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Meet Big Oil’s Big Men in Nigeria and Ghana | 

Masked rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Masked rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Big Men

Companies have been taking oil out of Nigeria for nearly half a century, making it one of the wealthier nations in Africa.

But the wealth is not well-distributed. What should have been a boon for Nigerians has left out most of them. Corruption, domestic and foreign, a series of coups and the concentration of oil wealth has actually undermined progress and development. At least half of all Nigerians live in poverty.

In the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria, some have taken up arms to steal from and sabotage the oil pipelines. It has made for a continuously insecure situation in the region and a burgeoning health disaster caused by oil spills, both intentional and accidental.

A new documentary film, Big Men, explores if the ‘resource curse,’ will repeat itself elsewhere in Africa.

Other African nations already have had experiences somewhat similar to Nigeria. The citizens’ hope that follows the discovery of oil frequently loses out to the realities of competition and corruption. The ‘resource curse’ applies as much to coltan in the Democratic Republic of Congo and diamonds in Angola as it does to Nigeria’s oil.

That’s why some were immediately worried when a small US oil company discovered oil in the ocean off the coast of south Ghana. The Dallas-based Kosmos Energy tapped into some 3 billion barrels in 2007. The company had negotiated a favorable contract with the government of Ghana that would give them exclusive drilling rights for finding such a field.

At that time filmmaker Rachel Boynton was looking for a new project. Her documentary, Our Brand is Crisis, provided a look inside the workings of politics through the political consulting firm Greenberg Carville Shrum’s work in the 2002 Bolivian election.

“I was feeling very ambitious. I wanted something very big and very difficult,” she said to Humanosphere.

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More attacks and polio cases harm Pakistan’s eradication effort | 

Pakistani security officials and relatives of tribal police assigned to guard polio workers who were killed in bomb blasts, pray next to the bodies during their funeral, near Peshawar.
Pakistani security officials and relatives of tribal police assigned to guard polio workers who were killed in bomb blasts, pray next to the bodies during their funeral, near Peshawar.
AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

The year is young, but Pakistan has already endured a serious of setbacks in riding itself of polio. Two new cases were confirmed over the weekend in Peshwar. Meanwhile, a bomb attack on a polio vaccination team left 11 dead and 12 wounded.

The fight against polio has been far more literal than figurative. Since December 2012, more than 40 people working with or for polio vaccination in Pakistan have died. The increase in cases of polio from 58 in 2012 to 91 in 2013 is attributed to the poor vaccine coverage in the country. Attacks on vaccine workers has only made it harder to reach young people.

Police vehicles carrying officers meant to protect polio vaccine workers were struck by a bomb on Saturday. A second bomb went off a few minutes later, when a new convoy was sent in response to the first attack. A firefight ensued between the surviving officers and the unknown gunmen.

“An Attack on security personnel providing security to Polio Teams is an attack against Humanity,” said the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio, Aysha Raza Farooq, in a Facebook post following the attacks. “Such coward attacks and conspiracies against our goal of Polio Free Pakistan will further strengthen our resolve to stamp this menace out of the country.”

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The 10 stories you missed while following the Philippines | 

The disaster following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines rightly has dominated the global twenty-four hour news cycle. Humanosphere has devoted more of our reporting time to the issue than anything else this week. With nearly one million people displaced and close to twelve million affected, the scope of the problem is vast and the relief effort has a long way to go.

While we were paying attention to the Philippines, there were other notable news stories that garnered less attention. Here are ten notable events and happenings (presented in no particular order) that you might have missed this week. It is by no means a comprehensive list. Do add anything else of note in the comments section.

1) Polio is worse this year in Pakistan, so the region is taking on the challenge by working together.

5653779027_332c0c2e45
Gates Foundation

The number of polio cases in Pakistan have already exceeded the total from 2012. Health officials announced Wednesday that there are sixty-two cases of polio in 2013. The total for 2012 was fifty-eight. Pakistan is one of only polio-endemic countries, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Attacks on polio workers over the past year have hampered the effort to vaccinate children. An estimated 240,000 children living in the northwest were not vaccinated in August due to a ban by the Taliban.

The problem is affecting neighboring countries. An outbreak of polio in Syria was recently linked to Pakistan. To deal with the issue, the WHO is working with twenty-one Middle Eastern countries to stop polio in its tracks. However, much of what happens in Pakistan is out of the control of the UN and its neighbors.
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Graph of the Day: Where in the world it pays to be a lawmaker | 

It pays to be a lawmaker in the most of the world. In some places more than others. Kenyan ministers of parliament recent attempted to raise their salaries from $75,000 to $120,000 a year. The salaries of Kenyan lawmakers relative to the average citizen is only beaten by Nigeria. The $189,500 that lawmakers collect each year is 116 times more than what the average Nigerian makes.

The Economist shows how other countries stack up:

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The case for African countries giving people a cut of oil revenues | 

Cash exchange in Somaliland.
Cash exchange in Somaliland.
G. A. Hussein

Natural resources could be the next great development financing tool. It is quite simple. Take the money that a government makes from the sale of oil, gold, copper, etc. and give citizens a cut.

Giving direct cash will help out the people that need it most and it could spur on development as people will then spend the money on local businesses and services. Additionally, it will reduce corruption and let the average citizen hold his or her government accountable for how money is spent.

That is the basic case made by Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development in his Oil-to-Cash initiative. A new working paper from leading World Bank economists Shanta Devarajan and Marcelo Giugale takes the idea and applies it to resource-rich African nations. They come up with some theoretical ways that countries can design schemes that will turn natural resources from a curse to a blessing. Continue reading

Fantastic zebras: Boston student pulls fast one on Boston Globe | 

Abubakar Suleiman
Abubakar Suleiman
David L Ryan

Abubakar Suleiman is a remarkable young man. He went from living in northern Nigeria to a graduate of Roxbury’s Orchard Gardens school. It is no small feat given that he was assigned to a failing school in one of Boston’s toughest neighborhoods.

His successful graduation is the kind of against-all-odds stories that warms the heart. A young man went from hunting Zebras and fending off cheetahs in Nigeria to graduating the 8th grade in Boston.

The only problem with this inspirational tale is that a lot of it was fictional. Continue reading

My Africa Is: Community Recycling Eliminates Waste in Nigeria | 

This is worth checking out. The documentary project My Africa Is premiered its first episode titled “Lagos Chronicles.”

The series takes a look at the challenges faced by communities across Africa and the people who are addressing them. The series touts an insider’s perspective on the stories since the team behind My Africa Is are from the continent. In many ways it is a series that takes on the narrative that Africans are in need of outside help to solve their problems.

My Africa Is wants to show you something different. We’re not about hiding real issues or over-hyping good news. We’re more than aware of the challenges, but we also know that we are not helpless. We hustle. We find ways to overcome. We survive. Every day, we are changing our communities – it may be a process, and it may be a little bit at a time, but we’re changing it nonetheless.

The group says that “stories of innovation and victories are the cornerstone of these chronicles.” Episode one of three on Lagos focuses on the WeCyclers project, a collective solution to the waste management crisis in Lagos, Nigeria. Viewers meet co-founder Bilikiss Abioloa who explains how her incentive-based recycling initiative is creating change in her community and making it better. People get points based on the weight of their collections which are collected and sold to recyclers. The collectors then are eligible to win prizes based on the points they accrue.

Check out the premiere episode: