I would much rather have been tucked up in bed with an Ovaltine right then. So, 'horses for courses,' perhaps?
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Old 14th Oct 2006, 16:27
  #1242 (permalink)  

Nigerian In Law
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Haven't been there, never done that.
Age: 62
Posts: 1,020
People In Glass Houses........

Aaah Chuks,

Nice missive. But you didn't get out of the bullet ridden bus, pack your kit and head for the airport with a one way ticket did you ? Not then, nor after any other bad thing that befell you or those you know. No, it was a completely different sort of misfortune that precipitated your departure..... racially linked but not in the conventional sense. But then hindsight is wonderful isn't it ?

That PH incident was like a bad joke: "You had to be there". You came in as it was cooling down, the real fun had been over for about 20 minutes !!

Sometimes one bucket does get heavier, but over time they average out as pretty evenly balanced.


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Old 14th Oct 2006, 17:11
  #1243 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: here and there
Posts: 69
...and the story behind THIS one is?

We've seen some wonderful write ups by you on this site. You must have been around the very Niger Delta for quite some time. What actually made you leave this place then? A man with that kind of intimate knowledge of the area and the people that live here, I would have thought you should have been one of those "survivers"...... Anyhow, what is NEO referring to with his statement of:"....racially linked but not in the conventional sense"? Please, I beg, let's have another fine tale from you, abi?
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Old 14th Oct 2006, 18:06
  #1244 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Okrika
Posts: 83

Is this a progression?
Okada Helicopters, Concorde Helicopters, Stillwater, Southern Air, Caverton Helicopters? It's beginning to look more and more like it. Nigerian bosses will never learn to hire good men and let them get on with the job. I'm sure Aero will be the beneficiary. Still, should be a nice hangar up for sale soon for anyone who wants a place with a wavy floor
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Old 14th Oct 2006, 18:42
  #1245 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Posts: 481
Thumbs down

Chuks is too much of a survivor to reply. Take what you said
What actually made you leave this place then? A man with that kind of intimat
, reorganise into another well-known phrase, What actually made you leave this place then, a man? Bristow management pick some strange (mis)managers (think of Le Viscomte) which causes all manner of good men in Africa to depart. Now their chickens are coming home to roost and they can't even man aircraft any more.
There are numerous rumours that Bristow will change to 6/6 and/or 8/4 soon, plus an increase in local pay. Maybe they think that will cause people to join them in the hope of it happening, then they don't actually have to do it. Nothing would surprise me any more with the way companies are run in Nigeria. However, if they do change rumour has it that quite a few CHC may start sniffing at their door rather than enter the doors of the houses in the dreaded East West Road. Areta will be a new Bristow haunt - though CHC won't visit as it will be too dangerous to leave their fortress (I hope it will be a fortress if they're really going to move there ). Still, when they have replaced all the old trouble-makers from Schreiner they'll just have a load of awfully nice, shaven-headed, terribly naive replacements who won't know any better.
As for Caverton, the writing is on the wall. Looks like they're trying to make the CP the scapegoat for 2 of their helicopters being grounded - couldn't possibly be the Ops Director, Technical Director or MD could it? They'll soon have even more pilots with no local knowledge or experience blundering around single-pilot with nobody knowing where they are.
The airspace in Nigeria is getting more dangerous as all the companies are setting people lose with inadequate local knowledge or training and statistically it must only be a matter of time before it's going to lead to a nasty. We've already had one helicopter land in the Shell RA without even knowing that's where he was and a significant number of the pilots flying in Port Harcourt now either don't know or don't care about the procedures in place, despite the fact that they've been NOTAMed. Glad I'm on me bike.
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Old 14th Oct 2006, 19:29
  #1246 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Germany
Age: 73
Posts: 1,561
One story you won't read here!

Yes, well... it was a pretty funny story, how I came to leave this last time. My sixth Final Departure, it was, and perhaps this one shall stick. But it would be kind of embarrassing all around to tell the story, so we aren't going there just yet. ARE we, NEO?

