Bayelsa State - July 2014
Published July 10, 2014
By Nate Haken*
Nigeria Conflict Bulletins
With 1.7 million people, Bayelsa is one of the smallest states in the country, by population. Most residents are of Ijaw descent. Bayelsa produces between 30-40% of Nigeria’s oil and gas. In addition to the petroleum sector, the state has an extensive commercial fishing industry and produces oil palm, raffia palm, rubber, and coconut. In February 2012, Henry Dickson (PDP) was elected as governor after a period of uncertainty in the wake of Governor Timipre Sylva’s termination in January 2012. Since then the number of fatalities has reduced, but has fluctuated with periodic instances of cult violence, abductions, and attacks on energy infrastructure.
This Conflict Bulletin provides a brief snapshot of the trends and patterns of conflict risk factors at the State and Local Government Area (LGA) levels, drawing on the data available on the P4P Digital Platform for Multi-Stakeholder Engagement (www.p4p-nigerdelta.org). The screenshot of the heat map above shows the relative distribution of incidents from one LGA to the next from 2012-2013. The trend-line on the next page shows the number of incidents and fatalities over time. The bar chart shows the trend of incidents of insecurity by LGA per capita. The summaries draw on data collected by FFP’s UNLocK, the Council on Foreign Relations’ NST, WANEP Nigeria, CSS/ETH Zurich, Nigeria Watch, and ACLED integrated on the P4P platform.
LGA Level Summary
In 2012, there were two bombings suspected to be linked to political tensions around the gubernatorial elections. Multiple incidents of cultist violence were reported, some targeting politicians or candidates. Ex-militants reportedly attacked cluster oil wells several times throughout the year, claiming that their actions were in protest against their exclusion from the federal amnesty program. In June, women reportedly barricaded an oil facility, protesting that the company had failed to meet community obligations while causing environmental and social degradation. In November 2012, hundreds reportedly protested over the non-payment of expected allowances from the amnesty program. Also in November, hundreds of flood victims reportedly protested against government action to remove them from relief camps. There were multiple reports of police clashes with suspected armed robbers and kidnappers. In February 2013, it was reported that up to 200 former militants rioted and destroyed property when they learned that they would not be included in the third phase of the amnesty program. In August, Vanguard news reported that 12 suspected pirates killed by the Nigerian Navy were actually members of a defunct militant group refusing to turn over arms or join the amnesty program. November of 2013 was characterized by violence reportedly stemming from continued political tensions surrounding the Ijaw National Congress Elections in October. Incidents included the reported targeting and kidnapping of youth group members and political allies supportive of each candidate. Later in November, up to five people were reportedly killed in clashes between two communities over farmland. In early 2014, unidentified gunmen killed the former Chairman of Peremabiri Community Development Committee (CDC) in his residence in Akenpai. His attackers reportedly took nothing from the victim’s home, suggesting motives other than robbery. Other 2014 incidents included a women’s peaceful protest over the killing of a youth from the area and the stabbing of a girl by a friend during an argument.
Reported incidents of insecurity included attacks on energy infrastructure, politically motivated violence, and cult attacks on university students. In January 2012, unidentified gunmen reportedly attacked the home of an ex-militant leader and killed a policeman and young ex-militant. A fight broke out at a political rally in February 2012, resulting in at least one death. In March and April 2012, there were reported attacks on oil pipelines, the first such reports in over a year. In July, gunmen reportedly attacked a boat belonging to an oil company, killing at least three and injuring others. Throughout 2012 cultists reportedly killed Niger Delta University students in several incidents. Flooding was a problem in October 2012, during the most severe rainy season in decades. In 2013, there were reported clashes between members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and militants in the Azuzuama area, killing several and displacing local residents. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also claimed to have killed 15 officers in a boat attack. In early May 2013, a shooting by suspected renegade militants left five ex-militants dead. Reports of police action leading to the deaths of suspected pirates, as well as police deaths, were reported in May, July and October, although the estimated numbers of individuals killed varied. Other incidents reported in 2013 included deaths related to illegal oil bunkering as well as a few instances of kidnapping of local oil dredgers. In 2014, a clash between cult groups at the Niger Delta University resulted in several fatalities. Also in 2014, unidentified gunmen ambushed a group of twenty police escorting an ex-MEND leader along the creeks of the Niger Delta in Peremabiri Community. No casualties were reported in the incident.
