As the elections approach, political violence has increased across Nigeria. In a small number of high profile cases, there have been arrests, but the vast majority of cases of political violence have not led to prosecutions. Over the last couple of years, a great deal of violence was associated with jockeying for position within the political parties. The conduct of local government primaries for the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), organized at the state level, resulted in many conflicts, causing countless deaths, injuries and damage to property, and stoking resentment and hostility among the candidates and their supporters. Now, with their feelings already running high, many of the same politicians will face each other again in the general elections after some candidates who lost in the primaries moved into other political parties. In large part, the latest violence has pitted politicians and supporters of the PDP of President Olusegun Obasanjo against the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) led by Mohammed Buhari, the president's main challenger, though other parties have also been involved. Killings of high profile politicians have continued apace, worsening citizens' confidence in the political system even in areas that have not been directly affected by political clashes.
The reports of political violence are so numerous that Human Rights Watch cannot verify whether every incident was in fact politically motivated. Undoubtedly a political motive is sometimes groundlessly ascribed to crimes because it heightens the interest of a story in the media, especially in cases of targeted killings. In any event, the sheer number of cases being reported leaves little doubt that political violence poses a grave danger to the rights of Nigerians across the country, as well as to the prospects for a violence-free election. As an illustration of the frequency of reported cases, a non-exhaustive search of electronic media outlets over a two-week period in early March 2003 yielded the following results:5
ˇ Early March - Sokoto: PDP/ANPP clash between armed supporters.6
ˇ March 2 - Enugu: ANPP gubernatorial candidate petitions police regarding telephone calls threatening assassination if he does not give up his bid.7
ˇ March 3 - Ebonyi: State chairman for the ANPP reports shooting attack on him while in vehicle.8
ˇ March 4 - Rivers: Explosion damages medical clinic owned by secretary to the state government.9
ˇ March 4 - Edo: At least one person killed in PDP/ANPP clash after PDP state governor's campaign convoy is attacked; bus and several houses burnt.10
ˇ March 4 - Ekiti: State ANPP leader dies of injuries from acid attack in late December.11
ˇ March 5 - Abuja: Marshall Harry, ANPP Vice Chairman for the South-South Zone, shot dead in his Abuja residence.12
ˇ March 6 - Cross Rivers: Several supporters injured and four cars vandalized in attack on ANPP senatorial candidate's convoy.13
ˇ March 7 - Abuja: Protest against Plateau State governor comes under attack by state government thugs, leading to several injuries and destruction of vehicles.14
ˇ March 10, 11 - Kebbi: PDP/ANPP clash in which two reported seriously injured, eleven homes burned, fifty-three people arrested.15
ˇ March 11-12 - Lagos: Seven people feared dead in PDP/Alliance for Democracy (AD) clash.16
ˇ March 13 and subsequent two weeks - Delta: Scores of people reported killed in Okerenkoko and other villages around Warri following clashes between Ijaws and Itsekiris in dispute over additional electoral wards in Warri, and clashes between Ijaws and the military.
