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The Violent Road: Nigeria’s South East

Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo

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As elsewhere in Nigeria, politics and armed violence have been closely interlinked in the South East region, with formal political processes and electoral cycles frequently accompanied by violence. Arms made available to political thugs during election periods have a deep link to post-election violence in the region.

It is relatively rare to have specific violence during voter registrations and even during elections in the South East. Rather it is the anger of being disenfranchised and the arming of thugs as a whole that fuels armed violence in the region.


Across a range of poverty measures, the South East performs relatively poorly. The South East region has an infant mortality rate of 95, the second highest (following the North East) of all national regions.324 The region, however, has a relatively low number reporting they have no education whatsoever.325 These aggregate regional rates obscure considerable variation in poverty levels within the zone: Ebonyi state has an absolute poverty rate of 82.9%, putting it among the five highest rates in the country, and the only state of those five which is outside the northern regions.326

States in the region which are significant producers of crude oil and natural gas (such as Imo and Abia) share similarities in terms of the political economy of the petroleum industry and its relationship with politics and armed violence as detailed in the South South.327 The South East also has the least numbers of publicly quoted companies in Nigeria. Overall, the South East economy is more informal and employs less graduates than other regions.

Demographics and geography

The population of the South East region is estimated at 18.9 million people.328 The region’s population is predominantly Christian,329 and members of the Igbo ethnic group, who make up approximately 18% of the national population, are concentrated in this area.330

Demographically, youth make up a moderate to high share of the overall population in the South East, making up over 20% of the population in both Ebonyi and Enugu.331

Armed violence

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Political violence by type

Armed violence in the region has been characterised by spikes in communal violence and more persistent low-grade struggle amongst vigilante and criminal networks. This has been partly fuelled by the high levels of drug consumption in the region, the long-term legacies of the civil war and also by Inter-religious clashes. In 2000, for instance, religious tension spread to Abia and Anambra following rioting in the northern state of Kaduna – resulting in a wave of reprisal killings.332

Land disputes have also been a source of tension 100% between rival communal groups: in 2012, at least 50 people were killed as a result of violent clashes between Ezza and Ezilo groups in the state of Ebonyi.333

In the early 2000s, vigilante violence was widespread in the region, with the most prominent militant vigilante group, the Bakassi Boys, active in the large market towns in Abia, Anambra and Imo states.334 Vigilante violence has persisted at a lower rate in recent years,335 but still remains a major concern in the region.336

An additional form of violence, perhaps influenced by the militancy in the South South, is kidnapping, which has persisted beyond the introduction of a 2009 amnesty for militant groups in the Niger Delta.337 As of 2011, there have been at least 350 recorded kidnappings of expatriates, and although the number of national staff kidnapped is not accurately known, it is likely to dwarf that of expatriates.338 Finally, there is very high gun ownership (both licensed and illegal) in the South East in relation to other states.

Civil society in the South East: Anambra, Ebonyi and Imo

The South East region is composed of Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Imo and Anambra. This research was conducted in Anambra, Imo and Ebonyi States. 75 actors were interviewed.

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Number of actors mapped

Civil society in the South East has some of the highest budgets in the country. Along with the South South, and after Abuja and Lagos, annual resources are on the high side of the spectrum and hover around seven million naira annually, which is almost double the national median. Like in the South South, this may be correlated with the high presence of international civil society organisations.

Civil society receives funding from private companies, unlike most states in the North. 12 out of the 28 NGOs and faith-based organisations in the region cite private companies as funders. However, international donors, government agencies and individual donors remain the most important sources of funding.

Civil Society in the South East works closely with traditional and informal institutions, such as town unions, self-help and community-based initiatives. 27 projects engaging with institutions, mostly traditional, religious and informal mechanisms, were mapped – among the highest numbers across the country. NGOs and faith-based organisations work through and with these mechanisms to engage in alternative dispute resolution, to build up early warning and reporting systems, and to provide security through community policing and collect data.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.37.25Anambra state overview

Located in the country’s South East, the story of Anambra State is one of radical ongoing change.339

Its population is large and overwhelmingly young; it is rapidly urbanizing, creating densely populated cities and towns and, increasingly, this has resulted in slums in places such as Onitsha. With over 4 million inhabitants, it is one of the most populous states in the South Eastern Geo-Political zone, and nationally it is second only to Lagos in population density. More than half of Anambra’s population (52.9%) is under the age of 18.

