Bakassi Boys of Eastern Nigeria from 1999-2006
Thirteen years after the restoration of elected civilian government in Nigeria, serious existential challenges persist at the federal, state and local levels. These include persisting low public confidence in the capability of the electoral system to produce truly elected political leaders at various levels. Implementation of economic reform programmes that have neither improved public services nor produced jobs for thousands of young people graduating every year from higher institutions. Pervasive corruption, which has reduced government’s annual budgetary pronouncements and development targets to hollow rituals scuffed at by a cynical public. Above all, an alarming spate of armed violence and terrorism over widening space and territories and apparent inability of the security forces to restore law and order, bring the perpetrators to justice and reassure a traumatized citizenry.
The result is that in spite of Nigeria’s impressive macroeconomic growth and stability (thanks to oil income), the country still ranks very low on major global and even sub-Saharan African governance indicators such as infant mortality, maternal mortality, quantity/quality of education, job creation, poverty eradication, security of life and property; and high on corruption profile and cost of doing Business (Chukwuma, 2011). Of all the challenges confronting Nigeria, it is arguable that security challenge is the most acute.
From Maiduguri and Bauchi in Northeast to Jos in North-central and down to Aba in Southeast, Nigerians are at a loss about the inability of security authorizers and providers in the country to arrest the increasing drift to a state of lawlessness where almost anybody can get away with the most heinous of violent crimes as long as it involves mass number of victims.
Many militias or vigilante groups in Nigeria and beyond try to gain legitimacy by reviving pre-colonial traditions. In South Africa, members of the ANC (African National Congress) youth wing and other young rebels who fought Apartheid pretended to act as traditional custodians of their communities, and in this capacity they instigated witch hunts. ‘‘With the unbanning of political parties and release of Nelson Mandela from prison, many people experienced a sense of cultural freedom, including the punishment of witches in a typically African way.
This work is set to find out the activities of the Bakassi Boys of Eastern Nigeria from 1999 to 2006.
Vigilantism in Nigeria
Vigilantism has roots that reach deep into the country’s history. In the pre-colonial era, some-though not all-independent local communities, especially in the south-east, maintained their own standing army to defend their territory against the threat of invasion from neighboring communities. Although there was no equivalent of a modern-day state structure at that time, some parallels can be drawn between these groups which were created by local communities for their own protection, and the more recently formed self-defense groups. Local conflicts were also fought between members of warrior cults; a clear link can be traced between these secret societies and contemporary vigilante groups in Nigeria, including the Bakassi Boys.
Even though these local armies and warrior groups were superseded by the colonial state which claimed a monopoly on the use of force, they continued operating across large parts of Nigeria. Since Nigerian independence, some of the formal political structures established under colonial rule have disintegrated, and Nigerians have adapted historical precedents to the new environment created by large-scale urbanization and breakdown of stable social structures. Local communities across Nigeria, as in many other countries in Africa and elsewhere, have created their own informal or sometimes formal structures to try to ensure the security of the population. These groups have usually been composed of individuals from the local community. They have derived their credibility, and unofficial authority, from the community in which they serve. One of the main purposes of these initiatives has been to complement the police in identifying and handing over criminal suspects to the appropriate judicial authorities. They have also sometimes tried to settle other conflicts between individuals in the community. Local leaders have on occasion abused their power and used these groups for other purposes.
Village or community guards have existed in Igbo communities in the south-east of Nigeria for many years; the roots of the more recently-formed vigilante groups can be traced back in part to these traditions. Since at least the late 1980s, local forms of vigilantism have been common in south-eastern Nigeria. Most villages have some form of watch or protection, either through organized systems of night guards or through more informal networks to monitor the local situation. Throughout the mid-1990s, state authorities, the police, and traditional rulers called upon villages to set up vigilante patrols; these often involved contests for rights and privileges and negotiations between young men and their elders, as well as the formal judicial bodies.
In more recent years, mounting frustration with the steady increase in violent crime in Nigeria, exacerbated by the inefficiency and widespread corruption of the police force, has led to the formation of a new type of vigilante group, exemplified by the Bakassi Boys.5 These groups, while not entirely removed from the longstanding traditions of vigilantism in the region, differ from other forms of citizen involvement in policing in that they are usually not composed of members of the local community. They tend to be based in the large urban centers, rather than in the villages, although their operations are gradually extending into the rural communities. When they first set themselves up, they promised to deal with armed criminals ruthlessly and definitively. Within a short time, it appeared that they were no longer accountable to anybody and had become virtually impossible to control.
A combination of political, economic and social factors in Nigeria-including high unemployment, poor relations between the police and local communities, widespread corruption, and absence of confidence and trust in the state and its institutions-has meant that it has been easy to recruit people to these vigilante groups, and for these groups to flourish. The situation has been aggravated by influential political figures, including several state governors, who have sought to rely on armies of thugs who are on standby to intervene when events do not go in their favor. In general, state governments have tolerated if not encouraged these vigilante groups, and have been unwilling to take decisive action to dismantle them or call their backers to account. It is not a coincidence that groups like the Bakassi Boys emerged at a time when the political balance between federal and state governments shifted: the power of state governors has increased significantly in relation to the federal center since 1999, as increased revenue has been distributed to state and local government levels. Political posts, with the opportunities for self-enrichment and patronage that they present, became ever more highly prized and vigorously defended.
The term “vigilante” is used loosely in Nigeria to refer to a range of different groups, each with different motives. The term has been applied to groups such as the Bakassi Boys, who were initially set up with the purpose of fighting crime without an explicit political agenda, as well as to others such as the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), a Yoruba ethnic militia active in the south-west of Nigeria. The OPC was initially created to advocate for autonomy for the Yoruba people, then extended its activities to fighting alleged criminals.6 In some of the northern states of Nigeria, there are other groups, also referred to as vigilantes, which are used to monitor and enforce observance of Sharia (Islamic law); some of them have administered instant punishments to those caught violating Sharia. A variety of other armed groups, many of them formed along ethnic lines in different parts of the country, are also described as vigilantes.
The Emergence of Vigilante Groups in the South-Eastern states
The rise of vigilantism in its current form in the south-east of Nigeria can be traced back to the explosion of violent crime which rocked the city of Aba, in Abia State, and its surroundings in 1997 and 1998. This commercial town, which hosts the large Ariaria market, was gripped by insecurity and lawlessness as armed robbery and other forms of violent crime reached unprecedented levels. Robbery and extortion by armed gangs, the most prominent of which were known as the Mafia, became a daily routine and began to affect more than just the population of Aba, as traders from all over the country, who used to come to Aba to transact business in the Ariaria market, began staying away from the town, out of fear. Traders in Aba estimate that around two hundred people were killed by armed robbers between 1997 and 1999. Aba, and the broader south-eastern region, saw a dramatic increase in the possession and use of firearms: residents of Aba estimated that one in ten adults in the town owned a gun, either for self-defense or for criminal purposes.7
Frustration and anger at the insecurity and intimidation suffered at the hands of criminals in Aba exploded when armed robbers killed a pregnant woman near the market in Aba in October 1999. Market traders mobilized people to hunt down the perpetrators and three days of violence and destruction ensued as the traders clashed with the alleged criminals. This incident prompted the shoe makers’ association in Ariaria market to decide to organize a vigilante group to defend themselves against criminals. The vigilante group then unleashed its own killing spree, unprecedented in the history of Aba, killing and burning suspected criminals and their accomplices, tracking some of them down in their home towns and villages far from the city. After this revenge, the violence subsided. Economic activities gradually resumed and customers began patronizing the Ariaria market once again.