ˇ March 13 - Imo: State officials announce armed attacks on residences of deputy governor and secretary to state government.17
ˇ March 14 - Ondo: Convoy of Gani Fawehinmi, presidential candidate for National Conscience Party (NCP), seriously injuring his driver.18
ˇ March 15 - Oyo: At least seven injured after attack on AD supporters at governor's campaign rally.19
ˇ March 15,16 - Kebbi: At least 200 homes burned during PDP/ANPP clash.20
In some cases, political violence has been carried out in locations where violent conflict was already a problem. This has been the case in parts of the Niger delta, for example, and in central states such as Taraba, Benue, and Plateau that have experienced scores of violent inter-communal clashes over the last few years, the elections appear to be creating a new reason for fighting. In July 2002, two people in Taraba were reportedly killed and twenty injured in inter-factional disputes at the PDP primaries.21 In Benue, a conflict between the PDP and the ANPP on February 18, 2003, led to at least seven deaths in Jato-Aka, the home town of the ANPP's gubernatorial candidate Paul Unongo as well as of the governor's special adviser on political affairs, Orya Korinjo. The crisis was apparently triggered by the killing of a guard at a hotel owned by Paul Unongo. According to media and other accounts, the guard was killed by PDP supporters, although a representative of the government claimed he was killed by infighting among ANPP thugs who then used the killing as an excuse to begin attacking PDP supporters. Unongo's supporters responded by attacking PDP members in Jato-Aka. ANPP supporters attacked and killed Korinjo's elderly father with machetes and burned his home. At least four other PDP supporters were reportedly killed, and several other homes destroyed. Again accounts vary as to whether this was strictly a reprisal attack or whether there was fighting between the two groups. In a press statement in early March, the police announced that ten people had been charged with arson and conspiracy to commit murder, and that three others, including local PDP and ANPP politicians, were wanted by police in connection with the killing.22
Even in the North, which has experienced less political violence, there have been reports of clashes between the PDP and the ANPP. In the remote northern state of Kebbi, police reported that two people were seriously injured, eleven homes burned, and fifty-three people arrested following inter-party clashes on March 10 and 11.23 In neighboring Sokoto State, PDP and ANPP members reportedly got into a dispute in early March over the destruction of political posters and paraphernalia of the opposing camp. While police said no one was seriously injured, "one thing led to the other, and police started using dangerous weapons, ranging from knives to cutlasses."24 Disturbing reports of politically motivated violence continue to emerge from across Nigeria.
In these case studies, politicians or their close political supporters have been responsible for committing violence for political ends. In most of the cases, there has been little or no progress in bringing the perpetrators to justice. It is worth repeating that the cases presented below or described elsewhere in this report do not begin to exhaustively describe all incidents of political violence in Nigeria, or even in the states under study.
a. Ogbolomabiri, Bayelsa State: Political violence and armed youths in oil-producing areas
In Nembe local government area (LGA), dozens of people were reported killed in a political conflict in Ogbolomabiri, a part of Nembe town, in July 2002.25 Fighting first broke out in Nembe on July 5, 2002, the day of the local primaries for the PDP, the national ruling party as well as the party of the Bayelsa State governor. Conflict in Bayelsa at the time of the PDP primaries was not limited to Nembe; the Ijaw Council for Human Rights (ICHR), a local human rights organization, also documented outbreaks of violence in Brass and Ogbia LGAs.26 The fighting in Nembe occurred between two rival youth groups, whose patrons were Bayelsa politicians eager to secure the vote in Ogbolomabiri for their respective political factions. Many residents fled the town. On July 20, another serious spate of violence occurred as the group that had been ousted on July 5 returned to reclaim its previous position of authority. Thereafter, some residents returned to the town, though many have stayed away. When they spoke with Human Rights Watch researchers in February 2003, many residents believed that violence was likely to break out again at the general elections.
Nembe has been aptly described as a semi-republic within Nigeria. A town isolated by water and lack of infrastructure in the creeks of the Niger Delta, the town of Nembe has been effectively ruled for around the last ten years by so-called youth groups, and their patrons, with little direct intervention from government. Those in control of the town also control the relatively lucrative relationship with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), which operates one of the most productive wells in West Africa in the Nembe area.27 Recently, fighting has occurred between two youth groups based within Ogbolomabiri.28 Chief Lionel Jonathan, who in July 2002 was Commissioner for Environment under Bayelsa State Governor Alamieyeseigha and director of the governor's re-election campaign organization, is the patron of one of these groups, the Isongo-furo. Throughout the mid- to late-nineties, Jonathan controlled Ogbolomabiri through the Isongo-furo group, which ruled through violence and intimidation. According to testimonies of local residents, the Isongo-furo had openly displayed arms when they were in control of the town.
Because Lionel Jonathan had proven his political control of Ogbolomabiri in the 1999 elections, Governor Alamieyeseigha brought him into the state PDP government as a commissioner. 29 Jonathan's Isongo-furo continued to control Ogbolomabiri until they were finally chased out in May 2000 by a rival youth group, the Isenasawo (also known as the Teme), which was supported by most of the local chiefs. Isenasawo's principal patron was Chief Nimi B.P. Barigha-Amange, legal advisor to the Ogbolomabiri Chiefs' Council and a prominent member of the PDP since 1999, when he managed President Obasanjo's campaign in Bayelsa.30 In the May 2000 conflict, at least two Isongo-furo members were killed and dozens of others were detained in Ogbolomabiri and beaten by the Isenasawo.31 Other members of Isongo-furo escaped to the cities of Port Harcourt and Yenagoa; some were lodged in Government House (the state governor's office) while others stayed in hotels at the expense of Bayelsa politicians who were members of Isongo-furo and supporters of Governor Alamieyeseigha.32 Isenasawo effectively banned members of Isongo-furo, including Lionel Jonathan, from returning to Ogbolomabiri.