While better off than many Nigerian states, the incidence of poverty in Anambra is still very high – disappointingly so, given its economic potential. It has a poverty index of 22.8%, making Anambra the sixth lowest in Nigeria. And in some studies the state has been rated as having the lowest incidence of poverty in the country. The state also still has a higher-than-national-average rate of unemployment (21.3%): this is one of the highest rates in the South East and must be considered when looking at armed violence in the region.

Anambra State has a large and skilled workforce and great resource potential, although much of that potential remains untapped. The discovery of oil (Aguleri, Umuleri) and natural gas (Ebenebe Ridge) has created a new sector to an already varied economy. Tungsten, lignite, kaolin and sandstone are mined for local use and export, and highly arable soil in the region contributes to a healthy agrarian economy including cash crops such as coco yam, cassava, rice, maize and oil palm. A major part of the River Niger crosses Anambra state, making the state one of the main riverine states in Nigeria.

The modern Anambra State, with its capital in Awka city, is the result of nearly 50 years of borders being redrawn within Nigeria. With 21 local government Areas, it also has the largest urban city, Onitsha, in the entire southeast region. Once a part of the East Central State, in 1976 the old Anambra State was broken off; further division in 1991 created today’s Anambra, separated from its old capital of Enugu (now a separate state).

More importantly, Anambra is still feeling the effects of the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra war, in which parts of southeastern Nigeria declared themselves an independent Republic of Biafra. The ensuing civil war created a legacy of humanitarian disaster, religious and political violence, and ongoing insurgent conflict. Given the impact of cross boundary crime it is important to note that Anambra shares borders with three non-southeast states: Delta, Kogi and Edo.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Violent crime is a pervasive problem in Anambra State, particularly as it experiences major changes in its political, demographic and economic makeup. As in other parts of Nigeria, Anambra has experienced vast unemployment in its rural areas, contributing to a rapid urbanisation. Its young, densely packed population has seen a lack of opportunities plague even its educated sectors, making education less attractive and leaving a large population of young male school drop-outs at great risk of criminal activity. With a legacy of inter-communal conflict, secessionist insurgency and other political violence, and the lingering weaponry and ideology of civil war, Anambra is ripe for all manner of armed violence.

Armed violence in Anambra State dates back to the Nigeria–Biafra civil war of 1967-1970, which contributed to the massive proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in the region. This brutal conflict was a humanitarian disaster in which as many as five million people – largely women and children – lost their lives. In the decades following the Biafran war, Anambra witnessed inter- and intra-communal conflicts including the major conflict between the communities of Aguleri and Umuleri in 1999-2000, which killed hundreds and displaced thousands.

Not unique to Anambra, although notable for its scale and impact in terms of armed violence, is the problem of vigilante groups. The vigilantes were initially given the blessing of Anambra’s government when the Bakassi Boys gang became known as the officially recognized and state-supported “Anambra State Vigilante Services” in 2000. But in the years since, the government appeared to lose control of the vigilantes, and the arms possessed by these groups have remained unaccounted for. Eventually, the vigilantes drifted into civil matters including family, land and inter-communal disputes, and the unlawful arrest and – in some cases – extra-judicial execution of suspects. In the run-up to elections, the vigilantes are easily transformed into political press gangs; likewise, during other communal conflicts, the accessibility of armed men makes escalation likely.

Another vigilante-like group – the Anambra State Special Task Force on Street Trading (known as “Ndimpiawazu”) – has recently engaged in clashes with members of the separatist Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).

Inter- and intra-community violence continues to be a major problem in Anambra. Hostility continues to simmer between Aguleri and Umuleri; more recent conflicts have occurred between the Akpu and Ajali communities and between Owerre and the Ezukala/ Ogboji communities, as well as intra-communal con- flict within Umunya. When such conflicts dissipate, the weapons and aggression often do not, leading to perpetrators regrouping as criminals or political gangsters.

