Imo State - Patterns and Trends, 2012-2014
Published May 8, 2015
By Nate Haken and Patricia Taft*
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). Natural resources include palm oil, mahogany, crude oil, and natural gas.
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, Governor Okorocha fired all 27 local government chairmen and replaced them with a transition committee. In a politically risky move, Okorocha later switched from APGA to APC, but nevertheless emerged victorious in the second round of the 2015 elections, the first round of which were initially declared inconclusive.
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. The first half of 2014 was the most violent of the two-year period with a communal clash and a separate cult clash that reportedly killed dozens.
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). 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 relative geographic distribution of incidents between 2012 and 2014. The bar chart shows the relative violence from one Niger Delta state to the next. The trend-line on the next page shows the number of incidents and fatalities over time. The second 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, NEEWS/TMG, Nigeria Watch, 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
Between January 2012 and December 2014, the LGAs around the city of 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 some political contravercy 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.
Various protests occurred in the first half of 2014. In January, people 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.
In the second half of 2014, an attempted armed robbery in August reportedly led to the death of four robbers by police officers. In September, it was reported that an aide to the Imo State Speaker was found dead, following a public session at the House Assembly. No further motive or investigation was reported. In October, oil workers from a station in Ohaji gathered in Owerri to reportedly protest nearly two years of unpaid salaries at the Imo State House. In November, there was an increase in violent incidents, including a reported attack and reprisal between traders and pastoralists that reportedly left at least two dead. Also that month, women from the Irete community gathered to protest a rise in sexual assaults in their community while at the end of the month, a businessman from Lagos was reported killed by gunmen assumed to be robbers.
Conflict risk factors during this period included several incidents between herdsmen and farmers over grazing rights, as well as other communal and cult violence. In early 2009, an explosion reportedly killed ten people who were trying to gather spilled oil into tankers. In January 2010, a reported clash between two ethnic groups over the murder of a woman destroyed homes and left dozens injured, while in March a dispute over election results of a youth association, reportedly left at least three people dead. In July 2011, herdsmen reportedly entered a village to graze cattle and destroyed crops, leading to clashes that killed at least two and injured others. Also that year, cult-related violence, foiled kidnapping attempts, and armed robbery reportedly also accounted for at least a half dozen deaths. In October 2012, flooding caused a spike in food prices and displaced hundreds. In April of 2013, up to 1000 people reportedly gathered to protest attacks and invasions by pastoralists on village farmlands. In May of 2014, in what appeared to be a weeklong clash between two communities that started over a disputed market barricade, property was destroyed and at least seven people reportedly lost their lives in the ensuing violence. From July through October 2014, clashes over community oil rights and cult-related violence killed a reported seven people.
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. There were no reported incidents for the second 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. There were no further incidents reported in the second half of 2014.
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. 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. Also in January, a reported clash occurred between youths between two communities over access to an oil wellhead; no one was reported killed in the incident.
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. There were no reported incidents of violence in the second half of 2014.
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. In March 2014, violence surrounding disputed Government Community Council Elections occurred, although no was reported injured or killed.
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* Hannah Blyth and Ania Skinner contributed to this report.