Having “succeeded” in defeating the armed robbers, the traders set about turning their vigilante group into a more permanent institution. They provided them with a building to use as their headquarters and began paying them regular salaries. The vigilantes abandoned their normal occupations to become full-time members of the group which became known as the Bakassi Boys.
The ascent and huge popularity of the Bakassi Boys in Aba was closely watched by other cities in south-eastern Nigeria which were experiencing similarly high levels of violent crime. Their “success” in ridding the Ariaria market of criminals and their mythical invincibility led to clamours for the Bakassi Boys to extend their operations to other cities, including Umuahia, the capital of Aba State; Owerri, the capital of Imo State; and Onitsha, the large market town in Anambra State.
Onitsha, whose market is reputed to be the largest in Nigeria, was the second major city where the Bakassi Boys made their mark. Like Aba, Onitsha was a center for traders from all over Nigeria and the large volumes of cash which changed hands in the market on a daily basis had been a magnet for organized, violent crime. In the 1980s, the Onitsha Amalgamated Traders’ Association (OMATA) had set up a vigilante group known as OMATA security. Initially created to maintain security inside the Onitsha market, it sometimes operated in other parts of the city too. The OMATA security group was eventually replaced by another group, the Onitsha Traders Association (OTA), which became the precursor of the Bakassi Boys’ operations in the city. Officially set up on September 25, 1999, with the support of the Anambra State governor, OTA used extremely brutal methods in its mission to drive violent criminals from the city. Like the Bakassi Boys who followed them, they arrested people arbitrarily, on the basis of little or no evidence tortured them and summarily executed them, often in public. Although there are no reliable records of their activities, residents of Onitsha, including human rights activists, lawyers, and others, estimate that OTA was responsible for hundreds of deaths and that many of their victims may have been innocent. OTA also intervened in civil cases, including disputes over land, rents and property, and regularly extorted money from Onitsha residents.
Eventually, public outrage at OTA’s methods led to calls for their dissolution. In July 2000, the traders themselves protested against their activities and called on the Anambra State governor to disband OTA. On July 8, the Bakassi Boys came in to take over from OTA, to great public acclaim. In the words of one human rights activist, “the day the Bakassi arrived in Onitsha, everyone was celebrating. It was like the arrival of the Messiah.”8 The Bakassi Boys were recognized by the Anambra State government on July 12 and in August 2000, a law was passed, officially establishing them under the name Anambra State Vigilante Services.9 On August 9, Chuma Nzeribe, security adviser to the governor of Anambra State, wrote to the Bakassi Boys’ chairman informing him that their application for registration as a vigilante group had been granted and that they should report to Government House for their inauguration on August 14.10
A power struggle for control of the Bakassi Boys developed between the Anambra State governor and the traders’ association. According to independent sources in Onitsha, the traders wanted to run and finance the Bakassi Boys as an independent vigilante group. However, the governor said he would provide the funding and inaugurate the group. He was responsible for changing their name to the Anambra Vigilante Services and ensured that the legislation provided for the governor to appoint the chairman and three other members of their committee. When the traders delivered a resolution to the governor saying they were not satisfied with these arrangements, the governor ordered the arrest of several of the traders, including the chairman of their association; they were detained for about one week.11
The transition from OTA to the Bakassi Boys was marked by violence. Fighting broke out between the two groups when the Bakassi Boys ousted OTA to take over their functions. The Bakassi Boys killed five members of OTA and beheaded them in the market, close to their headquarters. An eye-witness said the Bakassi Boys cut off the legs of their victims and made a fire under their bodies; blood was gushing from their heads. A crowd of onlookers clapped. The police were reportedly present, but only watched and did not intervene. The Bakassi Boys claimed that they had killed the five men because they were armed robbers masquerading as OTA members.12 Although the original reason for the dissolution of OTA was people’s anger at the way the organization had exceeded its mandate and was engaging in systematic violence, the Bakassi Boys who replaced them have used similar and equally brutal methods. In late 2001, the Bakassi Boys in Onitsha were said to include several former members of OTA, chosen by the state governor.
Since they were first created in Aba, there have been increasingly serious divisions among the Bakassi Boys operating in different states, particularly between those in Abia and Anambra states. As the Bakassi Boys spread from Abia to Anambra then Imo states, those from Abia became known as the “original” or “authentic” Bakassi, while those in the other states were sometimes described as “not authentic” or “fake” Bakassi. Former detainees who witnessed or overheard exchanges between the different units of the Bakassi Boys indicated that those from Aba seemed more committed to their original crime-fighting function. The Bakassi Boys from Aba have sometimes criticized their counterparts in Anambra for getting too involved in political cases, for extorting large sums of money, or even, on occasions, for their brutality.13 Nevertheless, the groups in both states have been responsible for very serious abuses.
By mid-2000, the Bakassi Boys had become an accepted part of daily life in the large cities in the south-east. Throughout the rest of 2000 and 2001, they were regularly seen patrolling the streets and the markets, and standing outside their offices, heavily armed, in full view, usually wearing black uniforms and caps, sometimes with red bandanas, and with their own official vehicles. One man who was detained by the Bakassi Boys in Onitsha said they were wearing badges with the picture of the Anambra State governor pinned to their shirts.14 They are mostly made up of young, able-bodied men in their twenties or thirties. Local residents have reported that they also include some boys under the age of eighteen.
The Bakassi Boys’ leaders have repeatedly denied that their members carry weapons, especially firearms-despite abundant evidence to the contrary. When Human Rights Watch and CLEEN asked the chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services (AVS), Camillus Ebekue, about their use of weapons and use of force, he said he did not know about any use of force and denied that they had any weapons, saying “they just have one or two matchets.” Just before their meeting with Camillus Ebekue, Human Rights Watch and CLEEN researchers had seen him arriving at the state government office in Awka in a vehicle with several AVS men openly carrying guns. When we told him we had seen this with our own eyes, he continued to deny that they ever carried weapons.15 Likewise, the chairman of the Abia Vigilante Services, Onwuchekwa Ulu, told journalists: “If you have [seen guns], then your eyes are deceiving you.”16 In an interview with CLEEN, Onwuchekwa Ulu also denied that his members carried arms and said that they just used cutlasses bought in the market.17 The Bakassi Boys claim that all their members are carefully recruited and vetted to ensure that they have a “clean” record and have not engaged in criminal activities in the past. Under the circumstances, it seems unlikely that this is the case; even if it is, the process is clearly not sufficient to weed out individuals likely to use inappropriate and excessive force.