Purely criminal activity is also a major problem in Anambra. The state has the highest rate of kidnapping in the South East of Nigeria, with 273 cases reported in 2011 alone, particularly within the commercial axis of the towns of Onitsha and Nnewi. Armed robbery and murder are also present at high levels in the state.

Unemployment and rapid urbanisation must be seen as primary causes of violence in Anambra, particularly in light of the state’s new status as an oil-producing economy, leading to an increasing disparity between its haves and have-nots. Simmering separatist tendencies and political anxiety, the presence of thug-like vigilante groups, often with governmental blessing, and the apparent surrender of the official police forces to criminal armed violence are all very important causes of armed violence in the state. Religion, on the other hand, is not as primary a motivation for conflict as it so often is in Nigeria’s north.

Perpetrators of armed violence

Armed violence in Anambra is committed by a wide variety of perpetrators. The vigilante situation is such that two parallel security forces exist in the state: the official police, and the state-sanctioned vigilantes and private security firms.

Vigilante activities including political and criminal thuggery as well as extra-judicial arrests, detentions, torture and execution contribute greatly to the armed violence in the state. The separatist MASSOB is involved in clashes with these and other, often government-related, groups. And there are unemployed, uneducated, dropout youths committing crimes both as individuals and in gangs and “cults”.

Thanks to years of conflict and state-sanctioned vigilantism, Anambra is flooded with weapons. Despite a lack of specific documentation (if security forces know the extent of arms trafficking, they aren’t forthcoming with that information), we can form a picture from recent reports of raids by the State Security Service.

In September, 2012, in just three raids, the SSS captured around 30 AK-47 assault rifles, more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition, rocket launchers, grenades and assorted pistols and other rifles. The Awka axis of Anambra is known for producing blacksmiths who are alleged to produce locally made guns.

Victims of armed violence

Victims of armed violence in Anambra tend to be based in urban areas including Nnewi, Onitsha, Ekwulobia, Oraifite, Obosi and Uli. Due largely to the prevalence of kidnapping, these victims are often, surprisingly, from higher socioeconomic classes –
men in business and politics. Women and children are particularly targeted by perpetrators, and also suffer through the loss of livelihood and social status that occurs even when not targeted, through the loss of husbands/fathers. Women in Nigeria are the main civilian victims of armed violence, but are simultaneously powerless to prevent it. Finally, the 30 bodies found in 2013 to be extrajudicially killed and dumped in the Ezu river demonstrates the high lack of accountability in the protection of lives and properties in Anambra.

Policemen stand guard at a polling station during voting in Agulu village

Policemen stand guard at a polling station during an election in Agulu village, Anambra, February, 2010 (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye).

Institutional response

The state government has been deeply concerned with the recent upsurge of armed violence in Anambra and the threat it poses to both population and economy. Through Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) and the Anambra Youth Reorientation and Empowerment Program (ANSYREP), the state government has implemented several job-creation initiatives to address youth unemployment, but with few tangible results.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) in Anambra engage in efforts to promote and implement economic empowerment pro- grams with an eye towards keeping youths from join- ing a life of crime – this includes groups such as the Centre for Development and Civic Education and Anambra Rebirth. Similarly, there is some work within the Anambra State Association of Town Unions to create community policing efforts. The CLEEN Foundation, a Lagos- and Abuja-based NGO, conducts research into violence in Anambra, working towards establishing an empirical basis for advocacy and a baseline against which progress of intervention programmes can be measured.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.37.36Ebonyi state

In a 2011 survey by the CLEEN Foundation, 45% of respondents from Ebonyi State stated that they had fallen victim to crime in the previous year – the highest rate amongst Nigeria’s South East states.340 Ebonyi’s 4.3 million people are largely uneducated (around half the population has no more than a primary-school education) and poor, with a per capita income of just over half the national average. With 75% of its population living rurally and more than 70% employed in largely subsistence-level agriculture, the battle for land is a dom- inant issue in any understanding of the state’s violence.

