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The Violent Road: Nigeria’s South South

Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Rivers

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Economics, politics and armed violence are often closely interlinked in the region. With political elites buffered by proceeds from oil revenue, governance in the region is weak and often unaccountable, subsequently making limited progress addressing underlying drivers of conflict in the region.270

The large urban centre of Port Harcourt, capital of River State, witnesses high levels of political protesting and demonstrating, some of which have turned violent. Port Harcourt was a regional flashpoint for political violence during the 2003 and 2007 elections,271 and continues to serve as a hotspot of violent clashes between rival political supporters.272 All states in the South South region were won by current President Goodluck Jonathan in the most recent 2011 general elections.273 There was also ongoing violence in the state gubernatorial elections as heated debates during campaigning spilled over into bloodshed.


Across a range of poverty measures, the South South performs relatively well. The region has an infant mortality rate of 84,274 and relatively low rates of respondents reporting they have no educational attainment whatsoever.275 These figures likely mask patterns of uneven development: in spite of vast amounts of resource wealth in this region, the region suffers from environmental accidents which have contributed to undermining traditional agriculture, fishing and livelihood strategies on which communities outside the petroleum sector rely.276 Oil bunkering – the theft of oil which is processed at illegal refineries and sold

on the parallel market – is a massive problem in the region.277 The practice poses risks to local community livelihoods through spillages and fires, and to regional stability as a share of proceeds are funnelled into armed groups and the purchase of weapons.

Demographics and geography

The population of the South South region is estimated at 24.6 million people.278 The region’s population is predominantly Christian,279 and ethnically is very diverse, with concentrations of Ijaw, Igbo and Ibibio ethnic groups (who make up approximately 10%, 18% and 3.5% of the national population), alongside several smaller ethnic groups such as the Urhobos and the Edo.280 This diversity has been a prominent issue along which violent competition and disputes over resources, land, economic and political power have occurred. An additional potential source of tension is the high proportion of young people in the population: the share of the population between the ages of 15-24 exceeds 20% in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River States.281

Armed violence

Armed violence in the South South region is dominated by conflict in the oil-producing Niger Delta (Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States). In 2005, it was estimated that over 100 different militia groups were active in Rivers State alone.282 Armed violence in the region has experienced peaks and troughs over the past decade. An amnesty introduced in October 2009 has had some success in quelling militants, but groups concerned have remained vocal about their potential return to armed violence and are – according to some reports – regrouping at the time of writing.283


Traditional title holders in Agbada, Rivers state (Jeremy Weate).

The amnesty deal itself has been polarising. Critics have condemned the fact that the amnesty did little to change the region’s governance structures, and argue that state officials, governors and other elites benefit the most from oil revenues.284 Other analysts argue that these criticisms do not acknowledge the tangible dividends of the amnesty programme, reflected in reduced armed violence and kidnappings.285 In addition to the Delta insurgency, land disputes are common in the South South region and in recent years, disagreements over land use have turned violent.286 Furthermore, high levels of violent criminality have been reported in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.287

Civil society in the South South: Rivers, Delta and Edo

This research focused on Rivers, Delta and Edo where it surveyed 69 actors.

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Number of actors mapped

Civil society in the South South has more INGOs than other states. This is a reflection of the decade-long violence in – and media attention to – the Niger Delta, including states of the South South and the South East. Consequently, these states show the highest presence of international civil society organisations.

The South South has the strongest civil society capacities together with the South East, after Lagos and Abuja. Civil society organisations in the South South are among those with the highest budgets in Nigeria (median annual budget of 7 million naira) and the largest geographical coverage. In fact, no other region has a similarly high proportion of regional initiatives (45% of all recorded initiatives).

Civil Society in the South South plays an important role in victim-assistance. More than in any other zone, NGOs, faith-based organisations and community-based organisations engage in projects supporting victims. 84% (33) of the projects surveyed engage with victims. The majority of them focus on psycho-social assistance and data collection.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.32.59Edo State

Edo is an inland state in central southern Nigeria, created in 1991.288 Nicknamed “the heartbeat of the Nation,” Edo is one of the two states created out of the defunct Bendel State by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida. Benin City is the capital of Edo state. Edo’s people speak a variety of languages, with Edo, Ebira, Esan and Okpamheri chief amongst them. The major ethnic groups in Edo are Bini, Esan, Afemai, Ora, Akoko-Edo, Igbanke, Emai and Ijaw.

Edo state is bounded in the north and east by Kogi State the south by Delta State and in the west by Ondo. The 2005 census estimated the state’s popula- tion to be about 3.5 million. The economic mainstays of Edo State include crude oil and gas; mineral re- sources; agriculture and tourism.

Like Nigeria as a whole, Edo is divided between Muslim and Christian communities with a smaller number of believers in traditional religions. In spite of this, the state has not witnessed the level of religious tension and violence seen around inter-faith relations in northern Nigeria and elsewhere in the country.

The State has many higher education institutions including: the University of Benin, Benin City; the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma; the Igbinedion University, Okada; the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City; and the Federal Polytechnic Auchi.

Overview of armed violence in the state

According to the Fund for Peace, Edo had the third-highest per capita level of violence in the Niger Delta between the beginning of 2012 and June 2013. The high proportion of the population who are youths and the level of un- and underemployment are partially responsible for this state of affairs. Political figures give weapons to youths to engage in political violence, and those weapons are not collected when election season ends, leading to their use in other forms of violence as well.

Generally, unemployment and misplaced priorities amongst youths, power struggles, poverty, competition for resources, the poor state and mismanagement of the national economy, desire to attain wealth and power rapidly by any means necessary and ethnic and cultural differences are major causes of crime in the Niger Delta. Official statistics show a variety of types of crimes occurring in Edo, including kidnapping, murder and armed robbery, the killing of police officers and political assassinations.289 290

The gubernatorial election has been a particular flashpoint of political violence. With a number of people killed in the build up, many in Edo were fearful of a possible outbreak of violence during and after the July 14th election. As a result, the Nigerian Federal Government deployed thousands of military personnel in Edo to assist local police forces in containing the possible damage of electoral violence. Various types of political violence occur frequently in Edo state. One of the most common is armed robbery, though kidnapping and organized crime are also regular occurrences.

There are many other types of violence occurring in Edo. Cultism and inter-cult rivalry clashes are a regular occurrence in the state. Such cults have become a threat to the peace within the tertiary institutions in the country and Edo State in particular. Political parties have used unemployed youth to intimidate their rivals and have used violent rhetoric to galvanise their supporters, resulting in violent clashes around election season. In the Niger Delta, there have been clashes over control of the crude oil resources between youths, militant groups and the Joint Military Task Force (JTF).

Perpetrators of armed violence

The perpetrators of armed violence are largely youth groups who represent a disproportionate share of Edo’s population, and are responsible for a disproportionate share of its violence. But they are not the only ones responsible for violence. Members of the Militant groups and cults groups have also engaged in violence rivalry for their own purposes. Politicians, businessmen, oil company workers, community leaders and groups, and union leaders have all contributed

to armed violence by employing unemployed youths to engage in violence on their behalf. Some corrupt security agents who aid and rent their weapons to criminals for use in crimes (indeed, some of them are members of these criminal groups), and some ex-servicemen keep or do not surrender their weapons when they are discharged so as to use them for their own violent purposes later.

Weapons used
Weapons used in armed violence include: AK-47 assault rifles and AK-47 variants; FN FAL and other semi-automatic rifles; Uzis and other sub-machine guns; single, double-barrel and pump action shotguns; locally made pistols and rifles; axes; cutlasses; knives; and hand grenades.291

Victims of armed violence

Members of the oil producing communities, the general public, women, children, physically challenged persons, the aged, members of the various cult groups, members of unions and, in general, male youth have all been victimised.

Institutional responses

The Nigeria Police Force is the primary lawfully constituted force for maintaining order in Edo. However, they are supported by other state agencies. Primary amongst these is the State Security Service (S.S.S.), which works with informants from most of the communities and members of the general public to arrest prospective perpetrators of armed violence. The military – particularly those with the JTF – is also involved in managing armed violence. The Nigeria Civil Defence Corps provides community policing and alternative security services.

The government has undertaken various strategies to control armed violence. It formed the JTF to combat militancy in the Niger Delta. In parallel, it set up an amnesty program that was intended by the Federal Government to rehabilitate and reintegrate Niger Delta youths and to recover their weapons and ammunition. On a more local level, neighbourhood watch and community groups have been set up, along with skills-training centres for formerly militant youth. Outside the government, civil society organisations have been doing a large degree of work with government on issues around law and for the care of victims of armed violence. Both community-based and faith-based organisations do work in this regard.

Successes and challenges

There are significant challenges to understanding and reducing armed violence in Edo. Many incidents of armed violence are not recorded or reported, making it difficult to form an accurate impression of the level of armed violence in the state. The government uses repressive tactics to manage armed violence, and has not been particularly willing to respond to enquiries about its approach or strategy. This, along with a dearth of information in publicly accessible sources, means that our understanding of the perpetrators and dynamics of violence in Edo is severely limited.


The lack of both information and willingness of those in the government to engage with NGOs and the press on armed violence in Edo, coupled with its heavy-handed tactics, makes the suppression of armed violence more difficult. The government and its security agents in the state have been doing their best to curtail armed violence in the state, but much still needs to be done both in terms of armed violence reduction and awareness creation to help stimulate economic conditions conducive to peace.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.33.10Rivers State

Despite a relative drop in violence over the past decade, Rivers remains one of the most consistently violence-affected states in Nigeria.292 But it does not experience the same fluctuations that characterise other, sporadically violent states.

Rivers is located in the South South geopolitical zone. It is bounded to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, by Anambra, Imo and Abia States to the north, Akwa Ibom to the east, and Bayelsa and Delta to the west. The dominant ethnic groups are the Ijaw, Ikwerre, Etche, Ogoni and Ogba/Egbema.

The state was created in 1967 and occupies a total area of 21,850 km2. According to the 2006 census, the population is about 5.2 million. Agriculture is the main occupation, but the state has one of the largest economies in Nigeria because it accounts for more than 40% of national crude oil production. A gigantic liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is located at Bonny in Rivers, and the state accounts for 100 percent of LNG exports to several countries.293 The state also has two refineries, a petrochemical plant, a defunct fertiliser plant, two seaports and an international airport.

The Niger Delta militant insurgency, which targeted the oil industry, has dominated armed violence in Rivers. In 2005, it was estimated that over 100 different militia groups were active.294 The government eventually implemented an amnesty programme in 2009.295

Many higher education institutions are located in the state, some of which are noted for “campus cultism” and youth gangsterism. Students at the University of Port Harcourt, for example, have frequently been victims, as well as perpetrators, of clashes and rivalries between various cult groups.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Two features characterise the risk and extent of armed violence in Rivers. First, it is no longer necessarily associated with organised militant groups: former combatants, who may have participated in the amnesty programme, commit violent crimes, partly because of limited alternative livelihood opportunities, but also because of their exposure to violence and its normalisation. Second, land disputes are extremely common and have the tendency to lead to violence.296

Furthermore, high levels of violent criminality have been reported in the state capital Port Harcourt.297

As the commercial capital and hub of the oil industry, the city also experiences high levels of protest and demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. The city was the flashpoint for political violence in the 2003 and 2007 elections.

Main underlying causes
The violence between armed groups in Rivers State was primarily the result of a struggle between the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) and the Niger Delta Vigilantes (NDV) for control over illegal oil revenues. Underlying issues have fuelled the violence: unequal distribution of resources; lack of social services; crushing poverty and youth unemployment; political marginalisation; the impact of oil money on community politics; the manipulation of frustrated youths by political elites and traditional rulers; and organised crime syndicates involved in oil theft.

Added to this is the widespread availability of small arms and other lethal weapons. This has resulted in armed violence ranging from communal clashes with the formation of ethnic militias to battles for supremacy between armed youth and criminal groups, all the way to violence between armed cult groups and government security forces.

Perpetrators of armed violence

Many communities develop collective responses to security: wealthy and politically influential community members buy arms to fortify their communities against external attack (for example, during land disputes). Militias are at the top of the pecking order in terms of legitimacy with their combination of grassroot support, reasonable quality of training, advanced weaponry, structural leadership and organisation, and a degree of political savviness.298 Militias have also played significant roles in kingship struggles in the state, with opposing factions hiring militias to end the debate forcefully.

Nigerian militant youths display weapons surrendered by former militants at an arms collection centre at Tourist beach in the oil hub Port Harcourt

Weapons and ammunition seized from suspected members of Boko Haram are displayed during a military patrol, June 2013 (Reuters/Joe Brock).

In 2004, 103 armed cult groups were identified in the state.299 These included university- and village-based groups. Groups include the Deebam and Deewell cults; Icelanders; Greenlanders; Mafia Lords; Germans; Klansmen Konfraternity (KKK); Vultures; Outlaws; Gbenesaakoo; and Njemanze Vigilante Service.

Weapons used
Weapons commonly used in Rivers State are: pistols; shotguns; revolvers; machetes; swords and axes; rocket-propelled grenades; rocket launchers; semi-automatic rifles; AK-47 assault rifles; machine guns; dynamite; and petrol bombs.

Victims of armed violence

The main centres of cult activities are Tombia, Bukuma, Buguma, Okrika, Port Harcourt and Ogbakiri.300 Some of the most intense fighting between October 2003 and October 2004 was around villages located on tributaries about 30km southwest of Port Harcourt. The rival Deebam and Deewell cults operate in almost all the 179 villages in Ogoniland.301 The area is noted for oil bunkering, communal clashes and political violence.

Victims of armed violence, as elsewhere comprise youth, women, children, men, the physically challenged and the aged. They often experience trauma and insecurity as battles are fought around their homes. They may also be caught in crossfire and have their property destroyed; many are forced to flee and become refugees. Schools have been forced to close, which affects students’ education. Oil workers ‒ foreign contractors in particular ‒ are often kidnapped for ransom. And fighters may themselves become victims of rival groups or government security forces.

