News / Africa

Civilian Armed Groups Fight Crime, Wreak Havoc in Niger Delta

Heather Murdock
Niger Delta authorities say civilian armed groups with no formal training are working with Nigerian security forces to quell a spate of violent crimes and kidnappings.  Some locals say these groups can be as dangerous as the criminals they hunt.
 
Nigeria's Niger Delta regionNigeria's Niger Delta region
x
Nigeria's Niger Delta region
Nigeria's Niger Delta region
The Niger Delta region has all of Nigeria’s oil, which comprises the vast majority of the country’s budget.  With all that oil there is also a lot of money.  But in this land of riches, most people live off of less than $1 a day.

The result is high crime - especially kidnappings for ransom, armed robbery and oil theft.  And while security forces try to bring down the crime levels, civilian armed groups are now authorized by the government to do the job.

In Delta State, Monday Okwoserie heads about 80 groups that are composed of between 20 and 200 men each.  He says armed robberies have decreased dramatically since they have been on patrol.  But, he adds, kidnappings now plague wealthy Niger Delta families on a nearly daily basis.

“The latest crime now is kidnapping.  We are fighting against kidnapping.  We want to reduce it by all means.”

In early December, 83-year-old Kamene Okonjo, the mother of Nigeria’s finance minister and the wife of a traditional king in the Niger Delta, was abducted from her palace, prompting many people to say that no one is safe.  

Gabriel Asakene, a security consultant in Delta State, says the civilian armed groups have made the streets safer in some places where security forces are overstretched.
“They are supposed to guide and protect the citizenry in that particular locality. 

Actually, the role they are supposed to play is to maintain peace for that particularly place," he said. "To see that there’s no sign of robbery, thieves and the rest of them.”

He says, however, little oversight of the groups, sometimes known as bakassi, means they can act like thugs, beating up people and demanding thousands of Nigerian naira, the local currency.

“An incident that happened not that long ago in my area: Some bakassi came and arrested some group of boys and they got home and beaten up.  And in the end they were instructed to be settling themselves with some 15,000, some 8,000 [Nigerian naira],” he said.

Asakene says local people often fear the bakassi, and that fear alone prevents some crimes.  

Okwoserie, the Delta State head of the civilian armed groups, denies accusations that his men extort cash or beat up alleged offenders, saying arrestees are always turned in to the authorities.

Police in Delta State, home to roughly 13 percent of the people in the region, say they have arrested 450 kidnappers and rescued 80 victims in 2012, with most of the incidents taking place in the first half of the year.  But analysts say when people are kidnapped, they often do not call the police because they are more likely to go free if they just pay a ransom.

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More