WEST AFRICA Annivesaries and elections 12th January 2007 Image courtesy of Panos Pictures View site Voters gather in Nigeria, Mali and Senegal while diplomats head to Accra for celebrations and summits Nigeria’s national elections in April are the most critical event scheduled this year in Africa. If they go well, Nigeria may be able to consolidate civilian rule and make progress on a still lengthy economic and political reform agenda. It will also be the first time that one elected head of state will hand over to another. If the polls are seriously disputed, the ensuing chaos in Africa’s most populous state (140 million according to last year’s census) could reverberate across the continent. Attacks, assassinations and kidnappings in the oil and gas-producing Delta region are increasing sharply. By the end of 2006, the attacks had cut production by more than 25%; currently, as much as 100,000 barrels a day of the oil produced is being stolen.