While the traders’ associations initially financed the Bakassi Boys, state governments have since taken over this role. However, the traders still contribute significantly to their upkeep, through a monthly levy. Businesses, local governments, and other institutions are also all asked to contribute a tax towards the Bakassi Boys; many complain that this is extorted under duress and intimidation. The levy varies from state to state. According to a source in Onitsha, in late 2001, the monthly levy requested for the Bakassi Boys there was 2,000 naira (approximately U.S.$15) for offices, 10,000 naira (approximately U.S.$76) for schools and hospitals, and 50,000 naira (approximately U.S.$385) for banks; okada (motorbike taxi) drivers had to pay 20 naira daily. Some businessmen in Anambra were also approached individually to contribute to the Bakassi Boys. However, a representative of the Onitsha market traders told Human Rights Watch and CLEEN: “There has never been any levy on anyone to finance the AVS. But because of the success of the AVS, people would like to do it if it’s done properly. But I am not aware of any plan to do it.”18 In Aba, each store is asked to pay 250 naira (approximately US$2) and is given a receipt marked with the Bakassi Boys’ symbol. The chairman of the Abia Vigilante Services, Onwuchekwa Ulu, stated in a newspaper interview that their funding came in part from the Abia State government and in part from donations and levies which they collected from the public.19 There is no reliable information as to how much the Bakassi Boys receive in terms of salary or direct payments. The chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, Camillus Ebekue, claimed that his members were paid just “a token amount.”20
The Role of State Governments
In all three states where they currently operate-Abia, Anambra, and Imo-the Bakassi Boys have enjoyed the support of their state government, who have provided them with offices, uniforms and vehicles, as well as paying their salaries. Their offices and vehicles bear the names, or initials, of the vigilante groups, their inscriptions and sometimes their mottos, making them easily recognizable.
Some vigilante leaders have tried to deny their close links with the government. For example, when Human Rights Watch and CLEEN met Camillus Ebekue, the chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, he stated bluntly “there are no AVS in government house,” even though we were meeting him in government house and the AVS have a clearly-marked office in the government compound in Awka, the capital of Anambra State.21 Others have been more candid. The chairman of the Abia Vigilante Services, Onwuchekwa Ulu, told journalists who asked him about their relationship with the Abia State government: “We have a cordial relationship. It is just like a father and son business. We have a very good relationship with the governor. We always obey him because he who pays the piper dictates the tune. He pays us and we always try to obey him.”22
The government of Anambra has gone the furthest in terms of open support for the Bakassi Boys by introducing to the state assembly and ensuring the adoption of a law in August 2000 which officially established them as the Anambra State Vigilante Services. The law outlines the functions and powers of the vigilante group as follows, effectively making them a fully-fledged law enforcement agency:23
The vigilante group shall augment the maintenance of security in their various community and shall in particular render all lawful help and assistance to the police in-
a) The prevention and detection of crimes;
b) Making available relevant information on criminals;
c) Taking measures to ensure that hoodlums do not operate in their communities;
d) Preserving law and order;
e) Protecting lives and properties.
The group shall have the power to-
a) arrest any person who commits a crime before them;
b) patrol the streets or villages at any time of the day and especially at nights;
c) Maintain security barricades at nights in appropriate places;
d) Question and hand over to the Police any person of questionable character or of suspicious movement; and
e) enter and search any compound into which a questionable person runs while being pursued.
The law also establishes the Vigilante Services Co-coordinating Committee which is to oversee their activities. It states that the committee operates from the office of the governor, that the governor appoints four of its seven members, and that the chairman of the committee will be the adviser on security matters.24 It specifies that part of the vigilantes’ funding will come from subventions from the state government, and that “the purpose of the fund shall be for the purchase of security gadgets including vehicles, torch lights, whistles, matchets, guns and bullets; provided that appropriate licences are obtained for such guns.”25
In practice, the provisions of this law bear little relation to the practices of the Bakassi Boys. The Bakassi Boys rarely if ever “render all lawful help and assistance to the police.” The requirement that they should hand over any suspects to the police is systematically ignored. The coordinating committee appears to be purely a cosmetic measures and meets infrequently, if at all; the Commissioner of Police of Anambra State told Human Rights and CLEEN in October 2001 that it had never met.26 Human Rights Watch and CLEEN were informed that in addition to this law, a code of conduct to govern the activities of the Bakassi Boys had been drawn up. However, we were unable to obtain a copy from government officials, from the police, or from the Bakassi Boys’ leaders themselves, despite repeated requests.
In Imo State, a bill establishing the Imo Vigilante Services was passed by the State House of Assembly in December 2000. The speaker of the House of Assembly was said to have been the main person calling for the introduction of the Bakassi Boys into Imo State. By early 2002, the state governor, Achike Udenwa, has so far resisted pressure to sign the bill into law. However, this has not stopped the Bakassi Boys from openly carrying on with their activities in Imo State, particularly in the town of Owerri. Although he has not provided them with legal recognition, the governor also has not taken any decisive action to stop their operations.
Governors of several neighboring states have come under significant pressure from large sectors of the general public to introduce the Bakassi Boys, on the basis of their perceived “success” in combating crime in Abia, Anambra, and Imo states. To their credit, some governors have resisted this pressure. The governor of Enugu, for example, has stated that he would not invite them to his state; he said that he was in favor of using the police force and assisting them with better facilities, and requested an extra police contingent from the federal government, which was deployed in late 2000.27 In other states, however, moves are underway to introduce the Bakassi Boys. For example in Edo State, a bill for the establishment of the Edo State Vigilante Services was before the state assembly in August 2001. In Ebonyi, a bill to set up the Ebonyi State Vigilante Services was passed by the state assembly. By the end of 2001, the governor of Ebonyi had not yet given his assent, on the basis that-like his counterpart in Enugu-he preferred to place his confidence in the police and would try to ensure that they were better equipped to combat crime. However, in March 2002, he announced that he was preparing to sign the bill. At the time of writing, the bills have not been passed into law in either Ebonyi or Edo states.
In one of the most alarming developments in the rise of vigilantism in the southeast of Nigeria, some state governments have used the Bakassi Boys to target and intimidate perceived political opponents. Human Rights Watch and CLEEN documented several cases, described below, where senior state government authorities were clearly aware of and in some cases personally involved in human rights abuses by the Bakassi Boys. Those targeted were usually well-known figures, viewed as political opponents or otherwise seen to be posing a threat to the authority of the state governor.
The involvement of government authorities was particularly striking in Anambra State. Human Rights Watch and CLEEN interviewed many people who described the Bakassi Boys as the private army of the governor of Anambra State, Chinwoke Mbadinuju.28 One of the senior officials most closely implicated in their activities, according to the testimonies of victims, has been Chuma Nzeribe, former security advisor to the governor. As detailed below, several former detainees and relatives of people detained and killed by the Bakassi Boys testified to Chuma Nzeribe’s close links with the Bakassi Boys and his personal knowledge of specific cases of arrests, torture and killings – for example the abduction and killing of Eddie Okeke and Chief Okonkwo, and the abuction and torture of Ifeanyi Ibegbu, all described in this report.29 They reported that on several occasions, the Bakassi Boys appeared to be acting under Chuma Nzeribe’s instructions and were consulting him in the course of their actions.30 A local human rights activist described Chuma Nzeribe as effectively in charge of the Bakassi Boys since the beginning.31 Human Rights Watch and CLEEN made repeated attempts to meet Chuma Nzeribe in October 2001 but he did not grant us a meeting.
Governor Mbadinuju himself has made no secret of his support for the Bakassi Boys and for their violent methods, announcing to a group of journalists in Awka: “I told them [the Bakassi Boys] to fish out all the armed robbers in Anambra State. And that if the robbers buried themselves, they should be exhumed, killed and buried a second time.”32 In an interview with a foreign journalist in September 2001, he first said he had no confirmation of extrajudicial executions, then stated: “The armed robbers are in the business of killing innocent people. I don’t know anyone who will complain if an armed robber is dead.”33 In an interview in Newswatch magazine, in reply to a question about extrajudicial executions by the Bakassi Boys, he said: “Well, who killed who? The armed robbers have been killing us, innocent citizens on the streets making nonsense of everybody. They shot and killed 35 people at Onitsha going on their normal business. They killed them and these people they have killed, who tried them? Who condemned? What is the difference in extra-judicial killing, between armed robbers and other killers? We must face reality. I am not condoning evil, I am a lawyer, I like rule of law. I am a Christian, we should not kill according to the commandment. But, having said this, under which law did the armed robbers operate in killing us?”34
In another media interview, Chuma Nzeribe was asked about robbers being killed by the Bakassi Boys, their bodies being left lying on the streets and the absence of due process. Denying that the Bakassi Boys had been responsible for these abuses, he replied: “There are no corpses lying around the streets of Anambra state. Those that you saw were as a result of mob action by the traders. We have since passed that stage, and all known criminals have been apprehended and handed over to the police for thorough investigation”35
The governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, has also denied any involvement in abuses by the Bakassi Boys. In July 2001, he was asked by a journalist to respond to accusations that he had used the Bakassi Boys to intimidate his opponents and that he was planning to use them as thugs for the 2003 elections. He replied: “I don’t think so. I have no hand whatsoever in handling Bakassi. You see, the Bakassi in my state is the quietest Bakassi. And what I have always said is that nobody will rig election in Abia. We don’t need Bakassi to do that.” He said he was calling for the Bakassi Boys to work in close partnership with the police. 36
Attitudes of the General Public and the Media
Public attitudes towards the Bakassi Boys have been characterized by contradiction and formed by a combination of fear, despair and helplessness. After suffering years of violent crime, abuses by the security forces, and government inaction, people appeared to have given up expecting the government or the police to provide protection or security. When the Bakassi Boys took on the task of fighting crime, they were hailed as heroes. The overwhelming feeling of many people was relief at being able to “sleep with both eyes closed”-an expression commonly used when describing the “post-Bakassi era.” With the realization that the Bakassi Boys’ methods were sometimes arbitrary, and often brutal, the relief gradually became tinged with fear; however, there is still very little public expression of indignation at the violence used by the Bakassi Boys. A sociology professor accurately summed up the public attitude towards the Bakassi Boys: “People’s tolerance of vigilante groups is very high. It is frightening, even among reasonable people. They complain about extrajudicial executions, yet they support an organization totally dedicated to it.”40
This general acceptance of the Bakassi Boys has permeated many sectors of society. A judge in Anambra described the situation in the following way: “No one challenges Bakassi, no one speaks up. People just talk about executions as if it were something normal. Even the judiciary are accepting the Bakassi; even some lawyers don’t see what’s wrong The general attitude is: what about the rights of people killed by armed robbers? People are afraid to go against this attitude. Even when the Bakassi get an innocent person, people say no, he can’t be innocent otherwise the Bakassi wouldn’t have caught him. Anyone who is hunted by the Bakassi must be guilty. No one asks any questions.”41
Unquestioning acceptance of the Bakassi Boys has been accentuated by the attitude of some sections of the media. Some Nigerian newspapers and magazines have published extensive articles about the actions of the Bakassi Boys, illustrated with explicit photographs of their victims, and sometimes their execution. Much of the media coverage of the activities of the Bakassi Boys has been sensationalist. Journalists have both exposed and glorified vigilante violence, in a confusing mix of praise for the Bakassi Boys and revulsion at their methods.
Some of the articles have verged on propaganda for the Bakassi Boys, perpetuating the myths and fear surrounding their operations. For example, in an article in the Post Express on Saturday, a journalist who visited the Bakassi Boys’ headquarters in Aba wrote: “Today, Aba, perhaps, has the lowest crime rate in Nigeria. While criminals, some of who were chased out of Aba by the ubiquitous Bakassi Boys, have virtually overrun the country, residents [of Aba] now enjoy the luxury of sleeping with both eyes closed. Indeed, one could drop a valuable article at a street corner all day long without it shifting from its position. Woes betide anyone who touches what does not belong to him. No matter where he might run to, the Bakassi Boys will fish him out and punish him accordingly. Punishment could be amputation at the wrist (long sleeve) or at the elbow (short sleeve) or outright death. That crime has taken a flight from Aba may sound unbelievable in the present day Nigeria, but that is the simple truth.”42 Some magazines have also published letters from readers congratulating the Bakassi Boys on their successes.
On the other hand, other journalists have not shied away from exposing the involvement of politicians in the affairs of the Bakassi Boys and have addressed direct questions on this issue to state government authorities.43
5 The term “Bakassi Boys” is used in this report to refer to the main vigilante groups operating in the south-eastern cities since around 1998, including the Onitsha Traders’ Association (OTA), which preceded the Bakassi Boys in Onitsha, and the Bakassi Boys themselves. In the three main states where they currently operate, the Bakassi Boys are now officially called the Abia Vigilante Services, the Anambra Vigilante Services, and the Imo Vigilante Services, but are still commonly referred to as the Bakassi Boys.
6 Unlike the Bakassi Boys, the OPC has been banned by the federal government since 1999. However, it continues to operate in the south-west of Nigeria and enjoys the support of some state government authorities, including the governor of Lagos State. The OPC has been responsible for scores of deaths and is regularly involved in violent clashes with other groups, particularly the Hausa community, as well as the police.
7 CLEEN interviews in Aba, October 2001.
The proliferation of firearms was not due exclusively to the problem of armed robbery. A number of inter-ethnic clashes also gave rise to a situation where different groups began accumulating, and using, a range of arms and ammunition. Many of these weapons are still in circulation.
8 Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, October 7, 2001.
9 Law no.9 – Anambra State Vigilante Services Law, 2000, published in the Anambra State Official Gazette, Awka, August 4, 2000. For further details of the law, see Section III,3 below.
10 Letter from Chuma Nzeribe, State Security Adviser, to the Chairman of the Anambra State Vigilante Group, August 9, 2000.
