Hands in the air to "prove" you don't have weapons

Location In bed with Lizzie in hotel in Warri, Niger Delta. Not good idea to have separate rooms and the cockroaches have put her off another night on the floor. | Mood Angry | Date 16 April 2006
Author (full name): 
Franny Armstrong
In bed with Lizzie in hotel in Warri, Niger Delta. Not good idea to have separate rooms and the cockroaches have put her off another night on the floor.
Excitable commentary on Arsenal vs Villareal Champions League semi-final on TV next door
16 April 2006
Current crisis: 
Just heard that 50 ex-pats are going to be kidnapped in the next two days

No weapons hereNo weapons here

Who would have thought that sliced white bread would be the bribe of choice for bored boys with enormous guns manning randomly situated military checkpoints throughout the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta? As your boat approaches, everyone has to put their hands in the air to "prove" you don't have weapons. If you don't know this, you'd better be well stocked up with white bread.

Of course I've read and watched plenty about Nigeria over the years. But nothing can prepare you for being shown where a grandmother burned to death as she couldn't run when the military invaded and set fire to their village; where a mother found her decomposed child; for meeting a 12 year-old with a baby from a soldier who raped her; for hearing about the two weeks they spent living in the bush with no food or clean water, with babies and old people dying every day.

It's now very easy to understand why some people have taken to kidnapping. The oil companies and the government are making millions, no billions, of dollars from the oil from their land, yet most of the people have no drinking water, no electricity, no schools, no health care, no jobs. They are supposed to receive a cut of the oil revenue, but get nothing, as it's all apparently stolen by the local governor (who bought himself another private jet yesterday and even apparently gets his favourite orange juice flown in from the UK). And they can't even feed themselves on the fishing and farming they used to depend on, as the water and land is so polluted with oil. If they stage peaceful protests they are shot.

We are going round all the key flash zones, with our brilliant new fixer Robinson parting the seas in advance, interviewing as many women as we can, trying to find our new character. Don't know what we're looking for really, but am hoping it will be obvious when we find her - as it has been with all the others. Only thing we're sure of is female (cos all the rest are men) and youngish.

We met one of the leaders of the kidnappers back at the hotel. He was charming, funny, intelligent, passionate and articulate, with a collection of constantly ringing mobile phones on coloured strings round his neck. If he'd been born in London he'd have been a movie star. After explaining who we were and what we were trying to do - and about how my film Drowned Out has helped the Narmada villagers - he agreed to be interviewed. Something of a coup.