Nigeria is a nation of approximately 120 million people and is home to more than 200 ethnic groups. Since the 1990s this West African country has been the scene of frequent civil disturbances. Protests in the Niger River Delta, location of Nigeria’s oil wealth, has troubled successive military administrations. The military government has responded with repression.
Movements in the Niger Delta Region sprung up after the execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and several of his peers by the military regime in 1995 for protesting against the alarming poverty in the region and the pollution resulting from the oil production. In 2003, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was founded with the sole purpose of promoting the economic development and the cleanup of pollution in the area.
There have also been clashes between the two largest ethnic groups in the country: Hausa in the Muslim-dominated north and the Yoruba in the Christian-dominated south. Yoruba people have customarily accused Hausa administrations of neglecting their causes while Hausa blamed the Yoruba for hogging the economic life of the nation.
Since 2003, violence has escalated in Nigeria. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) as well as various other rebel groups (born along the way) kidnapped and hijacked oil workers and attacked oil production facilities and government forces. In 2009, hostilities between both the government's Joint Military Task Forces (JTF) and the Niger Delta's militants and also between Muslims and Christians have escalated seriously. According to InfoZine, a least more than 111 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria since January 2009, including 21 in 2010 (as of October, 2010). The lack of access of media in the conflict zone casts a shadow over the actual number of casualties; however, a 2004 study commissioned by the Royal Dutch Shell estimated the yearly deaths directly related to the conflict in the Niger Delta Region at 1,000. Another 2009 report estimated 1,700 deaths have occurred in 2009 alone as a result of clashes between government and rebel forces.
On October 1, 2010, while Nigerians were celebrating the 50th anniversary of independence, two car bombs blew up near Eagle Square in Abuja, killing at least 7 people. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility of the blast.