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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid