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Nigerian Oil City Calm After Gang Violence


Security officials say gang fighting that broke out over the weekend in the main oil city of Port Harcourt has been quelled. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja.

Local police chief Felix Ogbaudu told VOA that the violence in the sprawling industrial city has calmed down.

"There is massive deployment of soldiers and policemen, and the clarification is that contrary to general impression, it is three parts of town [affected by the violence], the Borokiri/Marine Base and the Dioubu axis," he said. "But with the heavy deployment of army and mobile police, we have carried the battle to their hideouts and the place [Port Harcourt] has become calm."

Gang fighting, which started a week ago with sporadic clashes, took a more deadly turn over the weekend. Police confirmed nearly a dozen deaths since the surge in fighting began last Monday.

The government responded by sending security forces to Port Harcourt.

But a spokesman for the state government in Port Harcourt , Emmanuel Okah, said the response was not quick enough.

"We had a situation where for one week running, young men were carrying guns, dangerous weapons, moving about the streets without fear of anybody. We couldn't find the presence of those who should be on the streets to scare them, at least," he said. "I think that is not good for this nation. It is not good for the Niger Delta where we get the bulk of the resources that sustain this country."

President Umaru Yar'Adua has vowed to stop the unrest in the country's oil-rich Niger delta region. But, Okah warns that the crisis could deteriorate further if security steps are not implemented more quickly and efficiently.

"My worry is that if something is not done to address this matter holistically, it may give rise to unpleasant consequences," said Okah. "I am calling on the security agencies to take a second look at situations like that and see how they can respond more speedily and effectively."

Reports say the gangs were fighting over territory in the oil city. The authorities have acknowledged nearly a dozen deaths from Saturday's street gun battles. Some eyewitnesses and media organizations put the toll much higher.

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