Conflict Bulletin:
Bayelsa State - Patterns and Trends, 2012-2014

Published April 30, 2015
By Nate Haken and Patricia Taft*
Nigeria Conflict Bulletins
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With 2 million people, Bayelsa is one of the smallest states in the country, by population. Most 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.

In the first half of 2013, Bayelsa fell below the Niger Delta regional average in reported incidents of insecurity per capita for the first time since 2010. On June 15, 2013, thousands of cult group members met with political leaders as part of Gov. Dickson’s Restoration Agenda, to renounce criminality and work towards peace.
Over the last four years, incidents of insecurity in Bayelsa have included cult violence, piracy, abductions, and attacks on energy infrastructure. Conflict factors were mainly reported around the capital of Yenagoa.

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 ( It represents a compilation of the data from sources listed below, not necessarily opinions of FFP or any other organization that collaborated on the production of this bulletin.

The screenshot of the heat map on this page shows the geographic distribution of incidents from 2012-2014. 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, NEEWS/TMG, and ACLED integrated on the P4P platform. They also draw on data and information from “Violence in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends,” by Patricia Taft and Nate Haken (Springer Press, April 2015).

LGA Level Summary

(Bayelsa Central Senatorial District)

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 over a six-month time period. 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.

There were over two dozen instances of insecurity in the second half of 2014. Of those, three incidents were believed to be mainly related to the upcoming elections. One such event occurred in November when unidentified gunmen shot and killed the Secretary of Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC). Later in December, suspected political thugs raided the Bayelsa State Secretariat of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to hijack materials for the conduct of the Federal House of Representatives primaries in the state.

Other major instances of insecurity in Yenagoa involved gun violence. In September 2014, police opened fire and allegedly killed two vigilantes as they attempted to lynch a group of suspected armed robbers. A shooting occurred in November at the hands of pirates as they carried out several attacks on passenger boats. Later in November, gunmen reportedly killed a policeman and fled the scene with his rifle. Gunmen also killed a riot police corporal and one civilian in another incident during that month. In December, an armed robber was shot dead by policemen during a gun duel.

The number of reported oil-related events remained steady in the latter half of 2014. In early August, youths shut down five oil wells in Idu Oil Field operated by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company. The protesting youths carried out the action following the alleged refusal by Agip to provide a generator set for them one year after the oil company had promised to do so. A second protest of a similar nature took place just days later after promised demands were not met by the company. Finally, in December, members of an oil union protested in several locations, preventing all workers from entering oil installations.

Various other incidents of insecurity also took place. In September, an explosive went off in a neighborhood, causing panic among residents even though no fatalities were reported. Two incidents of cult violence occurred, leading to the reported deaths of four people, two civilians and two cultists, following a clash between rival gangs.

Southern Ijaw
(Bayelsa Central Senatorial District)

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.

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. In the second half of 2013, 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 oil bunkering as well as a few instances of kidnapping of local oil dredgers.

In early 2014, a clash between cult groups at the Niger Delta University resulted in several fatalities. Also, in the first half of the year, unidentified gunmen ambushed a group of twenty police escorting an ex-MEND leader along the creeks of the Niger Delta. No casualties were reported in the incident. In August, gunmen abducted the younger brother to the Speaker of Bayelsa House of Assembly. The abduction came at a time when the House Speaker was enduring possible impeachment proceedings.

Eleven instances of insecurity occurred in the latter half of 2014 in Southern Ijaw. In July, a team of policemen repelled an attack on an oil installation and reportedly killed five pirates in the process. The pirates were said to have attacked an oil rig belonging to an foreign drilling company when they opened fire on the policemen on duty. Boat drivers under the Maritime Workers Union later protested against perceived increased pirate activity in the region. In October, two murders allegedly occurred. One victim was a businessman and the other was a woman who was killed for having an abortion. During the same month, two officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) were arrested over their involvement in the killing of a boat owner. Sea pirate attacks were once again reported in January. A separate incident during the month involved a security guard at a cargo airport who was shot dead by armed men.

(Bayelsa East Senatorial District)

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. Sporadic pirate attacks continued throughout 2014. In several cases, multiple policemen and soldiers were killed. In two instances of reported piracy, it was noted that the attackers also attempted to abduct the victims. In December, sea pirates attacked and allegedly murdered three soldiers attached to the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Pulo Shield.

(Bayelsa Central Senatorial District)

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. In October of 2014, unidentified gunmen kidnapped the brother of the monarch of the of Kolokuma Kingdom. Their demands were not known.

(Bayelsa East Senatorial District)

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. Gunmen later kidnapped four civilians on a passenger boat as well as three expatriates in two separate incidents in October and November. In December, members of an oil union protested in several locations, preventing all workers from entering oil installations.

(Bayelsa East Senatorial District)

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 2014, abductions and killings by pirates continued. In March, gunmen reportedly abducted a husband and wife. Later, in August, a passenger boat driver was shot dead by pirates. In two separate incidents in October, sea pirates allegedly killed four policemen and abducted six civilians while gunmen attacked a tugboat and abducted the captain.

(Bayelsa West Senatorial District)

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. In December 2014, members of an oil union protested in all eight LGAs of Bayelsa, preventing all workers from entering oil installations.

(Bayelsa West Senatorial District)

In 2012 there were reports of piracy and attacks on oil infrastructure, including an attack on an oil flow station by ex-militants in May. At least one incident of piracy was reported in 2013 that resulted in the death of a middle-aged man. In May 2014, gunman reportedly attacked a boat and abducted several people including 3 Dutch nationals working in development and health.. A man was reportedly shot in the incident. Later in the year, boat drivers under the Maritime Workers Union protested against perceived increased pirate activity in the region.

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* Hannah Blyth and Ania Skinner contributed to this report.