11 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview in Onitsha, October 12, 2001.
12 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview in Onitsha, October 12, 2001.
13 See, for example, the case of Chief Ezeodumegwu G. Okonkwo, below. The Bakassi Boys from Aba told the victim’s family that they had refused to obey instructions to kill him.
14 See Ifeanyi Ibegbu’s written statement about his arrest and torture, entitled “An account of my ordeal at the hands of the `Onitsha Vigilante Services’ also known as `Bakassi Boys’,” August 28, 2000.
15 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview with Camillus Ebekue, chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, Awka, October 16, 2001.
16 “Nobody can bribe Bakassi Boys”, in the Post Express on Saturday, September 29, 2001.
17 CLEEN interview with Onwuchekwa Ulu, chairman of the Abia Vigilante Services, Aba, October 19, 2001.
18 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview in Onitsha, October 11, 2001.
19 “Nobody can bribe Bakassi Boys”, in the Post Express on Saturday, September 29, 2001.
20 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview with Camillus Ebekue, chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, Awka, October 16, 2001.
21 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview with Camillus Ebekue, chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, Awka, October 16, 2001.
22 “Nobody can bribe Bakassi Boys”, in the Post Express on Saturday, September 29, 2001.
23 Law no.9 – Anambra State Vigilante Services Law, 2000, published in the Anambra State Official Gazette, Awka, August 4, 2000.
24 At the time, the governor’s security adviser was Chuma Nzeribe, who was already reported to be closely involved in the Bakassi Boys’ activities (see details below).
25 Law no.9 – Anambra State Vigilante Services Law, 2000, published in the Anambra State Official Gazette, Awka, August 4, 2000.
26 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview with Commissioner of Police Daniel Anyogo, Awka, October 12, 2001.
27 Human Rights Watch interview with Civil Liberties Organisation, Enugu, October 8, 2001.
28 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interviews with a range of sources, including victims and witnesses of human rights abuses by the Bakassi Boys, human rights activists, lawyers and others, in Onitsha, Enugu, and other locations, October 2001.
29 See in particular Section IV, 1 below.
30 This information was gathered by Human Rights Watch and CLEEN through detailed interviews with former detainees held by the Bakassi Boys and relatives of people killed by the Bakassi Boys. Interviews were conducted in several locations, in particular Onitsha, Awka, Nawgu, and Nnewi, in October 2001.
31 Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, October 8, 2001.
32 Article in The National Interest, December 12, 2000.
33 See “Nigeria’s vigilante justice,” by Stephan Faris, published by MotherJones.com, April 25, 2002.
34 Interview with Chinwoke Mbadinuju in Newswatch magazine (Lagos), May 14, 2001.
35 “Nobody can use Bakassi Boys for political moves – Nzeribe”, in the Weekend Vanguard (Lagos), March 10, 2001.
36 Interview with Orji Kalu in Insider Weekly, July 16, 2001.
37 CLEEN interview with Gilbert Okoye, former chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, Awka, October 18, 2001.
38 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview with Camillus Ebekue, chairman of the Anambra Vigilante Services, Awka, October 16, 2001.
39 CLEEN interview with Onwuchekwa Ulu, chairman of the Abia Vigilante Services, Aba, October 19, 2001.
40 Human Rights Watch interview, Jos, October 6, 2001.
41 Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, October 8, 2001.
42 “Three Hours in the Lion’s Den,” in the Lagos-based Post Express on Saturday, September 29, 2001.
43 See for example interview with Orji Kalu, governor of Abia State, in Insider Weekly, July 16, 2001.
44 Human Rights Watch/CLEEN interview in Onitsha, October 11, 2001.
Governance and Security in Abia State
For several months in 2009 and 2010, armed bandits literary turned Abia State into a Hobbesian state of nature where life was short, nasty and brutish. Aba, the once bustling commercial capital of the state that attracted merchants and buyers from across West Africa became a ghost of itself as its new image as den of kidnappers and robbers repulsed visitors and forced its rich residents to relocate to safer places. The anomie in Abia went largely unnoticed by most Nigerians apart from the hapless residents of the state and residents of neighbouring south-south and south-east states who occasionally visited or travelled through the state.
The nation’s attention had, for some years, largely concentrated on the core states of the Niger Delta where insurgents had virtually crippled Nigeria’s oil industry, which guaranteed the fiscal integrity of the Nigerian federation. The successful take-off of the presidential amnesty for Niger Delta militants in October 2009 was expected to give the nation a breather from shocks associated with countless numbers of hostage-taking and attacks on oil infrastructure. In the celebratory mood of the cessation of hostilities in the core Delta, the Nigerian state apparently appeared reluctant to be drawn into fighting criminals in Abia and some neighbouring south-east states as it reckoned the security threat could be easily handled by the local police.
The federal government was forced to intervene when it became clear to all Nigerians that the matter was beyond the capacity of the police. The insecurity in Abia was catapulted into a national security concern deserving the attention of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces when it was reported that kidnappers had taken hostage a bus load of school pupils and a contingent of Nigerian journalists travelling back to their Lagos base after attending a national executive council meeting of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) at Uyo in neighbouring Akwa Ibom State.7 The armed banditry was brought under control after the president ordered troops into the state. Although the level of criminality was unparalleled this was not the first time that the state and the south-east region had been held hostage by criminals.
In the early 2000s upsurge in incidents of armed robbery virtually crippled commercial activities in Aba until residents took their destinies into their hands by creating Bakassi Boys, a vigilante group that squashed the gangs of robbers. The chequered experience of the state with crime has led some commentators to argue that Abia fondly known as ‘God’s own state’ has transmogrified into the ‘Devil’s own state’.8
In a speech to commemorate the 100 Days of his ‘New’ Administration, which coincided with the 20th anniversary celebrations, Chief Theodore Orji outlined his priority vision as follows:
We have embarked on the creation of a more secured and sustainable environment for the economic growth, investment, and promotion of the ingenious entrepreneurship of our people, and where the protection of our citizens’ lives and property is dominant. We have created synergy with the Military Barrack in Ohafia and the Naval Base in Owerrinta, to provided logistic support to enable these Forces to back the preservation of security and combat crime in our State.
This is because we believe that development can only thrive in the atmosphere of peace and tranquility.9
This puts in bold relief the centrality of security as the key governance challenge of the state. Between 2009 and 2010, the state was held to ransom by bands of dare-devil kidnappers, armed robbers and hired assassins. Worse affected in the state was Aba, the hub of commercial activities in the southeast and south-south zones. The bustling commercial ‘Enyimba City’ was virtually deserted with business closing down and residents relocating in droves.