Although they were at first greeted as liberators of Ogbolomabiri, according to some accounts the Isenasawo adopted some of the harsh tactics of the Isongo-furo as well,33 and violence erupted between competing factions of the Isenasawo.34 With pressure from the state government, the community eventually agreed to allow the Isongo-furo members back into Ogbolomabiri. But events in Ogbolomabiri at the PDP local primaries in July 2002 showed the instability of the truce that had been reached.
On July 5, 2002, local primaries for the PDP were scheduled to take place in Nembe LGA. At that time, both Chief Lionel Jonathan and Chief Barigha-Amange were PDP members. Jonathan was eager to secure Ogbolomabiri for Governor Alamieyeseigha and his supporters, while PDP members in the opposing faction wanted to prevent the state government from imposing its own candidates. Some Ogbolomabiri residents reported that leaders of the anti-governor faction in Ogbolomabiri had decided that the community would boycott the primary because they believed that regardless of the outcome on the ballots, the election results would inevitably be determined by the state governor.
On the morning of July 5, the election materials for Nembe arrived in Bassambiri, reportedly brought by a helicopter owned by one of the locally-operating oil companies and delivered at Catering Resthouse, a slightly isolated location in Bassambiri. Around twenty-five members of Chief Amange's faction were sent across the small waterway to Bassambiri to collect the ballot papers intended for Ogbolomabiri. (According to one member of Chief Amange's faction, the group intended only to observe the process that was followed.35) The group included the local PDP chairman and several Isenasawo members.36
Residents reported that Lionel Jonathan had been present in Ogbolomabiri in the course of the same morning and had a confrontation with the Chiefs' Council at a community center where the chiefs and Ogbolomabiri residents had gathered. According to one eyewitness, Lionel Jonathan was asked to respond to accusations that he was planning an attack on the town that day, and Jonathan responded that he owed no respect to the Council and that there would be "war" that day. A thirty-one year old young man named Erefegha Fredrick Sata-Owugha intervened and told Jonathan he should speak more respectfully to the chiefs, according to the same witness.37 Early the next morning, Sata-Owugha was pulled out of his home by members of Isongo-furo and shot; he later died in the hospital.38
Around mid-day on July 5, after the group from Ogbolomabiri had arrived in Bassambiri to collect the election materials, Ogbolomabiri residents reported that they heard gunshots, and the group that had gone to collect the materials made quick calls back to Ogbolomabiri to report that they had come under attack, with broken bottles and sticks. They were told to return to Ogbolomabiri as quickly as possible. One young man, a speedboat driver who was in the group sent from Ogbolomabiri to Bassambiri, reported that some youths from Bassambiri started beating them, and that most of the group, which was unarmed and not prepared for attack, ran off. A friend from Bassambiri helped him escape across the water in a speedboat, back to the jetty on the Ogbolomabiri side.