Type of harms
Looking at state-sanctioned violence against civilians, the state government set up the Internal Security Task Force during the Ogoni crisis in the early 1990s, which terrorised the Ogoni people. Similarly, the federal government set the Joint Military Task Force to counter the activities of militants and cult groups.

Examples of inter- and intra-communal violence have included outbreaks of fighting between the Eleme and Okrika; the Tuboniju and Koniju in Okrika; the Ke and the Bille; and a chieftaincy struggle in Ataba. Ethnic militias and vigilantes include the NDPVF; the Bush Boys (a.k.a. Peace Makers); the NDV; Icelanders; Ijaw Youth Council; the Biafrans and the Nigerians in Ataba.

Groups fight over control of organised crime in Port Harcourt. This includes drug-dealing, robbery, car theft, extortion and petty theft. Some of them are paid to provide security for drug traffickers. They recruit youths aged 15-25, especially women, who are less likely to be suspected by government security operatives.

Youths are also recruited as political thugs, and militia groups become the armed wings of political parties.

The involvement of armed groups in the political process has made their leaders very prominent.

Institutional response

In June, 2009, the federal government declared an unconditional amnesty for militants who surrendered their weapons within 60 days. Arms collection centres were set up in each state in the Niger Delta: 8,299 militants accepted the amnesty offer, of whom 1,047 were from Rivers.

Despite occasional unrest, the Delta has experienced relative calm since the amnesty programme. Several civil society and private organisations provide services such as counselling at rehabilitation camps, and skills training at vocational training centres. The Oil and Gas Foundation has contributed to the reintegration process by funding projects that former militants are implementing at the community level, for example.

According to the recommendations of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration made in 2009, the state government should: investigate incidents of armed violence, including allegations of the role of state government officials in sponsoring armed groups; investigate alleged abuses and excessive use of force by state security forces; prosecute individuals held to be responsible for serious human rights abuses; appropriately compensate families that suffered loss of life and property because of armed violence; work with international and development agencies to provide assistance to all those internally displaced; provide adequate equipment and facilities to police and other security agencies to counter armed groups; adopt special measures to protect women, children and other vulnerable populations during times of violence; train security agents on human rights during conflict and peace time; take measures to stop the flow of small arms into the state; and ensure that government ministries and departments comply with the Freedom of Information Act to provide data and statistics about incidents of armed violence.

Rivers state: view from the ground

While statistics show a drop in armed violence in recent years, researchers found Rivers State remaining on edge, with the fear of kidnappings and gun violence a constant amongst many inhabitants.

Political violence

Unlike the armed violence characteristic of many Nigerian states, which often fluctuates with political and social junctures, conflict in Rivers has long been tied to constants associated with rapid industrialization and wealth disparity: militant insurgency, crime and corruption. On a recent visit, our researcher found increasing cases of armed violence related to political activities – as well as sea piracy and other criminal activity – perhaps related to an upsurge of arms trafficking into the state. Our researcher found widespread belief that some militants were re-arming themselves ahead of forthcoming polls and that new militant group were rapidly emerging, some of which have already engaged security operatives in armed conflict. Our researcher also found that politicians, particularly in riverine communities, have reestablished the common practice of arming their supporters to intimidate opponents and to protect politicians.

Arms trafficking and crime

Our researcher found evidence of links between oil bunkering – the theft and illegal processing of oil to be sold on a parallel market – and the arms trade. There is certainly some exchange of oil, crude or refined, for arms, and many in the bunkering trade are believed to also work in the large-scale importation of illegal arms. Likewise, while the amnesty may have shelved the militancy of some ideological insurgents, some in those groups simply turned to organized, armed criminal activity after 2009.

Kidnapping, which seemed to be disappearing just a few years ago, has crept back into Rivers State’s normalcy. High-profile kidnapping of government officials and their relations has returned, and even members of the influential clergy have been victims of the crime. Again, our researcher found widespread belief that the security agencies have done little to check increases in kidnappings.

One recent victim, Archbishop of the Niger Delta Diocese of Anglican Communion Ignatius Kattey,
told researchers, “If the police said they freed me,
it’s not true. I walked to this place.” Kattey believed that police were, at best, ineffective. “I know they made efforts but they did not rescue me and my wife. A helicopter flew over the area more than 500 times, but the [kidnappers] were smarter. They held me with them in a thick forest and no one could see me there.”


Rivers State’s media has made conscious efforts to educate and inform people about armed violence in the area. The print and electronic media devote most of their reports to issues about armed violence, which has become something of a societal norm. Our researcher recorded daily reports of attacks, kidnappings, and conflicts across the state. At least a few journalists have been attacked in the past by those behind violent crime, and some media houses threatened or shut down on orders of government for allegedly fuelling the fire of conflict with their reports on violence.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.33.23Delta state overview

Delta State emerged from the former Bendel State in 1991 following agitation for the creation of separate state by the Urhobos and Anioma regions.302 It is an oil-producing state in the Niger Delta/South region with a population of 4,098,291.303 The state capital is Asaba. The state has a wide coastal belt, which is interlaced with rivers and streams that form part of the Niger Delta.

The Niger Delta, (broadly defined to include nine southern states, of which Delta State is one) is home to approximately 140 ethnic groups. This diversity, com- bined with overlapping socioeconomic conditions, has been prominent in violent competition and disputes over resources, land, economic and political power.304

Within Delta State, the ethnic Aniocha, Ika, Ukwuani and Oshimili dominate the north, the Urhobo the centre, and in the south the Isoko, Ijaw, Itsekiri and a few Urhobos. These groups are known to inter-marry. Christianity and traditional faiths are practised.

Various mineral deposits are present, which include crude oil, clay, silica, kaolin, tar sand, gemstones and limestone.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Historic legacy
Delta State has a long history of violence, which predates the discovery of oil in the region in 1957.305 According to a 2012 CLEEN Foundation survey, approximately 12% of respondents (the highest regional rate across the country) in the South region had been victims of armed violence.306 Delta State is well above the regional average in terms of incidents of violence per capita, though it has improved slightly (notwithstanding an increase in violence in the first half of 2013).

Levels of violence
Between 1997 and 2003, Delta was one of the most volatile states in the region and experienced episodes of violent armed conflict. Armed violence in the region has experienced peaks and troughs over the past decade. At least 2,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured. And property worth tens of millions of Naira has been destroyed and entire communities completely wiped out.

Armed violence in the Delta has been reported to occur in two interrelated, multi-layered cycles.

On the surface, violence is tied to election cycles: political actors recruit and arm youths in the run-up to polls; bands of youths use violence and intimidation on voting day to influence the results. Then a failure to demilitarise these groups following elections leads to the emergence of new militant organisations, with discrete command structures and objectives, resulting in more violence.

An endogenous logic of violence means that with each new militant group that emerges in the region, attacks increase in intensity and levels of destruction so as to demand government attention. This intensification of violence affects the Delta most of all.307

Recorded patterns in armed violence appear to largely fit this analysis. Elections throughout Nigeria have been marred by vote-rigging, fraud, and violence, but this pattern has been pronounced in the Niger Delta, where politicians are reported to sponsor gangs to target opponents and supporters.308

In this volatile environment, events such as the proposed termination of an amnesty programme for militants, and the upcoming 2015 federal and local elections, could serve as key flashpoints for armed violence in an unstable region.


Militants wearing masks and military fatigues, carrying a machine gun in the creeks of the Niger Delta, February 2006.

Main underlying causes
The underlying issue is that Nigeria’s vast oil wealth primarily comes from the Niger Delta (with some off-shore platforms in the Gulf of Guinea), and underpins the country’s deeply dysfunctional political economy and endemic corruption. Despite the location of vast amounts of resource wealth in this region, uneven and under-development plague the Delta. Numerous environmental accidents have contributed to the depletion and – in some areas – outright destruction of the traditional agricultural, fishing and other livelihoods on which indigenous communities outside the petroleum sector have relied. Governance in the region has been commensurately weak. Buffered by oil revenue, there is limited accountability and almost no progress on addressing the underlying grievances of the multiple groups of armed actors.

Oil bunkering – the theft of oil processed at illegal refineries and sold on the parallel market – is a major issue. According to some estimates, as many as 300,000 barrels of oil per day were being stolen at the height of the problem.309 The process is not only dangerous for those involved, but has grave wider implications.

The local population is at risk of environmental accidents and the destruction of livelihoods through spillages and fires. Regional stability is also affected because a share of proceeds from oil bunkering is funnelled into armed groups, militants and the purchase of weapons. Some estimates put the cost to the illicit economy in 2003-08 at US$100 billion.310

A wide variety of factors facilitate bunkering, which includes limited security infrastructure. The militant Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in the north has drawn away security forces and left approximately 7,000 km of pipeline largely unguarded.311

Bunkering is also an enormously profitable industry not only for militants involved, but also for patrons, sponsors and affiliates of these groups. These include security sector, political, government and industry officials who collude with thieves, and use the profits to fund political campaigns, endemic corruption and sponsorship of violent groups.312

An additional factor in armed violence in the state is wide under-development and high youth unemployment. Those engaged in agriculture and fishing are vulnerable to environmental factors such as the devastating floods in 2012, which endangered livelihoods across the region and contributed to the uptake of bunkering as a survival strategy.313

The extent of corruption in the Niger Delta is central to the region’s problem of armed violence and the undermining of responses to this violence. In the wake of inter-communal violence in 2003, additional military personnel were deployed to the region. However, because of a culture of corruption throughout the security, political and industry sectors, instead of quelling armed violence the additions led to military officials’ greater participation in bunkering and corrup- tion, and has further institutionalised violent criminality and militancy in the region.314

Perpetrators of armed violence

Perpetrators of armed violence include: youths; community leaders; traditional leaders; former and serving military personnel; politicians and elites; ethnically based organisations and militias; vigilantes; oil companies; criminals, including armed robbers, illicit businesspeople and oil bunkerers.

The Joint Task Force was first deployed to Warri in Delta State following a sharp spike in inter-communal violence around the 2003 elections. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-10) in October 2009 introduced an amnesty programme for militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

MEND emerged in 2006 and comprised a loose affiliation of militant groups that wanted a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth for the Delta region. Its militants attacked oil installations and took oil workers hostage;315 they were also involved in criminal activities such as kidnapping, gun-running and oil bunkering.

The amnesty programme has had some success. But the groups concerned have remained vocal about their potential return to armed violence and are – according to some reports – regrouping.316

The motives for this violence relate to: socio-economic status; political leanings and personal beliefs; land; organisational control disputes with oil companies over oil revenue. The main reasons given for armed violence are poverty and unemployment.317

Weapons used
Use of the following weapons has been reported: AK-47 assault rifle; pump-action shotgun; bazooka; FN Rifle; Uzi; self-loading rifle; sub-machine gun; locally made pistol; single-/double-barrelled shotgun; Mark 3/Mark 4 hand grenade; cutlass; and battle axes.318

Victims of armed violence

According to UN 2007 Habitat report, youths in particular are the victims of the armed violence in terms of sexual abuse, psychological trauma, non-lethal violence, murder and unlawful deprivation of liberty. Armed violence has mainly affected Effurun, Warri, Ekpan, Ogulagha, Oleh/Olomoro, Uzere, Ogbe-Ijoh Okerenkoko and Oporoza.

Kidnapping has persisted beyond the 2009 amnesty and expanded beyond conventional social boundaries. Not only politicians and petroleum industry figures, but children, doctors and religious authorities have all been kidnapped based on their families’ ability to pay ransoms.319 As of 2011, at least 350 expatriates had also been kidnapped. Although the number of national staff kidnapped is not accurately known, it is likely to dwarf that of expatriates.320

Type of harm
During 2012 and 2013, reported incidents included gang violence, criminality, and vigilante/mob justice. A number of abductions targeted political figures, their family members, or oil workers. Reports of abuses by public security forces also provoked mob violence and protest.

Other forms of armed violence that are less prevalent include: gender-based violence; resource disputes; chieftaincy/traditional power struggles; extrajudicial killing/torture; and domestic disputes.

Institutional response

The Federal Government implemented the amnesty programme through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the office of the special adviser on the Niger Delta, in conjunction with the state governments within region.

The programme’s main objective was to help create conditions for the stabilisation, consolidation and sustainability of security in the Niger Delta to promote economic development in the zone, which is the nation’s oil and gas base.

The programme has been polarising. Critics hold that the amnesty has done nothing to change the region’s corrupt governance structures, whereby state officials, governors and connected elites gain the most from oil revenues. At best, the programme has neglected to reform these dysfunctional systems; and, at worst, it has further entrenched them through the funnelling of vast sums of money into the region, which strengthens the position of corrupt officials.321 Other analysts argue that these criticisms – though not without basis – do not acknowledge the tangible benefits of the amnesty programme: reduced armed violence and kidnappings, and improved oil production.322

In the wake of the amnesty programme, armed violence has declined; the dividends of this decline and the reduced vulnerability of populations to conflict should not be dismissed. However, without meaningful political and economic reforms, whereby the benefits of the region’s vast resource wealth would trickle down to the wider population, rather than the narrow band of elites who currently profit from it, the amnesty can only buy the government time, not peace.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from Bayelsa State in the Delta, was expected by some to further this agenda and address militants’ more fundamental grievances. In one of his first speeches after taking office in 2010, Jonathan named unrest in the Delta as one of his top three priorities.323 Progress has been slow, however, and militancy, though reduced, has not been eradicated.

The situation in the Delta remains precarious. Armed violence continues in the form of persistent violent criminality and frequent kidnaps; and political and inter-communal violence accompany elections and other political events. Meanwhile, currently inactive militants are not incapacitated, and could mobilise themselves.


Overviews of armed violence per geopolitical region:

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270  Chris Newsom, Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair, United States Institute of Peace Special Report, No. 271, June 2011.
271  Human Rights Watch, Politics as War: The Human Rights Impact and Causes of Post-Election Violence in Rivers State, Nigeria, March 2008.
272  Africa Confidential, ‘The Delta Catches Fire Again,’ Vol. 54, No. 15, 11 July 2013.
273  Nigeria Elections Coalition, Nigeria Presidential Elections – 2011,
274  National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, p. 121.
275  National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, pp. 15, 16. 276 Amnesty International, Bad Information: Oil Spill Investigations in the Niger Delta, 2013.
277 Judith Burdin Asuni, ‘Blood Oil in the Niger Delta,’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 229, August 2009. 278 National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, 2012, p. 71.
279 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, April 2010, p. ii. 280 Chris Kwaja, Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict, Africa Security Brief No. 14, July 2011, p. 3, citing Ulrich Lamm.
281 National Bureau of Statistics, Socio-Economic Data: Distributions of Persons by Agegroup, Percent, 15-19, 20-24, 2010 estimate.
282 Small Arms Survey, ‘Nigeria: Country Overview,’ 2005, p. 329. 283 Ogala Emmanuel, ‘MEND Threatens Retaliatory Attacks on
Mosques, Muslims,’ Premium Times Nigeria, 14 April 2013; Aaron Sayne, ‘What’s Next for Security in the Niger Delta?’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Special Report 333, May 2013.
284 Africa Confidential, ‘Abuja Buys a Delta Amnesty,’ Vol. 50, No. 22, 6 November 2009.
285 Aaron Sayne, ‘What’s Next for Security in the Niger Delta?’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Special Report 333, May 2013.
286 The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Rivers State, August 2013, p. 2.
287 Nigeria Watch, Third Report on Violence in Nigeria (2006- 2011), June 2011, p. 12.
288 The information in this section is taken from:
288 Ogbonmwan S. E. O. 2012. Youth Re-orientation and Moral Edification. In: Edo Global Organization Annual Conference.
Peterside, S. J. et al. Perception and Reality: Documenting the Amnesty Pr6ocess in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, pp-198.
288 Bagaji A. S. Y, et al. 2012. The Scramble for Lugard House: Ethnic Identity Politics and Recurring Tensions in Kogi State, Nigeria. Canadian Social Science. 8(1) pp. 130-135.
288 Kogi, C.P. 2012. More than 1000 AK 47 in Okene. This Day Newspaper. [Online]. [Accessed August 25 2012]. Available from: kogi-cp-more-than-1000-ak-47-in-okene/123157/
288 Mahmudat, M. O. 2010. Intra-Class Struggle in Nigeria. Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research, 2(7), pp. 92-93.
288 Momoh Obansa. 2012. Okene: Between political thuggery and terrorism. [Online]. [Accessed August 25 2012]. Available from: okene-between-political-thuggery-and-terrorism/
288 Obi, C. 2007. Democratizing Nigerian Politics: Transcending the Shadows of Militarism. Review of African Political Economy, 34(112), pp. 379-384.
288 Omotola, S. J. 2006. Democratization and Ethnic Tensions in Nigeria: The Kogi State Experience. Conflict Trends. 9(4), pp. 3-8.
288 Online Nigeria. 2012. Community Portal of Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed August 25 2012]. Available from:
288 Winjobi, D.T, Deborah Salami, M. Olugbohunmi, E (et al). 2008. Citizens’ Score Cards on Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed August 25 2012]. Available from:
289 Press release: Edo PDP urges Governor Oshiomhole to shun extreme partisanship and ensure security of lives and properties in Edo state.
290 Text from Week 48; (25th Nov., 2011) incidence report – Villeworth Security Services Ltd.
291 Sofiri Joab Peterside, Stephen Okodudu, Eme Ekekwe and Isaac Zeb – Obipi, “Perception and Reality: Documenting the Amnesty Process in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.”
292 The information in this section is taken from:
292 Ekwebelem and Adindu. 2010. Violent Injuries Presenting at Health Facilities as Signs of Tension in the Community. Lapai Sociology Review. 2(1).
292 Hazen, J. and Honer, J. 2007. Small Arms, Armed Violence and Insecurity in Nigeria: The Niger Delta Perspective. [Online]. [Accessed September 10 2012]. Available from:
292 Human Rights Watch. 2005. Rivers and Blood: Guns, Oil and Power in Nigeria’s Rivers State. [Online]. [Accessed September 10 2012]. Available from:
292 Kemedi, V. 2006. Fuelling the Violence: Non-State Armed Actors (Militias, Cults and Gangs) in the Niger Delta. [Online]. [Accessed September 10 2012]. Available from:
292 Nyiayaana, K. 2011. From University Campuses to Villages: A Study of Grassroots-Based Cult Violence in Ogoniland. Eras, 12(2).
292  Peterside, S. 2007. On the Militarization of Nigeria’s Niger Delta: The Genesis of Ethnic Militia in Rivers State. [Online]. [Accessed September 10 2012]. Available from:
293  Peterside, S (2007). “On the Militarization of Nigeria’s Niger Delta: The Genesis of Ethnic Militia in Rivers State.” In “Niger Delta Economies of Violence” Working Paper No. 21. Date accessed: 10 September 2012.
294  Small Arms Survey, ‘Nigeria: Country Overview,’ 2005, p. 329.
295  The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Rivers State, August 2013.
296  The Fund for Peace, Conflict Bulletin: Rivers State, August 2013, p. 2.
297  Nigeria Watch, Third Report on Violence in Nigeria (2006-2011), June 2011, p. 12.
298  Kemedi, V (2006). “Fuelling the Violence: Non-State Armed Actors (Militias, Cults and Gangs) in the Niger Delta.” In “Niger Delta Economies of Violence” Working Paper No.10. Date accessed: 10 September 2012
299  Nyiayaana, K (2011). “From University Campuses to Villages: A Study of Grassroots-Based Cult Violence in Ogoniland”, Eras 12, (2). edition/knyiayaana. Date accessed: 10 September 2012
300  Kemedi, V (2006). “Fuelling the Violence: Non-State Armed Actors (Militias, Cults and Gangs) in the Niger Delta.” In “Niger Delta Economies of Violence” Working Paper No.10. Date accessed: 10 September 2012
301  Kemedi, V (2006). “Fuelling the Violence: Non-State Armed Actors (Militias, Cults and Gangs) in the Niger Delta.” In “Niger Delta Economies of Violence” Working Paper No.10. Date accessed: 10 September 2012
302  The information in this section is taken from:
302 Adedeji, E. 2006. Small Arms Proliferation in Nigeria: A preliminary Overview. In: O.
302 Ibeanu, O and Mohammed, F. eds. Oiling the Violence: The Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Niger Delta. Abuja: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
302 Akpochafo, W. 2010. Teaching of social problems in Nigerian schools. Benin city: Justice –Jeco Printing and publishing Global.
302 Alagoa, E.J. 2005. A. History of the Niger Delta, Port Harcourt: Onyoma Research Publications.
302 Anele, D. 2010. Reducing small arms, increasing safety and security arm minimizing conflicts in the Niger Delta. Unpublished.
302 Bisina, J. 2003. Increasing Safety and Security and minimise conflict in the Niger Delta. Unpublished seminar paper. 302 Ero C. and A. Ndinga Muvumba. 2004. Small Arms and Light Weapons. In: Olusegun, A. 2012. Lesson from Niger Delta. Unpublished seminar paper.
302 Musah, A.F. 2004. The Political Economy of Small Arms and Conflicts. [Online]. [Accessed August 25 2012]. Available from: public/documents/idep/unpan002406.pdf
303 National Population Commission (2006) http// 304 Judith Burdin Asuni, ‘Blood Oil in the Niger Delta,’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 229, August 2009. 305 Judith Burdin Asuni, ‘Blood Oil in the Niger Delta,’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 229, August 2009. 306 CLEEN Foundation Justice Sector Reform, CLEEN Foundation: Summary of Findings of 2012 National Crime and Safety Survey, p. 3.
307 Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 4. 308 Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2013: Nigeria. 309 Judith Burdin Asuni, ‘Blood Oil in the Niger Delta,’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 229, August 2009. 310 ibid.
311 Africa Confidential, ‘The Delta Catches Fire Again,’ Vol. 54, No. 15, 11 July 2013; Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 4.
312 Judith Burdin Asuni, ‘Blood Oil in the Niger Delta,’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 229, August 2009; Africa Confidential, ‘The Delta Catches Fire Again,’ Vol. 54, No. 15, 11 July 2013.
313 Africa Confidential, ‘The Delta Catches Fire Again,’ Vol. 54, No. 15, 11 July 2013.
314 Judith Burdin Asuni, ‘Blood Oil in the Niger Delta,’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 229, August 2009.
315 ICG, ‘The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria’s Delta Unrest’, nigeria/115-the-swamps-of-insurgency-nigerias-delta-un- rest.aspx, [downloaded 15 November 2013].
316 Ogala Emmanuel, ‘MEND Threatens Retaliatory Attacks on Mosques, Muslims,’ Premium Times Nigeria, 14 April 2013; Aaron Sayne, ‘What’s Next for Security in the Niger Delta?’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Special Report 333, May 2013.
317 Anele, D. (2010) “The case for Benevolent Dictatorship”. Chapter 3: Reducing small arms, increasing safety and se- curity arm minimizing conflicts in the Niger Delta unpublished.
318 Bisina, J. (2003):”Increasing Safety and Security and mini- mize conflict in the Niger Delta”. unpublished seminar paper.
319 Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 17.
320 Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 4. 321 Africa Confidential, ‘Abuja Buys a Delta Amnesty,’ Vol. 50, No. 22, 6 November 2009.
322 Aaron Sayne, ‘What’s Next for Security in the Niger Delta?’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Special Report 333, May 2013.
323 Chris Newsom, ‘Conflict in the Niger Delta: More than a Local Affair,’ United States Institute of Peace (USIP), p. 2.
This report is a draft and may be subject to change.