NEO is mostly correct, as usual. The only thing is, it wasn't racial, unless you happen to believe in the Master Race, but ethnic. Let's just say I left a German feeling as if it was I who had made a fool of him and leave it at that. They never have been very good about Reality Checks, have they? Well, most of them. I would make an exception for the Happy Snapper, there.

I had told the story about the Isolo Gun Club pimping our ride to another German, one who knew nothing of Nigeria, when he just looked at me (and not in a flattering way) to ask, 'Why are you still there?'

I really couldn't come up with a smart answer to that question. Honestly, I might still be there if it weren't for my little problem. The weird thing is, I don't drink and I don't chase the local wimmin, so what the attraction is, money aside, I cannot really say. Perhaps it's that it's the perfect place for a cynic. Everything goes wrong, just the way it's supposed to! Smooth-running places make me nervous waiting for the collapse; in Nigeria it's already happening, since!

It has taken a while to get used to the idea of being in one place for more than five weeks, since I have spent most of this past year at school in London. It sure was nice not to have that clock ticking the days off until I had to get into the big alloy mailing tube to go back to the Centre of Excrement and whatever new trouble there was there to be found. That said, though, it would be a lie to say that I don't miss it.

Unless you happen to be married to a woman who makes more money than you do it might not be a good idea to follow my example. On the other hand, yes, there is life after West Africa so that this might just be a good time to leave the troubled Delta for a while. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?
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Old 15th Oct 2006, 05:14
  #1247 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Las Vegas
Age: 71
Posts: 50
Expats who work longterm

Hi Chuks,

It's always been my opinion that expats who work for a long time in Nigeria are similar to long time prison inmates. They both seem to become institutionalized and have to readjust to living in an open society. Many inmates prefer to stay in a society they understand and know how to function well in. The wonderful thing about the human brain is that it forgets exactly what a particular pain feels like. Over time only the more pleasant memories remain. Thank Buddha!

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Old 15th Oct 2006, 09:04
  #1248 (permalink)  

PPRuNe Time
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 316
However, the bottom line (literally) is that there are still people going out on leave and coming back in, aircraft are still being flown and fixed, people (as is their wont) are still complaining about dripping taps and the like.

So life continues after a fashion.
That is something I find hard to understand. When there was a mining accident here in Aus not long ago, the mine stopped work until the men were rescued.

Do the particular companies concerned really just go about their business as though nothing has happened? I think it's Bristow, Sparrows, Oceaneering and Nautilus that have had people taken from Eket who are still captives. Does work really just keep going for the local branches of those companies, as though nothing has happened?

I suppose that the families have someone to contact at the relevant employer companies of the captives. Do those people still take leave, leave for their rostered time off etc as normal when it comes up, and just "hand over" the task of communicating with the loved ones at home? If so, what message does that send to them?

If things were THAT bad,wouldn't a lot more people be leaving ?
It's probably easy for those who have not faced such dangers themselves, eg not been taken captive, to feel that things aren't "THAT bad". Maybe the guys (I think they are all men) who have been taken might not feel that way. Perhaps they will decide that it's not worth being there and if/when they are released, they might just choose not to return. I suppose it will depend on their experiences while they are captives, how their families feel about it etc.

A bucket of money
might seem less attractive, less important and of less value when you've been faced with being a hostage, or being the family of a hostage.
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Old 15th Oct 2006, 11:37
  #1249 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Those are some intelligent questions about a stupid situation, perhaps.

How often do we learn about an accident when we know 'That could have been me!' yet we continue to fly, ride motorcycles, eat with chopsticks, fall in love with a bar girl... whatever. Men, particularly, just aren't that bright when it comes to assessing risk/benefits. All too often the little head is doing the thinking for the big head.

In the same way, there you are, you have your job and your colleagues and the Company is counting on you even if you know better than to count on the Company so that it makes more sense, somehow, to just keep going with only minor adjustments for bad news.