Ebonyi is a young political entity, carved out of parts of Enugu (to its west) and Abia (to its south) states in 1996. The result is that Ebonyi has 13 Local Govern- ment Areas. It has, however, a relatively homogenous population, comprised primarily of Igbo people and so avoids at least some of the sectarian strife commonly associated with armed violence in some parts of Nigeria. But this by no means equates to a peaceful population: common inter-communal conflict reached new levels in 2011-2012 with deadly battles between the Ezza and Ezillo people that continue to fester.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Land disputes are the key causes of armed violence in Ebonyi State, with no end to the headline-dominating issue in sight. Clan differences, socio-political inequality and agrarian economic interests – the root causes of these disputes and their resultant inter-communal conflicts – have been difficult to control by governmental authorities. With a paucity of resources and a lack of infrastructure, combined with long-standing communal malice, even issues that may seem minor can escalate to the point of serious violence with major implications across the state and for years to come.

The Ezza-Ezillo crisis is one example. According to Afikpo Today magazine, the dispute between these two rival eastern-Ebonyi communities was inflamed by a 2008 disagreement over ownership of a piece of land on which a phone booth was erected. By the end of December, 2011, the disagreement had escalated, with gunmen attacking Ezillo and killing over 70 men, women and children – including the local police chief. Besides the killings, Ezillo market and other properties were burned to the ground and indigenous communi- ties’ animals slaughtered. The ramifications of this are still ongoing. In the summer of 2013, a bomb was found at a building site on the disputed territory, and as recently as October, 2013, politicians claimed that the withholding of infrastructural improvement money was tied to political and social differences related to the Ezza-Ezillo dispute.

Other drivers of armed violence in Ebonyi State in- clude the University-based confraternity gangs known as “cults” that are much reported at Ebonyi State University in Abakaliki, as well as the so-called “do or die” nature of Nigerian politics. Renewed violence in 2012 and 2013 between University cults has resulted in gun battles, kidnappings, and murder, including the killing of a police corporal in 2012 and multiple deaths in 2013. Ebonyi has, in addition, the federal university in Abakaliki and a federal polytechnic in Uwana, meaning that the potentials of armed violence through University cult activities is, in these areas, rife.

Meanwhile, the commonplace practice of politicians arming gangs for political purposes is not only a driver of violence in and of itself, but results in semi-organised gangs of youths being armed and purposeless after election time. In 2012, two commissioners and an advisor to Ebonyi State’s governor barely escaped an assassination attempt when they were attacked at a petrol station by gunmen; a bystander was not so lucky and was killed in the gunfire. Even with the headline-grabbing issues of cultists, political thugs and communal conflict, it is unemployment and underemployment that most in Ebonyi see as the most important drivers of crime and armed violence.

Finally, the fact that Ebonyi state has boundaries with the non-Igbo state of Cross River must be acknowledged. Cross River itself provides a major regional source of income through sand dredging and river transport, but the part of Cross River that sits at the boundaries records a very high incidence of communal violence. This violence has led to the loss of a huge number of lives, for instance in the Ezillo/Izza clashes. And many people impacted by the Ezza/Ezillo conflict were just travelers passing through that and not linked to the grievances of the clashes per se.

Perpetrators of armed violence

The perpetrators of armed violence in Ebonyi tend to be young and poor, even when carrying out the will of wealthy and powerful political and cultural figures. A lack of opportunities for any kind of socio-economic advancement in this agrarian society, combined with the very real inequality that these same “have-nots” encounter amongst their leaders, has left a huge part of the young population frustrated.

Ebonyi has mineral and other potential industrial resources, but they remain largely untapped. Meanwhile, the traditionally communal form of agriculture leaves extremely limited potential crops beyond subsistence farming. Until something changes within the region’s resource exploitation, there is little chance of socio-economic advancement for most.

Income generated within the state amounts to less than a quarter of the state’s statutory revenue from the federal government, making Ebonyi the least developed state in Nigeria’s southeast, fully dependent on outside aid (according to CLEEN Foundation research).

Victims of armed violence

Communal, political and gang violence, as well as less unique factors such as everyday crime and domestic violence, all disproportionately affect women and children in Ebonyi State (as they do throughout much of Nigeria). However, no class or demographic of people in the state is safe from violence, whether it be the communal violence that hits poor families and small businesses, the threat of kidnapping against the wealthy, or attempted assassinations and attacks against the politically powerful. The result is that the population of Ebonyi suffers, across the board, from a sense of insecurity and, ultimately, from fear.

Institutional response

Media and NGO sources, including newspapers and magazines such as the Advocate and Afikpo Today and the research organisation CLEEN Foundation, are attempting to do the basic background work necessary for any change to come in Ebonyi’s armed- violence situation. First and foremost it is necessary that the government and outside agencies understand the broad nature and effects of violence, particularly communal violence, in Ebonyi, which begins with this reportage and baseline data.

With frustration, poverty and inequality as major drivers of violence, changes to Ebonyi’s economic situation – and, in particular, its inability to generate revenue beyond subsistence – is of grave importance. To this end, the government has launched a program called Vision 20-20-20 that aims to improve internal revenue generation by 70% before 2020, when, according to the national Nigeria Vision 2020 concept, Nigeria could have one of the world’s 20 largest economies. Though the strategies and viability of both the Ebonyi and national 2020 plans are often considered opaque or unrealistic, it at least places revenue advancement on the state’s agenda.

Research by the CLEEN Foundation found that governmental incompetence and corruption was seen as an essential aspect of disillusionment amongst the people of Ebonyi – a huge challenge in successful governance. The current state government has placed an emphasis on reforming this corrupt governmental “attitude” as well as on utilizing the natural resources in the state to promote Ebonyi’s internal revenue.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.34.34Imo state

The inhabitants of Imo State are predominantly Igbo, making up a largely rural population of 4.8 million with a projected growth rate of 3%.341 The state’s high population density has led to pressure being on the land, forests and other natural resources, leading to wide- spread rural poverty. Land disputes at both an individual and a community level, as well as over-farming of the land, have caused an increase in urban migration in recent years.

The main vegetation of Imo state is tropical rain forest, annual rainfall being as much as 2,200mm. The economy of the state is agricultural, though oil, lead, zinc and natural gas in also mined in commercial quantities though there is little heavy industry.

Given the nature of available work, a high youth population and a large number of graduates every year, unemployment is an issue. It is estimated that as many as 70% of youths are unemployed.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Imo is relatively less affected by violence than other states in Nigeria and the South East. The Nigeria Security Tracker recorded 17 violence-related deaths in Imo between May 2011 and August 2013. The ACLED political violence research project also recorded 59 separate explicitly political incidents of armed violence in the state between 1998 and August 2013.342 How- ever, the dearth of armed violence observatories in this region may mean that there may well be a higher level of armed violence than recorded publicly.

Levels can be analysed both pre- and post-amnesty: the frequency of all political violence levels – in select areas of Imo state at least – dropped from approximately 2.1 events per month between 1997 and September 2009, to 1.9 between October 2009 to August 2013. If we include only those most serious political violence events (ie, excluding political demonstrations) which are more likely to reflect the dynamics relevant to the amnesty, the drop is even more pronounced: event frequency fell from 1.9 events per month before the amnesty, to 1.2 after the amnesty. Fatality data shows a similar trend: the pre-amnesty period witnessed an average of 2.5 conflict-related fatalities a month, while the post-amnesty period has seen an average of 1.8.

However much still needs to be done. According to the CLEEN foundation the outsourcing of power by political barons that turned government into personal fiefdoms and has a ‘crisis of leadership’ and a ‘crimi- nalization of politics and governance’.

The decapitation of a number of people in the early 2000s and late 1990s showed a tendency for violence to be of the cult variety but there have been numerous armed robberies committed in the state as well. Other crimes include kidnapping, hostage taking, ritual murders and political assassination. Mike Ubani wrote in 2012 that kidnapping was estimated at an average of ten people per week.343 And a 2012 CLEEN foundation report showed that Ebonyi, Abia and Imo States have the highest levels of kidnapping in Nigeria.


Crowds walk towards the Osun river (Jeremy Weate).

Perpetrators of armed violence

The drivers of armed violence have been identified in Imo as being the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW); the use of thugs for political violence; the rising rates of youth unemployment, economic hardship and inequality; the exposure to criminal violence through the media and the prevalence of a culture of materialism. The CLEEN Foundation in 2011 stated that the high insecurity in Imo State could be seen as an outcome of the insensitive political and socio-economic policies of past governments that exacerbated sufferings through exposure of the youths to poverty, starvation and joblessness.

There is a marked paucity of available data on the perpetrators of violence in Imo, as well as a lack of information on what kind of weapons are used. However media reports show that the main weapons used in Imo are guns, from assault rifles, to pump- action shotguns and grenade launchers.

The circulation of arms in the state is reportedly high. The sources of small arms include, local manufacturing, security agents who sell arms to criminals and a commission set up by federal Government in 2001, recovered 428 rifles, 494 imported pistols, 287 locally made pistols and 48 Dane guns, all valued around 50 million naira. An interview with Local vigilante, the Bakassi Boy members reveal that they use handguns, assault rifles, locally made pistols and cutlasses for their vigilante activities and operations. Said one, “we use assault rifles and colt pistols for our vigilante operations because these criminals now use high calibre guns, we now use AK-47s made in the Ukraine.”

Victims of armed violence

The rich and the relatives of the rich constitute the prime victims of kidnapping in Imo state as well as politicians and their relatives. In many kidnapping cases female victims are raped and some people who are mistakenly kidnapped and killed for their inability to raise ransom. Other victims of armed violence include the perpetrators themselves: thugs engaged by politicians, members of cults and those involved in gang rivalry and factionalism.

Institutional response

The State Government has recently introduced an Imo Security Network, designed to combat armed violence. The Network, whose operations are not widely known to the community at large and who are not open to public scrutiny, brings together private and public partnerships. Further educational establishments have also agreed to develop their internal controls to be vigilant to the growth of cult activities in Universities and other seats of learning.

There are other civil forces that have attempted to tackle the issue of armed violence in Imo, including local vigilante groups. Their attempts are admirable but hampered to some degree by the institutional secrecy in crime prevention and the lack of public data available even after successful prosecution.

The overall lack of data is of concern, for instance, because it does not supply civil society or state with any appropriate data to design armed violence reduction interventions. For instance, as one civil society member has opined: “One cannot commence effective gun control advocacy when the records, showing the types of guns being used, are neither available nor accessible”.

Imo state: view from the ground

Some statistics show Imo to be less conflict-affected than its neighbouring South-East Nigeria states. Researchers, however, arrived in Imo to find its many inhabitants deeply troubled by a recent surge in armed violence. There are regular reports of killings – be they political assassinations, criminal attacks, struggle for property/land or simply business deals gone bad – and a terrible outbreak of kidnappings for ransom or to settle political/business scores. Our researchers found checkpoints manned by armed officials (comprising representatives of the Nigerian police and military as well as members of the Joint Task Force) across many major roads, but these stops seem to have had little effect on a state in which killers and kidnappers seemed to act with impunity.


The kidnapping of public officials, the wealthy, their family members and other residents has become a multi-million-naira business venture in Imo, operated by well-organised criminal networks. It has been reported that since the wealthy no longer keep large amounts of cash available, the absence of such sums has caused more to resort to kidnapping. It is not uncommon to see upper classes travelling the state with heavily armed security personnel. Besides holding wealthy and politically powerful men for ransom, when female relatives are kidnapped they are frequently subjected to sexual assault or rape. According to sources, in some cases, poor people are mistakenly kidnapped when the kidnappers’ research fails and ultimately killed for being unable to raise the ransom money.

Because kidnapping affects the wealthy more than any other group, it is held that it was not difficult to enact a law in Imo state that imposed a very high penalty on offenders. Despite this, however, the number of kidnappings is not receding. And it does not address the problem that currently, in the law, there is no opportunity for victims to access compensation or recompense beyond the convention of a court trial.

Political violence

While political violence has been relatively quiet in recent times, the situation is beginning to heat up in anticipation of elections in 2015. Our researcher heard reports of aspiring candidates being attacked and even killed and also of clashes between the supporters of rival politicians. The new structure of governance that outlaws development unions and empowers traditional rulers in Imo state, has – at community levels – created tensions and in many cases led to a violent struggle for the ‘traditional leadership stool’.