I was trying to reach Chief Amange's place to see if the other boys had made it back. When I reached his place I saw Isongo-furo, so I ran into a nearby house. The women in there were wives of Isongo-furo, so I ran out again. They saw me and pursued me back to the waterside; I jumped into the water and swam under the toilets. [Community toilets are built on a wooden frame out over the edge of the water in Ogbolomabiri.] I stayed there about two hours, but was getting tired so I decided to swim over to Okipiri, [a third island near Ogbolomabiri and Bassambiri]. As I was about to touch ground, a boat came up with about four Isongo-furo. I knew two of them. The others I knew were Isongo-furo, too, because they had red cloth tied around their head, which [people believe] should make them bulletproof. They'd followed me across in a speedboat. They asked me to get into their speedboat, and said that I would never drive one again. They cut off my left arm and it fell into the water. They cut my right arm too but it didn't come off. They carried me back to Ogbolomabiri in the boat, while they were threatening to kill me. I fainted soon after that. The next time I woke up, there were different Isongo-furo people there, and they took me to a clinic in Bassambiri. The next morning my own people took me to a hospital in Port Harcourt, where I stayed a month.39
Because the Isongo-furo and Isenasawo are both from Ogbolomabiri, it was not uncommon that close relatives might be members of competing groups, which might explain why the young man was taken to the hospital by some members of Isongo-furo, even though he was in the opposing group. Members of Isongo-furo might make pleas to the Isongo-furo leadership, on behalf of their own family or friends, to allow them to escape, as reportedly happened in the case of Sata-Owugha, the young man who was killed by Isongo-furo after confronting Lionel Jonathan. A family member told Human Rights Watch that Sata-Owugha's uncle, a member of Isongo-furo, had gotten permission from Lionel Jonathan himself to take Sata-Owugha to the hospital in Yenagoa, and that after he died, they had again gotten permission from Jonathan to bury the body in Ogbolomabiri.40 These cases highlight the tragedy of a town, and even families, torn violently down the middle by political factions that have no ideological difference. One older man whose nephew was killed in the fighting told us, "I wasn't that disturbed by his death because he was Isongo-furo."41
The first cousin of a seventeen-year-old boy, Tepe Michael, reported that Tepe, a member or follower of Isenasawo, was killed by a stray bullet in Bassambiri on July 5.42 Though fighting first broke out in Bassambiri, the main fighting that day occurred in Ogbolomabiri. Taken unawares, the residents of Ogbolomabiri first thought that they were under attack by Bassambiri youths, but later concluded that just a small number of Bassambiri youths had joined forces with the Isongo-furo for the initial attack in Bassambiri. According to the current president of the Isenasawo youth, the Isongo-furo were the main attacking force, and succeeded in taking over the town on July 5.
We didn't know what to do. We saw boys with guns and asked them what was happening. At first they didn't answer, they just ran away from us. But soon we heard gunshots from inside our town; that's when we decided the Isongo-furo and Bassambari boys had conspired to fight us. They killed three people from our organization, Isenasawo, that day: Afonbara Owugha, Opu [Daumunabo], and Ayebaye Aaron. There was a wake-keeping that day [unrelated to this crisis], and people had come from all over; several of them were also killed. The Isongo-furo had hired men with them, too; they would just kill anyone that didn't have their sign. They had a kind of identity card, and red cloth tied around their foreheads and arms.43
The man who had been holding the wake-keeping in Ogbolomabiri on July 5 reported that Blessing Ebiteinye, a young woman from his mother's village, was visiting for the funeral and was killed.44 In a submission to the State Security Services on July 14, 2002, Chief Amange identified nine people among his "strong supporters" who had been confirmed dead.45
It is unclear to what extent the Isenasawo participated actively in the violence before finally retreating. A group of the Isenasawo escaped on foot, sent at least two of their group members with bullet wounds to get first aid in nearby villages, and with the help of Chief Amange eventually regrouped the next afternoon in the town of Odiema.46
The role played by the police in the violence on July 5 was unclear. Several witnesses reported that around forty-five or fifty mobile police had been sent to Nembe especially for the primary;47 one witness stated that they were in the company of Lionel Jonathan on the morning of July 5.48 Some reported that the mobile police, including one who was from the Nembe area, fought alongside the Isongo-furo, while another witness reported seeing them in boats, shooting into the air. Whether or not the mobile police actually participated in the violence, witnesses agreed that they did not contain it. All witnesses also agreed that the regular police of Nembe remained out of sight during the violence. The fighting died down only when the Isenasawo had abandoned the area and other residents were hiding in their homes or had escaped.