I guess you just figure, well, there's nothing much I can do for those guys who were kidnapped so I might as well leave that to Management to sort out and just get on with my job. It would make sense for everyone to walk off the job until the captives were released and security was upgraded but no one ever suggested that in the real world, that I know of. For one thing, one of your competitors would be more than happy to move in and take over the contract!
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Old 15th Oct 2006, 11:46
  #1250 (permalink)  

PPRuNe Time
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 316
In these times of pilot shortages though, surely the risk of other pilots walking in and taking over is reduced.

I have no idea who is actually doing the negotiations, whether it be Shell (as I suspect) or other, but if people stopped work till the situation was sorted, surely it would add more pressure to management to push the negotiators to sort the situation.
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Old 15th Oct 2006, 20:55
  #1251 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Er..... why would Shell be negotiating for the release of hostages working for Exxon/Mobil?
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Old 15th Oct 2006, 23:11
  #1252 (permalink)  

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Posts: 316
Thanks for spotting that anjouan, of course it should be "Exxon/Mobil" not "Shell" - got the companies and locations mixed up for a minute.

The point being, and hopefully it's not lost by my stating the wrong organisation, that the individual employers concerned may not be doing the negotiations themselves but may be relying on the organisation to which they are contracted.

If work stopped, the companies would feel the pressure and so would the organisation with the head contract - maybe that pressure would assist the negotiators to apply themselves.

I could be wrong, and I stand to be corrected, but from the point of view of the individual families, it might feel like their loved ones are just names to the negotiators, more so as time passes and platitudes and comments like "we're working on it" and "they'll be fine" start to seem meaningless. Perhaps something like work stopping would give the negotiators more incentive to secure the freedom of the hostages.
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Old 16th Oct 2006, 03:37
  #1253 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
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Posts: 79
"If work stopped, the companies would feel the pressure and so would the organisation with the head contract - maybe that pressure would assist the negotiators to apply themselves.

I could be wrong, and I stand to be corrected, but from the point of view of the individual families, it might feel like their loved ones are just names to the negotiators, more so as time passes and platitudes and comments like "we're working on it" and "they'll be fine" start to seem meaningless. Perhaps something like work stopping would give the negotiators more incentive to secure the freedom of the hostages."

Agreed, believe this would put pressure on organisation/companies to seriously look at and do something about the security measures. Something has to be done sooner or later. The end result would be the same with no crew flying due to pilot shortage SO how much longer and what does it take before management react.
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Old 16th Oct 2006, 08:16
  #1254 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Afrika sometimes
Age: 65
Posts: 219
Post Bristow or CHC in Nigeria?

Itís an open secret that Bristow are so short of pilots in Nigeria that they will shortly be announcing a change to either 6/6 or 8/4 for touring crew in an effort to stem the number of pilots leaving (some for CHC) and attract new entrants. Naturally, as they havenít announced what the changes to pay and allowances will be as yet, maybe itís also worth looking at the other differences or similarities between the companies so those considering joining one or the other can have more information on which to make their decisions. I hope that other pilots based in Naijaland will correct any mistakes and add their own views. I know this is a rumour network, but getting the true facts will help people to make a proper comparison between the companies and make an informed decision as to whether they want to work for them in Nigeria.

Associated with pay is the additional benefits package. Both companies have these. Bristow offer Accident, Loss of Licence (?), family medical and pension schemes, as do CHC. However, CHC additionally have an interest-free personal computer purchase scheme, an annual shoe purchase allowance, advance of expenses, and 50% towards the cost of a personal pilot headset. I believe both companies offer an employee share purchase scheme. I donít know whether the companies have kidnap insurance for staff in Nigeria (but they certainly should, if they donít!).

CHC pay in Canadian $ to your home bank, but the pay varies every month as only the basic salary is paid for time off. Pay has to be claimed every month via the internet, which can sometimes be a problem from Nigeria. Bristow pay in £ Sterling to an offshore account in the Channel Isles. You donít have to claim (except for expenses) and one twelfth of your annual salary is paid in every month, whether youíre on leave or working. This can make it easier for budgeting.