As a group of concerned citizens rightly observed:
All the major players in the society have left town, houses are padlocked, offices closed, banking activities scaled down, hospitals closed. As we write no single new building is being developed in the entire city. All prominent doctors are gone, all major lawyers are gone, all prominent importers are gone, all prominent industrialists are gone, all major entrepreneurs are gone, and all foreign technical factory experts are gone. No sane person allows any of his or her family members to be posted to Aba any more. Non indigenes are leaving in droves.10
In fact, no department of society was left unscathed as the robbers and kidnappers invaded and desecrated worship centres, schools, hospitals, palaces and highways. Social life was adversely affected as the criminals preyed upon burial, marriage and child naming ceremonies. Against this background, it is not surprising that most of the respondents mentioned criminality especially kidnapping and armed robbery as the main governance challenge facing the state. Other governance challenges mentioned by respondents are unemployment, corruption, inadequate public revenues, Godfather politics and decaying public infrastructures. Although, the state’s unemployment rate (14.5 per cent) is relatively lower than the national average (19%), most respondents felt unemployment levels are very high. The respondents opined that unemployment was a contributing factor to criminality and destitution in the state.
Corruption was also emphasized by most respondents as a major challenge of governance. Although, the state as the 7th largest oil producing state collected less revenue from the Federation Account than its Niger Delta neighbours, there was the perception that the monies collected were not being utilized for the public good. Government officials at all levels were accused of mismanagement and diversion of funds for selfish and political reasons. Many respondents also felt that corruption was exacerbated by the phenomenon of Godfather politics. Some respondents alleged that Godfather politics afflicted the state during the Oji Uzor Kalu administration and in the first tenure of Governor Theodore Orji. Godfather politics is deemed to have undermined good governance because it raised unqualified persons into positions of authority and led to diversion of scarce public resources to servicing of patronage networks. For instance, most residents of Abia believe that Orji fell out with his Godfather and benefactor Kalu because he refused to honour an alleged agreement to transfer substantial proportions of the state’s monthly revenues to service the Kalu family business and political empire.
In the circumstance, respondents said there are little resources left to provide and maintain public infrastructures. For instance, the number of classrooms in secondary schools in the state remained static at 2,628 between 2004 and 2008 amidst increasing enrolment (see National Bureau of Statistics 2009:65).
Governance and Security in Anambra State
Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, politics in Anambra state has been characterized by intrigue, greed, violence, and unhealthy competition. A lot has equally been written about security and governance situation in the State. However, much of the writings (mostly newspaper articles) have been based on anecdotal evidence and tended to account for rising perception of insecurity in the state and governance practices as if they are separate and separable. Until the time of writing, there is no extant empirical attempt to chart the nexus between governance and insecurity in Anambra State with a view to drawing out the necessary implications for policy and advocacy.
In spite of the potentials of Anambra State for rapid socio-economic advancement, FGD participants40 in Awka, Nnewi and Obosi maintained that economic development of the state has been slow as a result of insecurity and crime rates. In order to confirm this, we gathered from key informants41 interviewed in the state capital and Onitsha that Anambra state has been a theatre of armed conflicts in the past notably in Aguleri and Umuleri in early; extra-judicial killings during the era of Bakassi Boys; protracted industrial unrest and labour problems; and unprecedented forms of political instability and tension, and general insecurity. Expectedly, these years of crises were not without adverse effects on governance, socio-economic development and livelihood in the state (KII, Awka: 2011, ASEEDS: 2002). This led to investors moving away from the state and also closure of factories and industries. In 2006, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Core Welfare Indicator Questionnaire (CWIQ) Survey Zonal Summary for South East Nigeria reported that crime and security situation in the entire South East region was worse in the urban areas42.
Analysis of 2011 edition of the annual National Crime and Safety Survey conducted by the CLEEN Foundation indicate that violent crimes such as attempted/armed robbery (24%), domestic violence (12%), physical assault (11%) and attempted/kidnapping (8%) and attempted/murder (5%) are high in Anambra State (Table 3.5). However, the number one crime in the state is theft of mobile phone (35%). Participants at both the FGDs and KII expressed disappointment at the inability of security agencies adequately to guarantee their safety and security needs. One of the civil society spokesperson and a university don in the state expressed stated:
Anambra state was among the first in the southeast region to experience the gradual take-over of security by vigilante groups following the failure of the formal state security agencies to provide security as armed robbers and other criminal activities virtually took over control of key commercial centres and towns like Onitsha, Nnewi, and the state capital Awka43
Incidentally, these towns (Onitsha, Nnewi, and Awka) are known for having extensive illegal and unregulated building patterns. Buildings are put up in these areas without regard to existing building and health codes or zoning and sub-division regulations – thus creating slum and squatter conditions in which hoodlums reside in44. According to the United Nation Habitat (2002), slums create the conditions for poor health and insecurity and are the most visible forms of poverty in the city. Regrettably, the cities have been described as sprawling slums of chaos and disorder as well as converging centers for jobless youth from other South East states that most times pretend to be engaged in buying and selling, but are involve in criminal activities45.
In spite of these security challenges, Anambra State compared to other states in the southeast region is the second state where most victims of crime in the region are resident. However, one of the respondents in Onitsha opined that:
Crime is everywhere. Incidence of crime or violence could be higher in Onitsha than other parts of Anambra owing to its commercial nature and dense population. In like manner, there could be more security challenges in Anambra than Enugu and because of same reason of commerce and dense population…46
On the other hand, the result of the 2011 National Crime and Safety Survey conducted by CLEEN Foundation unraveled that 11% of Abia, Enugu and Imo state residents respectively admit that they have at some point in 2010 became victims of crime while 45% of Ebonyi and 29% of residents Anambra said they have also fallen victim of crime in the region (Table 3.6). This implies that Ebonyi state has the highest crime rate in the region followed by Anambra then the other three states. This is probably the basis of the assertion by one of the points a respondent who attributed rising crime rates in Onitsha to influx of Ebonyi indigenes in Onitsha.
Historical standpoint of majority of the key informants interviewed and participants of the focus group discussions confirms that one of the first responses to security challenge in the Anambra State was the introduction of Bakassi Boys led by Late Chuks Anah who was former chairman of Onitsha North Government Area. For them, the Bakassi Boys helped a great deal to curb the crime rate in Onitsha and the state in general. The Government of Chinwoke Mbadinuju took over the Bakassi Boys and extended their services to the entire state58. The study further unravelled that:
The Bakassi Boys achieved great results initially but could not manage its successes as it drifted into civil matters, including family and land disputes, unlawful arrest, and detention in some cases, extra-judicial execution of suspects59
Unfortunately, the politicization of the outfit and its alleged involvements in politically motivated killings led to its proscription alongside other ethnic militias and vigilante groups in the country on the orders of the Federal Government. The exit of the Bakassi created a vacuum, which eventually resulted to criminals taking over the streets of Onitsha and Anambra at large60.
Another major response to the security challenge has been from faith-based organizations (FBOs). Apart from organizing prayer sessions for members and the state, the groups have also engaged in value re-orientation of their adherents, away from materialism, which they said is the bane of corruption and criminality. The FBOs also organize youth empowerment, seminars and workshops through which many young people are equipped to be selfemployed61.