A high consumption of drugs by young people is also reportedly linked to political violence.

Furthermore, it cannot be understated how the way top political leaders break the law and circumvent justice has an influence on younger people. The springing up of so many uniformed agencies of government also gives the impression that politicians use such agencies to compensate those who worked for their electioneering victory.

Arms proliferation

In Imo, it is common for individuals – often illegally – to publicly carry weapons at social gatherings: shotguns, pistols and other guns are often brandished at weddings, funerals, and other social gatherings. Researchers were told that nearly every household in Imo owns a gun because of a general fear that security agencies in the state cannot protect people from attacks, often that occur in rural and remote areas.

Our researcher also found the residents of Imo open to discussing the security situation in private, but not in public – in general, people are wary of being overheard. Members of the public are also often unwilling to speak to the media for fear of their lives. This culture of silence is brought, in part, about by the way the police themselves interact with the citizens of Imo and their own secrecy in sharing any information related to armed violence. Residents specifically told us that they believed an inefficient criminal-justice system means that witnesses cannot be protected.


Researchers found widespread concern amongst residents that the quality and quantity of reportage featuring armed violence have regressed in recent times. When we asked journalists why this was the case they claimed that they suffered harassment and intimidation from those at the heart of the violence on which they were reporting.


Overviews of armed violence per geopolitical region:

Please click here to download the full report.



324 National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, p. 121.
325 National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, pp. 15, 16 326 National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria Statistical Data Portal, ‘Revised Absolute Poverty 2009/10 (per capita methodology),
327 The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Abia State, October 2013; The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Imo State, October 2013.
328 National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, 2012, p. 71.
329 National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, 2012, p. 71.
330 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, April 2010, p. ii. 331 National Bureau of Statistics, Socio-Economic Data: Distributions of Persons by Agegroup, Percent, 15-19, 20-24, 2010 estimate.
332 Agence France Presse, Bodies Litter Streets in Southern Nigerian Town, 29 February 2000.
333  BBC News, Boko Haram attacks prompt Nigeria state of emergency, 1 January 2012,
334  Human Rights Watch, The Bakassi Boys: The Legitimization of Murder and Torture, May 2002.
335  The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Imo State, October 2013.
336  The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Abia State, October 2013; The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Imo State, October 2013.
337  Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 17.
338  Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 4.
339  The information in this section is taken from:

339 An Empirical Survey of Children and Youth in Organised Arm Violence in Nigeria. Mo Ibrahim Centre for Democracy and Development.
339 Atupulazi, O. Anambra Community, Police Plan Security Workshop for Vigilantes. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: item/215-anambra-community-police-plan-security-work- shop-for-vigilantes
339 CLEEN Foundation. 2011. Edition of the Annual National Crime and Safety Survey. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
339 Elrufai, N. 2012. Anambra’s Budget of Misplaced Priorities. This Day Newspapers, 08 June.
339 Intersociety Nigeria. The Menace of Armed Robbery and Kidnapping in the Southeast Zone. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: THE%20MENACE%20OF%20ARMED%20ROBBERY.pdf
339 Moment NG. 2012. SSS Seize cache of Ammunition. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: cache-of-ammunition.html
339 NewsNet. 2012. Anambra Police Recovers Robbery Weapons Arrests Suspects. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: anambra-police-recovers-robbery-weapons-arrests-suspects
339 Nigeria Police Watch. 2012. Trigger Happy Nigerian Police Kill Onitsha Driver Over N20 Spark Flash Riots. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: nigerian-police-kill-onitsha-driver-over-n20
339 Online Nigeria. 2003. Natural Resources and Development. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
339 Onwumere, O. 2012. Gov. Obi and Safety Measures in Anambra State. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: measures-in-anambra-state/
339 Sun News Online. 2012. Police Discover Another Arms Cache in Anambra. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: discover-another-arms-cache-in-anambra/
339 The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). 2006. Core Welfare Indicator Questionnaire (CWIQ) Survey Zonal Summary – South-East. Abuja: NBS
339 Ukiwo, U and Chukwuma, I. 2012. Governance and Insecurity in South East Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: governance and insecurity in south east nigeria.pdf
339 UNDP. 2002. Anambra State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS). [Online]. [Accessed 2012].Available from: news/item/215-anambra-community-police-plan-security- workshop-for-vigilantes
339  Wakil, B. 2005. National Arms Production Capacity of Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from: OtherDocument/61@InvRpt_Nigeria.pdf
340  The information in this section is taken from:
340 Chikulo, B and Hope, K.R. eds. 1999. Corruption and Development in Africa. Lessons from country studies.
340 Eroro, J and Oladoyin, T. 2000. Tackling corruption in Nigeria. In: Hope, K.P, and Chikulo, B. eds. Corruption and Development in Africa. Lessons from Country Studies. New York: Palgrave.
340 Ewah, A. 2012. Mending the Fences. Citizens’ Advocate. 8(3), p 7.
340 Otu S.E. 2012. Governance and Security in Ebonyi State. In: Ukiwo U. And Chukwuma I. 2012. Governance and
340 Insecurity in Nigeria. Ukiwo, U and Chukwuma, I. 2012. Governance and Insecurity in South East Nigeria. [Online].
340 [Accessed 2012]. Available from: and insecurity in south east nigeria.pdf
340 Otu, S.E. 2009. The Sociology of Drug trafficking and Drug Trafficker. A Perspective from South Africa. Koln: Lambert Academic Publishing Ag & Co.
340 Otu S.E. 2009. Updates on Ezza and Ezillo Crisis. Afikpo Today. 3(10), p 64.
340 Otu S. E. 2003. Armed Robbery and Armed Robbers in Contemporary Nigeria. A Criminological Analysis. Unpub- lished D.Litt. & Phil Thesis, Department of Criminology. University of South Africa, Pretoria.
340 Punch NG. 2012. Perpetrators of Ebonyi killings will be arrested – Elechi. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
340 Ukiwo, U and Chukwuma, I. 2012. Governance and Insecurity in South East Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
341 The information in this section is taken from:
341 Amnesty International. 2002. Vigilante violence in the south and south-east. International Secretariat.
341 Ibrahim, M. 2012. An empirical survey of children and youth in organized armed violence in Nigeria: Egbesu Boys, OPC and Bakassi boys as a Case study. Centre for Democracy and Development.
341 Iheriohanma, E. B. J.2010. The Challenges of Youths’ Involvement in Violence, Conflicts and Crises Management in Igboland. Owerri: Federal University of Technology.
341 Nwadiaro, E.C. and Nkwocha, D.I. 2011. Kidnapping for Ransom: a Prevalent Urban Pandemic in Nigeria. Research Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies. 1(1), pp 4 – 9.
341 Ogbonnaya, M. 2011. Crime Casualties of the Okorocha Rescue Mission. [Online]. [Accessed November 17 2011]. Available from: casualties-of-the-okorocha-rescue-mission-a-must-read/
341 Okenwa, SOC. 2012. Kidnapping for money in Igboland. Sahara Reporters. 27/05/2012.
341 Okereke, C.I. 2012. Governance and Security in Imo State. In: Ukiwo, U and Chukwuma, I. 2012. Governance and Insecurity in South East Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
341 Ubani, M. 2012. Imo: A Relapse into ‘Otokoto’ Days. Nigeria News Network. 07/07/2012.
341 Ugborgu, V. 2012. Mayhem in Imo state communities. Newswatch. 15/06/2012.
341 Uwakwe, V. 2012. Statistical Analysis of Factors Affecting Crime in Imo State, pp 43-65.
341 Uzoechi, S. 2012. Imo’s daunting security challenges. Parrot News. 31/06/2013.
342 Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker: Mapping Violence in Nigeria, ‘Map: Deaths by State,’ p29483?cid=otr-marketing_use-nigeria_security_tracker; Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset,
343 Mike Ubani (2012). “Imo: A Relapse Into ‘Otokoto’ Days”, Nigeria News Network, July 7

This report is a draft and may be subject to change.