CHC has central messing and all meals are provided free of charge. A few pilots elect to be self-catering and receive a daily allowance of Naira 2,800 for this. However, the present security situation can make it difficult to get out and do shopping. With Bristow it varies from base to base and for those on a food allowance itís only Naira 2,500 per day. Even in Port Harcourt, there are some pilots living in a hotel and being fed, plus getting an allowance and others who have to pay for all their food.

Housing also varies a great deal. Pilots working on Shell contracts generally live in the best housing, with good leisure facilities such as swimming pools, squash or tennis courts and multi-gyms. CHC has poor quality housing, but every pilot at least has his own self-contained bedroom and all houses have internet and satellite TV. There are almost no leisure facilities except for a few pieces of exercise equipment in a couple of garages. This is being addressed by the purchase of a new housing estate, which they claim will be equipped with swimming pool, multi-gym etc. It will need to, as it is in a notoriously dangerous part of town (rather like the Bristow Shell compound) and it will probably be too dangerous to venture out after dark. Bristow in Port Harcourt also have some staff living in a reasonable hotel with many modern and sporting amenities. Some live on an estate with a non-working swimming pool and a good multi-gym, but when houses are full 2 of the 3 occupants will be sharing a bathroom. It would be impossible to protect against a determined attack by a large number of armed men in all except the estate where the CHC management live, but most housing has some armed protection. As the attack on Eket has shown, this is not nearly enough. CHC in Port Harcourt have armed MOPOL in all transport to and from work and the buses have radios so they can always contact one of the bases (just as well as a lot of the buses should have been consigned to the scrapheap and if they break down on the road both the radio and police become essential in these troubled times). Bristow Shell have MOPOL but other vehicles have neither radio nor police escorts.

All of this, of course, also leads to how well youíll be dealt with if you happen to fall sick or get injured. With CHC thereís a duty doctor 6 days a week at the accommodation. In the event of serious illness or injury they also have a contract with SOS International who have an excellent medical facility at the Intels camp, with a helipad. Here they can either deal with injuries, or prepare you for a medevac flight (usually to South Africa). CHC also have a contract with CRI, a South African managed company which approves local clinics and hospitals after an inspection by their management to ensure they meet reasonable medical standards. The medical facilities are audited annually by a respected Dutch doctor. With Bristow it seems rather hit and miss and, as far as I know, they have no contracts with either SOS or CRI (but with the present security situation itís time they made a serious effort to redress this).

As far as travel to and from work, both companies seem about the same, although with CHC youíll normally be travelling on a Ďmarineí fare ticket. This is a scam that says youíre a seaman on a vessel based in the Maldives or wherever. It does mean that no matter how long your journey youíll be in cattle class, with no opportunity to upgrade. They will, however, pay for you to purchase an annual lounge pass so that you can use business class lounges in many airports if you have a long stopover, and for even longer stopovers they are very good at reserving day rooms at airport hotels.

Iím sure there are many other things which can be added to what Iíve listed, both good and bad and some of my information may be outdated, so please add your own observations.
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Old 16th Oct 2006, 14:46
  #1255 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Alles uber der Platz
Posts: 54

A couple of corrections,

Bristow currently pay all NEW contracts in US$ since being bought by OLOG and renaming as Bristow Group.This has to be paid into an offshore account located in the British Channel Islands and is a bit worrying with the US$ trading so poorly at the moment.

Also unless you can negotiate a better deal the only benefit you will recieve is medical insurance, NO loss of license, pension etc.


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Old 16th Oct 2006, 16:30
  #1256 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Afrika sometimes
Age: 65
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L', thanks for the corrections. It looks as if Bristow lag a long way behind in the benefits stakes then. What about medical cover, emergency repatriation insurance and kidnap insurance (all essential in the present situation in Nigeria)?
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Old 16th Oct 2006, 16:48
  #1257 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Germany
Age: 73
Posts: 1,561
Kidnap insurance?

Ever heard of The Law of Unintended Consequences?

