Imo State - July 2014
Published July 31, 2014
By Nate Haken*
Nigeria Conflict Bulletins
Imo state has a population of approximately 3.9 million people, according to the 2006 census. The population is predominantly Igbo (98%). The capital city of Owerri is the largest in the state. Imo is made up of 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
Imo’s economy mainly consists of exporting natural resources such as palm oil, mahogany, crude oil, and natural gas. Due to the high population density and over-farming, the quality of the soil is reportedly worsening, according to local government reports.
Owelle Rochas Okorocha has been the governor of Imo since May 2011. In 2011, he left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to run for governor with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) initially declared the election inconclusive due to reports of irregularities but later confirmed Okorocha’s win. After being elected, in a controversial move, Governor Okorocha fired all 27 local government chairmen and replaced them with a transition committee.
Violence per capita in Imo is among the lowest in the region, as is the number of fatalities per capita. Incidences of violence largely occurred in the LGAs surrounding the capital city of Owerri. Between January 2012 and December 2013, incidents reported included criminality, abductions and vigilante/mob justice. There were also a number of fatalities associated with public unrest and reports of ritual killings in the state.
In the first half of 2014, fatalities increased. Owerri Municipal/North/West was the most worsened while Ngor Okpala has improved slightly. Incidents of sexual violence, protests, and shootings and killings due to domestic and criminal violence comprise most of the cases being reported.
This Conflict Bulletin provides a brief snapshot of the trends and patterns of conflict risk factors at the State and 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 in the LGAs from 2012 to June 2014. The trend line shows the number of incidents and fatalities over time. The bar chart shows the relative trend of incidents of insecurity by LGA per capita. The summaries draw on data collected by ACLED, FFP’s UNLocK, the Council on Foreign Relations’ NST, WANEP Nigeria, CSS/ETH Zurich, and Nigeria Watch integrated on the P4P platform.
LGA Level Summary January 2012 - June 2014
Between January 2012 and June 2014, the LGAs around Owerri had the highest number of reported incidents of insecurity per capita in the state. There were lynchings and attempted lynchings of suspected robbers reported along with several kidnappings, including the abduction of a popular actress. Other murders reported during this time period including ritual killings and killings related to cult violence.
There were also several peaceful protests as well as violent riots reported during this time period. In April 2012, it was reported that indigenes protested a government land seizure intended for development. A clash of rival cult groups reportedly left several people dead in December 2012. In 2013, there was political tension as the local government chairmen who had been fired by the governor in 2011 and their supporters protested peacefully in the streets, claiming that the democratic process had been undermined. Also throughout 2013, there were reported clashes between police, individuals and gangs suspected to be kidnappers.
During the year, the number of student protests also increased, particularly in the initial six months. In early 2013 youth staged several protests including one in January where a reported 2,000 youths took to the streets to protest violence in Owerri. Also, in October, thousands of women reportedly took part in a peaceful demonstration protesting the alleged intimidation and harassment of state government officials by federal anti-corruption agencies. Specifically, according to local newspapers, the women alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) had been unfairly targeting the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha for political reasons.
Various protests have taken place in the first half of 2014. In January, people from Atta-Ikeduru LGA protested in front of the Government House in Owerri after the chief of their village was reportedly murdered. In February 2014, a women’s group protested during a PDP meeting. Other protests that have taken place in the first half of 2014 include pensioners demanding pensions be paid, transport workers demanding their salaries, and teachers and women’s groups protesting the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.
Other reported issues included an incident in May 2014, when the former governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, and his family escaped after their home was petrol bombed by unknown assailants. In June a clash between rival cult gangs reportedly left about a dozen people dead.
Conflict risk factors during this time period in Ngor-Okpala were mainly related to criminality, including kidnapping, murder, and ritual killing. From 2012-2013, there were three reported cases of murder related to domestic disputes and a robbery. In June 2013, a security guard for a lawmaker living in a residence owned by an international financial institution was allegedly shot and killed. In March 2014, a man was killed when violence escalated during an election for the Community Government Council.
Oguta is a town on the east bank of Oguta Lake. The city, and the LGA named after it, thrives on tourism as well as commercial fishing. The town is not usually prone to violence although there was an increase in the first half of 2013.
October 2012 was marked by floods that displaced more than 8,000 people, destroyed crops and livelihoods and reportedly caused an increase in food prices in the months that followed. In early 2013, there were reports of abductions and killings of hotel managers and businessmen. In a sign of increased political tension in Imo, thugs reportedly attacked the governor’s convoy in June 2013. There were also several reported deaths towards the end of the year related to foiled robbery attempts and clashes between police and suspected robbers and kidnappers. A woman was reportedly raped and murdered in January, 2014.
In May 2012, a local church leader was reportedly abducted for a ransom of Naira 500,000 and later killed by his captors, despite the family reporting that the ransom had been paid. In February 2013, the murder of a local doctor triggered a protest rally by women and youth that lasted for several hours, blocking the main highway. Sexual violence, child abuse, abductions, and killings were reported in the first half of 2014.
In May 2012, it was reported that two men on motorcycles stormed a ceremonial residence and abducted and killed a local monarch. Also in 2012, there were reports that a police station was attacked by gunmen, killing one police officer. In January 2013, the deputy governor’s director of protocol was reportedly murdered and the body mutilated by gunmen who later claimed the attack was not politically motivated. In August 2013, the leader of an armed robbery gang was reportedly killed by police during an exchange of gunfire while others were arrested in connection with a variety of robberies and other criminal activities that had occurred throughout the year. In June 2014, a suspect was reportedly killed by police after an attempted robbery.
Criminality and violent interpersonal conflict comprised the most reported issues in Ehime-Mbano during this period, including a bank robbery and the murder of a woman after a domestic altercation with her son. In late 2013, there was a reported incident of intra-communal conflict that led to the death of at least one person. In November of the same year, it was reported that youth took to the street to protest unfulfilled political promises in a rally that turned violent, with the death of a police officer as well as property damage reported. Issues such as the high rate of youth unemployment and political marginalization were cited in an interview with one self-described “youth leader” who participated in the protest.