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The Guardian (UK): Elsewhere: Nigeria

EXTRACT: Many British residents work in the oil and gas sector for companies such as Shell, living on fortified compounds in the delta region, where they face the threat of kidnap by local militants. The armed gangs, who claim their communities reap no benefit from oil riches, have kidnapped about 60 foreign oil workers this year, all of whom were released without harm. 

Saturday January 27, 2007

Nigeria

Population: 131,530,000

British population: 16,000

From the chaotic, traffic-choked flyovers of Lagos to the sweltering creeks of the oil-rich delta, few expats see Nigeria as a cushy posting. Elsewhere in Africa, westerners enjoy epic scenery and wildlife safaris, but Nigeria offers the sultry, malarial climate of the west African coast, combined with a wobbly infrastructure and a notoriously corrupt state. In Lagos, the commercial capital, expats cluster in the affluent districts of Ikoyi and Victoria Island – the latter is the local equivalent of Manhattan, where fishermen in pirogues skim past high-rise office blocks.

Stark inequality breeds crime. Home for expats is typically a walled compound on a gated estate, protected by security guards; a life segregated from the city’s poor. Foreigners and wealthy Nigerians use upmarket members-only social clubs with pools and tennis courts, while expats on lower salaries use hotel pools, go jogging on the humid streets and drink in local bars.

Many British residents work in the oil and gas sector for companies such as Shell, living on fortified compounds in the delta region, where they face the threat of kidnap by local militants. The armed gangs, who claim their communities reap no benefit from oil riches, have kidnapped about 60 foreign oil workers this year, all of whom were released without harm.

The compensations of life in Nigeria include sharing in the communal atmosphere of Nigerian family life and visiting the bustling street markets.

Dr Helen Bygrave, 36, has lived in Lagos for a year.

The thing about Lagos is that things can just snap – in an instant. You see police on the street beating the shit out of people and then getting back in their car and driving away. The conclusion I’ve come to is that you’ve got a relatively small geographical area, you’ve got 18m to 20m people, and it’s survival of the fittest.

We go to the local market and get vegetables and lots of nice Nigerian fabric. I wouldn’t go wandering around one of the local markets by myself, but if you go with a Nigerian it’s really fun.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,,1998308,00.html

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