Incidents reported in Nembe included an alleged attack by MEND on marine policemen in 2012. Data from CSS/ETH Zurich and the Council on Foreign relations reported an April 2013 attack by MEND on an oil well which was said to have caused a spill and created an environmental emergency. In the later half of 2013, there was an escalation in reported attacks by pirates on passenger boats as well as military police and Navy formations. It was reported that as of late 2013, up to twenty civilians had been killed by pirate activity or from being caught in the crossfire between police and suspected pirates. This number could not be independently verified although multiple news sources did corroborate the rise in violent deaths and general insecurity surrounding suspected pirate activity and police counter-actions. Pirate attacks continued into the first half of 2014. A captain and engineer were said to be abducted from a tug boat owned by an oil company.
In October 2012, massive flooding hit Sagbama causing food scarcity and epidemics, as Nigeria experienced the most severe rainy season in decades. That same month, the LGA council chairman was removed for alleged impropriety. In November 2012, there was a reported incident of intra-communal conflict which resulted in the death of about a dozen people after a traditional ruler was removed by the Sylva administration. In February 2013, an incident of piracy was reported in which gunmen allegedly killed several soldiers who were escorting an oil vessel in the creeks. In December, there was a report of possible inter-communal tension when two men were killed after a feud with herdsmen over cattle blocking a main roadway although it appeared to be an isolated incident. Tension within the Ijaw Youth Council was also reported at intermittent times throughout the year.
Reported issues in Ogbia included sexual violence and child abuse. As in Sagbama, some individuals connected to the former governor’s administration were aggrieved following the election of Governor Dickson although these issues largely appeared to have subsided by the end of 2012. Flooding reportedly submerged communities in October 2012 and led to displacement and some food scarcity issues. In January 2013, gunmen reportedly invaded the country home of the Local Council Chairman and abducted his parents for ransom. It was reported that they were released a week later. In early 2014, gunmen invaded the hometown of President Jonathan and abducted the 70-year-old foster father of the President. It was not clear whether the kidnapping was politically motivated.
Incidents reported in Kolokuma/Opokuma in 2012 mainly related to the devastation caused by flooding. In March 2012, it was reported that a “general” from a local militia had attacked an oil flow station in protest of the lack of development in the Niger Delta. In mid- to late-2013, violence related to domestic disputes were the main reported incidents of insecurity although early in the year problems associated with the flooding still lingered.
With its extensive shoreline, Brass experiences frequent attacks on nearby vessels, many of which are associated with the oil industry. Data from CSS/ETH Zurich points to over a dozen such incidents occurring during 2012-2013, some of which resulted in kidnappings as well as the loss of property and lives. In June 2012, a JTF/Navy patrol reportedly killed six pirates on a vessel transporting stolen crude. Three naval officers were also killed in the fight which later became a source of tension in the community as the Independent newspaper reported that the suspected pirates were actually indigenes returning from a funeral. A community petition was then reported to have been circulated and sent to the Chief Army Staff protesting the killing and requesting an inquiry into such violence undertaken by patrols. In November of 2013, it was reported that a group of seven gunmen kidnapped the father of Bayelsa State Commissioner for Tourism. Other reported issues during this time period included the October 2012 removal of five LGA chairmen for financial recklessness shortly after the election of Governor Dixon. They denied the charges of impropriety and accused Dickson of targeting certain individuals in order to marginalize them from politics. These accusations, and other related claims, continued throughout 2012-2013 although overall, political tensions seemed to decrease by the end of 2013. In March 2014, gunmen reportedly abducted a husband and wife.
Download the full report in PDF format
* Patricia Taft and Marcela Aguirre contributed to this report.