African oil is an American security challenge

News brief from David Wood at Newhouse News Service. David writes about the Gulf of Guinea security problem, which is becoming appearing in the headlines more often these days.

The United States is becoming increasingly dependent on oil from a region beset by official corruption, tottering governments, violent criminal syndicates and religious and ethnic strife: West Africa....

"We can't afford to have a ship there 365 days a year," said Rear Adm. D.C. Curtis of the U.S. 6th Fleet, which oversees naval responsibilities in Europe and Africa from its headquarters in Naples, Italy. "The days of getting an aircraft carrier off the coast are gone."

That leaves most security in the hands of local forces clearly not up to the job. U.S. officials said thieves each year steal at least $1 billion worth of oil from Nigeria's coastal pipelines; perhaps twice that much is siphoned off by official government corruption.

In one recent case, two Nigerian admirals -- since fired -- arranged for the hijacking of the African Pride, a rust-streaked, Greek-registered coastal tanker laden with 11,000 tons of Nigerian crude worth some $4 million. The ship was seized by the Nigerian navy on suspicion that its cargo had been stolen. But the navy escorted the African Pride to sea, where its cargo was pumped to another tanker, which disappeared.