If your employer is known to have kidnap insurance, don't you think the bad guys would know just whom to grab? After all, you don't see many headlines reading, 'Compound Invaded, Tea Boy Kidnapped!' No, they go for people they can hold for ransom. If your sorry butt is insured, that should be YOU!

People being the way they are, you would not expect someone to be told of this sort of insurance and then keep schtum! Well, he might only tell his local girlfriend, so that should be okay.

I think the way this one will play out is that we won't see much change in the expat situation in Nigeria. More security, yes, but perhaps also a crackdown by what passes for a government on some of their own people behind a lot of the mischief, when things might suddenly get better.

There are plenty of other places just as bad as Nigeria where it's much safer to work. I reckon that might be because a lot of criminal activity is tolerated if not indulged in by the forces of law and order there.

First, let us hope the captives are released. Then it should be interesting to see how the various companies' managements deal with the security issues, not that those are suddenly new issues.

As Musket 33 points out, I may be acclimated but I doubt that I will be going back any time soon. In my next life, perhaps.
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Old 17th Oct 2006, 22:37
  #1258 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 124
A few months ago I was recruited for Bristow Nigeria. I was flown down to LA and did an interview and flight check. About 2 weeks later got an offer from Bristow in the UK. I thought the offer was a "low ball" and made a counter offer. I was told the offer was a "take it or leave it" offer and no further offer would be forthcoming. I was amazed at the total arrogance of the company. I tried pointing out the security and living situation and was told that they had "several applicants" for just a few positions so if I wanted the job let them know immediatly or they would offer the position to one of the other highly qualified applicants.

Sorry Bristow, but you can kiss my ......
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Old 18th Oct 2006, 09:20
  #1259 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: uk
Posts: 239
Foggy Bottom;

Canít comment on Bristow saying they had more qualified candidates than you (donít know your background and experience) but know that they have been giving people type ratings and the fact that they are short of people it seems to me they might just been telling porkies.
Have a feeling that the bonus system they have for their managers causes them to be very reluctant to invest in the right people and rather go for the cheapest option. The same thing seem to make them very slow in reacting to the exodus by offering 6-6 and proper pay for the living and security conditions. If you know that Nigeria is the best paid place in the world for Shell employees why do Bristow pay their people less than on their European Operations?


You hit the nail on the head again, by my limited experience (compared with yours) in Nigeria, I canít say I can see things getting better in the short term and feel that the oil in a way was a poisoned gift being the cause of a lot of their troubles.


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Old 18th Oct 2006, 11:18
  #1260 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
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It would be hard to argue that the oil has brought much to the people of the Delta, no. Even the programs meant to help them often have seen the funds diverted. A lot of the MEND rhetoric is correct in that regard, whether or not what they are doing is correct.

The problem for expats is that they are between the indigenes and the oil companies/Nigerian government in all that's going on, working out this little 50 year-old problem.

It is very logical to think that if the aviation operations, to name this area of direct concern, can be interrupted, then that brings pressure to bear on the government. It is just one more tactic like blowing up pipelines and attacking shipping, isn't it?

Time will tell, but I just do not see the oil companies and the Nigerian government getting a handle on things given their present rate of progress. The sort of gestures being made might have helped 20 years ago but events may have moved past that.

I really do think about how Viet Nam developed. Even though we knew the government of the Republic of Viet Nam was weak, corrupt and ineffectual we couldn't imagine going from the sort of trouble now seen in the Delta to what later developed.

There was even a sort of air assault on a village near Escravos, wasn't there? I heard a villager had his arm broken in that incident. The tactic worked, but to try that again might see an unarmed helicopter being shot at. This is just the sort of escalation seen in Viet Nam, in a way.

You cannot draw exact parallels, of course, especially given that there is no equivalent Communist threat in Nigeria. Perhaps the forces at work in the Delta are much more powerful than they are assessed to be.

It simply might be that almost all of the folks on the oil company/government side are mainly focused on making money, not on thinking a bit more deeply about politics, and, after all, 'All politics is local.'
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