Governance and Security in Ebonyi State
Although very few respondents believed crime is unavoidable and not dependent on government, a vast proportion of our respondents hold the view that an inseparable linkage exists between governance and security challenges in Ebonyi State. Most of our respondents shared the view that unaccountable governance breeds insecurity in the state, as many youths are unemployed, while some sections of state are aggrieved for being neglected, marginalized and persecuted. In sum, the spate of political thuggery, kidnapping, cultism and youth restiveness, border disputes and conflicts among the various communities are typical of the security challenges, which are attributed to bad governance in Ebonyi state.
In fact, the greatest security challenge facing Ebonyi state is unemployment and its related youth restiveness. Unemployment is perceived as a consequence of bad governance. Another serious challenge facing the state and which is attributed to bad governance is the Ezza-Eziulo intractable communal clash, which has lingered on for a while. Some respondents shared the view that the conflict escalated due to government’s misunderstanding and mishandling of the matter. The resurgence of violence on the 31st December 2011 is attributed to lack of transparency, justice, equity and fairness on the part of the government in settling the feud necessitating the Ezzas not only to take the government to court but to have also organized, as alleged, the reprisal attack against the Ezilos. So, the findings of this study provide empirical support for our hypothesis about the relationship between governance and security challenges.
Other challenges identified by Ebonyians include intimidation, harassment and wanton arrest and detention by the police, and armed robbery. In line with the general perception of human rights violations by the police in Nigeria, most Ebonyians are victims of these violations by the police. Finally, the study found that government’s insensitivity was considered a security challenge. Reflecting on perceived insensitivity of the government, a FGD participant in Abakaliki said:
The current government has stopped commercial motorcyclist from operating on dual carriageways in the state capital and restricted their activities to daytime. The previous government did not do that.
It is not easy to survive but what can a man do? The government did not make any alterative provision for we the motorcycle riders. The government said we should only start operation by 6.am and end by 7.pm. people. The government of Sam Egwu didn’t do this. But what can one do? 84.
Another participant in the FGD in Abakaliki said:
…Look at how the government taskforces are pursuing artisans, seizing and destroying our goods. They have destroyed our shops alleging that they are illegal structures. No compensation for the damages unlike the previous government. The previous government believed in ‘live and let live’…You can see (referring to the researcher and his assistant) what the government task force is doing to we the artisans.85
Governance and Security in Enugu State
To understand the contemporary governance and security situation in Enugu State, it is pertinent to reflect on the past and to use that as the backdrop against which the current situation can be analyzed. In this context, we asked the respondents to assess the governance and security situation in Enugu State in the past and at present. Majority of the respondents believe that there is an improvement in the governance and security situation of Enugu State compared with the situation in the past. Although there is no standard definition of the “present” and “past”, nearly all respondents conceptualized “past” and “present” in terms of the political regimes in the state. For them, the transition from the administration of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani (May 1999 to May 2007) to that of Governor Sullivan Chime (May 2007 till date) has marked a significant improvement in the security and governance situation in Enugu State.
Most respondents see improvements in the governance of Enugu State, particularly in the area of provision of infrastructure. For instance, a youth leader in one of the communities noted that: “the present administration did well in its first tenure [2007-2011], they did a lot of things for this community, they built a health centre for this community, they tarred some of our roads, they dug bore-holes for the community and they did lots of other things that I cannot mention now”96. Another respondent assessed the governance situation in Enugu State in terms of the level of the people’s participation in public affairs. The respondent argued that the governance situation in Enugu State has improved:
Today, things seem better because people are freer to express their views without the fear of harassment and intimidation, because the present administration is more accountable than the past administration and it has been carrying the people along in its programs, policies and projects97. Interview with FA EN, 23 August 2011. 98 See Final report of the Visit Every Community (VEC) project of Enugu State Government, 200999. Interview with FA EN, 23 August 2011. This view reflects on-going reforms in the state’s budgeting process. The State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) programme, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has enhanced the capacity of community members and civil society organizations to participate in the budgeting process. The programme is also strengthening the capacity of state institutions such as the state Economic Planning Commission to develop and implement annual budgets. As part of its efforts to involve community members in the budgeting process, Enugu State government initiated the Visit Every Community (VEC) project in January 2009 to help the government identify the key development needs of the 471 communities in the state and include these in the budget98.
With regards to security, majority of the respondents also believe that the security situation in Enugu State has improved since 2007 following observable decline in rate of political violence and gang related crimes in the state. In the words of one respondent:
The previous administration in the state used some people with questionable character as thugs while attempting to get into power and after a while these people became security threats to the state when the government could not take care of them anymore. But when the present administration came into power it sanitized the system and also empowered the security operatives in order for them to carry out their duties effectively99.
To provide insights into the issues that shaped the security situation in Enugu State before 2007, it is pertinent to offer some background information about political affairs in the state. In the build up to the 1999 transition from military to civil rule, a group of political power brokers from all parts of Nigeria formed various political parties and selected their cronies to run for governorship elections in states. The political power brokers who were later known popularly as “political godfathers” used their political and financial resources as well as their capacity to mete out violence to ensure that their cronies won elections.
However, a few months later, these cronies installed as governors began to prove that they have their own minds, and many of the governors used their positions to build their own political machines and to challenge their godfathers. Governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State (1999-2007), in particular, fell out with his godfather, former Governor of old Anambra State in the Second Republic, Chief Jim Nwobodo. Darren Kew (2004: 144) recounted the events of that period in this way: “By 2002, Enugu State was an armedcamp divided between the two factions, and the state assembly was closed after Nwobodo supporters tried to impeach Nnamani”. Nwobodo and his supporters used their political resources, including the use of violence, to make Enugu State ungovernable for Nnamani. In response, Governor Nnamani mobilized anyone who was willing to follow him, including a number of notable politicians, ambitious young politicians, commercial motorcycle operators (Okada riders), and members of university secret cults, unemployed youths and the rural poor. In the hostility that followed, Nnamani employed brute violence to root out Nwobodo and his supporters from Enugu State. After Nwobodo retreated and Nnamani slowed down his sponsorship of violence, the members of the gangs and cult groups that participated in the fight now turned against the people, using the arms and weapons they had acquired from the political warlords to commit crimes such as rape, armed robbery and kidnapping. In all, the political violence triggered by the disagreement between Governor Nnamani and Chief Nwobodo compounded the security challenges facing Enugu State.
Governance and Security in Imo State
All tiers of government in Nigeria are guided by the fundamental objectives and directive principles of State Policy enshrined in the constitution. Under this fundamental objectives and directive principles, the government of Imo State has adopted the following development objectives:
• The security of lives and property of the citizens, and the overall welfare of the people, is the utmost and primary purpose/function of government.
• Effectively harness the resources of the State, promote internal prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self reliant economy.
• Control of state economy in such a manner to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
• The promotion of a well planned and balanced economic development.
• The material/natural resources of the State are harnessed and effectively distributed as best as possible to serve the common good of the people.
• The economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of State wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.
• Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
• The National ethics adopted by the government shall be discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self reliance and patriotism (Imo Tripod Vision, 2006).
Majority of the discussants and key informants believe past government in Imo State performed poorly in governance and security in Imo State. The past governments refer to political regimes in the State, notably that of Chief Achike Udenwa (May 1999 – May 2007) and Chief Ikedi Ohakim (May 2007 – May 2011).
Most discussants indicated deficits in governance of Imo State, in terms of provision of jobs and infrastructural development. Governor Udenwa (May 1999– May 2007) contributed immensely toward road constructions that linked many places in Imo State; Governor Ohakim (May 2007 – May 2011) established the Imo State Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA), which was eventually criticized for not working most of the roads it claimed. It hired almost all equipped and machinery for its work and paid considerable amount of money on borrowed capital. The general perception is that IRROMA was designed to siphon public funds and that explains its dissolution by the current governor (Chief Okorocha) and its duties subsumed under the Ministry of Works. Almost all the discussants and key informants were of the view that most existing infrastructural facilities in Imo State were provided by Governor Mbakwe (the Second Republic Governor). He attracted the few existing
UNICEF – Assisted water projects in some communities. Most of the residents
of the state currently depend on privately-owned water-boreholes, streams
and ponds for water household and industrial consumption. This is in spite of funds budgeted annually for water provision. For instance, the people of
Okigwe do not have water though late President Umaru Yar’adua
commissioned the Okigwe Regional Water Project in 2008. As a key informant
There are certain projects that the past governments executed
which have really impacted on the lives of the people, such as
rural areas, the state secretariat and certain infrastructural
development. But unfortunately, some of these projects are
now very big challenge to the present day government…
because most of the roads, most of certain infrastructure have
collapsed. Those who led Imo state, especially under the
leadership of Sam Mbakwe, laid a foundation that really satisfied
the people. But some of those foundations are being broken
now. So, the major challenge that is facing the current Governor
(Rochas Okorocha) even the governors after Sam Mbakwe is
that of living up to expectation and making sure that all these
foundations laid by the founders of Imo State are not allowed
to decay and collapse.114.
Governor Mbakwe built several roads and established basic infrastructures in
various places in Imo State. These include enterprises such as Avutu Poultry,
Obowo; Adapalm (with plantations at Ohaji and Mbaise); Standard Shoe
Factory, Owerri; Amaraku Power Station (which provided an alternative
electricity supply to the National Electric Power Authority, (NEPA); the
Aluminium Extrusion Company (ALEX), Inyishi as well as encouraged cottage
industries, all of which provided job opportunities to several school leavers
and graduate youths. There is consensus amongst both key informants and
discussants that most of the above – mentioned enterprises are either moribund
and have been privatized with numerous workers laid-off from work, thus
aggravating severe unemployment in Imo State.
Job creation in Imo state is seemingly a challenge as the governors after Chief
Mbakwe did not give it any considerable attention. As summarized by a key
Most of the youths have no job. If the government
can assist to create job for us; if government can bring
companies to us there would not be any problem. In
all, there is problem actually.115
Specifically, Iwuonu Ikenna, special adviser on media to the Speaker, Imo
State House of Assembly, remarked that Governor Ohakim did not build or
rehabilitate any industry to provide jobs to the unemployed youths in Imo
state.116 He established the Imo Job Centre, which towards the end of his
leadership in 2010 claimed to have given 10,000 jobs to unemployed persons
in the State. Most respondents claimed that the job scheme was a scam.
Moreover, the unemployment situation in the state is worsened by the fact
that most wealthy Imolites (that is, Imo indigenes) cannot establish their
industrial or manufacturing enterprises in the State, due to constraints of bad
roads, poor electricity supply and insecurity in the State. As an FGD discussant
Our sons find it extremely difficult and risky to site
and establish their meaningful business ventures in Imo
State, because of the fear of insecurity, unsteady
electricity, bad roads and lack of basic amenities.117
This point is confirmed by a youth leader who said:
Due to insecurity, some of our wealthy relatives don’t
set up industries in Imo state … Doing business in
Okigwe is very expensive, due to lack of electricity. Lack
See, The Untold Story: Aba in the hands of kidnap militia’, https://saharareporters.com/report/
untold-story-aba-firm-grip-kidnap-militia accessed on 2 October 2010.
8 See, ‘Abia: Shame of Igboland!’, https://www.elombah.com/index.php/1/hi/world/
catid=3:newsflash accessed on 11 November 2011. The irony of the name was first raised
in 2009 when it was alleged that the new governor had sworn oath of allegiance to his benefactor in
a shrine. See, ‘Abia: No longer God’s own state’ https://saharareporters.com/article/abia-no-longergod%
E2%80%99s-own-state accessed on 15 October 2011.
9 ‘Speech presented by Chief T.A. Orji (Ochendo)Governor of Abia State on the occasion of the
grand finale of the 20th anniversary celebrations of creation of Abia State at Umuahia Township
Stadium on 8th September 2011’ accessed at
https://www.abiastate.gov.ng/2011/09/a-speech-presented-by-his-excellency/ on October 15, 2011.
10 Save Abia Now Group ‘The Aba Time Bomb’ accessed at https://www.elombah.com/
catid=25:politics&Itemid=92 on October 5, 2011.
43 KII, Awka, 30/08/11 and 31/08/11
45See United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), 2009, titled “Structure
Plan for Awka and Satellite”
57 This is the view of most of participants during the FGD conducted in Nnewi for women group, 14
58 The analysis capture the view point as most of the respondents regards response to security
challenges in the state. Data from KIIs, Akwa/Nnewi/Onistha, August – October, 2011; FGDs,
Awka/Nnewi/Obosi, September, 2011
61 KII, Onitsha, 31/08/11
62 KII, Awka, 23/08/11
63 This is the summary of security issue observed during the field work on August, 17, 2011 when
4 P5 FGD from Abakaliki.
85 P9 FGD Abakaliki
96 Interview with CU IB, 18 August 2011.
115 IDI, Youth Leader <President, Youth Group> Okigwe
116 Announcer Express, August, 29 – 30, 2011.
117 FGD, Unorganized Group, Woman, Umuna-Orlu
there was crisis at the electronics market in Onitsha now, community based organizations (CBOs) like town unions were not
officially recognized. The Peter Obi administration recognized the body as a
tool for development and allocates funds to the town unions through the
Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU), which in turn funds
the activities of vigilant groups. The functional town unions have been
proactive in securing their communities (FGD, Nnewi: 2011). For instance,
Nnewi, town unions are very strong and effective. Here, we observed the
meeting of “Izukaora” that is, the general town union meeting of Nnewi
people. The union assists in the funding of the vigilante. It also sensitizes
indigenes and business people to pay their taxes and rates when due. Also in
Nnewi, there is a meeting of “ndi obia (non-indigenes) and also meeting of
“ndi obodo (indigenes)”. It is at these meetings that the issues of governance
and security are discussed (KII, Nnewi: 2011). There is also the joint meeting
of ‘ndi obodo’ and ‘ndi obia’, which provides avenue for ‘ndi obia’ to lay their
complaints and actually receive favourable response to their problems64. These
efforts contribute in improving people’s perception of safety and security in
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES BY THE BAKASSI BOYS
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