According to accounts from Isenasawo members, the Isenasawo regrouped and made plans to reenter Ogbolomabiri town on July 20, 2002. The fighting on that day lasted around three and a half hours, and in the end the Isenasawo succeeded in chasing out the Isongo-furo.49 Although there were few neutral witnesses of the events of July 20 to be found in Ogbolomabiri, one witness reported the Isenasawo were fighting with guns and rifles. Given the previous firepower they claimed to have faced from the Isongo-furo and the relatively easy flow of weapons in the Niger delta area, even those sympathetic to the Isenasawo acknowledged it was extremely unlikely they would have entered Ogbolomabiri and successfully chased out the Isongo-furo had they not been adequately armed. (The Isenasawo claim to have first entered the town with knives, cutlasses and sticks, but then to have seized some guns, rifles and ammunition from the Isongo-furo once the fighting had begun. They also claim that, after the fighting, they turned these guns over to the police.)50
According to the ICHR report, based on a visit to Ogbolomabiri shortly after these events, about thirty people were killed in the reprisal attack of July 20.51 A leader of Isenasawo reported that two members of Isenasawo and at least four of its supporters were killed on July 20,52 and it is likely that many more deaths occurred on the side of the Isongo-furo. A former member of Isongo-furo claimed that at least seventeen members of Isongo-furo, and between thirty and fifty total, were killed on July 20. He also said that Isenasawo had warned the town by letter, in advance of the July 20 attack, that anyone found in the town would be considered a supporter of Isongo-furo. This warning could explain why many people had fled the town by July 20.
Ogbolomabiri since July 2002
Human Rights Watch researchers visited Ogbolomabiri in February 2003 but were unable to speak with any representatives of the Isongo-furo there because the youth group had been effectively banned from returning to the community.53 Virtually all the Ogbolomabiri residents we spoke with in Ogbolomabiri or Port Harcourt reported that they had fled the area either when the fighting began on July 5 or in the days immediately following, with the exception of one young woman who told us that her entire family had fled and she would have, too, had she had the means.54 Though many residents returned after July 20, the town is still less populated that it once was.55 The Isenasawo were in full control of the town when we visited. They claimed, and a representative of the Chief's Council agreed, that they had turned over management of the relationship with oil companies to the Chiefs' Council, where it had traditionally been until the early 1990s.56
After July 5, Governor Alamieyeseigha and the Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa State denied that any violence had occurred at the primary in Nembe; it was only after the ICHR report documenting the violence was released in August 2002 that the governor finally acknowledged that there had been a crisis in Nembe.57 Approximately thirty young men, some of whom were suspected of being members of Isongo-furo, were arrested by police in Yenagoa and taken to Abuja after July 20. But despite the fact that some eyewitnesses were brought to Abuja and positively identified a small number of them as having participated in the violence in July, all were soon released, and by February 2003, none had been prosecuted.58 Both Lionel Jonathan and Chief Amange were reportedly questioned by police about their role in the events, but neither of them was criminally charged. However, Lionel Jonathan was removed from his position as Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa, and Chief Amange lost his federal appointment as chairman of the Niger Delta Basin and Rural Development Authority.
A former member of Isongo-furo reported that after being confronted by Lionel Jonathan in November 2002 for attempting to convince some other members to leave the group as well, he was beaten by members of Isongo-furo.59
In February 2003, the atmosphere in Ogbolomabiri remained tense. Residents fear that the governor cannot win a fair vote and that he or his supporters might attempt to use force again to secure the votes of Ogbolomabiri at the general election. Members of Isongo-furo have not been allowed back into Ogbolomabiri despite renewed initiatives by more neutral members of the community to bring about peace,60 and rumors of impending attacks by the Isongo-furo or other forces sympathetic to Governor Alamieyeseigha continue to circulate.
b. Ogu/Bolo local government, Rivers State: inter-party communal conflict
On August 6, 2002, about one month before the national voter registration process was due to begin, fighting broke out between the ANPP61 and PDP factions in Ogu, the headquarters of Ogu/Bolo local government area, during a personnel audit of the local government's staff. At least one person was reported killed, several people were injured, and significant property was destroyed. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of members of the ANPP and other residents fled Ogu, some of them moving into sites for groups of displaced persons in the state capital, Port Harcourt. Since that date, there have been several killings linked to the political conflict between the two parties, and political opponents of the PDP are still unwilling to return home.
On March 5, 2003, Marshall Harry, national vice chairman of the ANPP for the South-South zone, was assassinated in Abuja.62 Although those responsible for the killing have not yet been identified, the case called attention to the violent nature of conflict in Rivers State between Governor Peter Odili of the PDP and his opponents. Marshall Harry, a Rivers State politician, had been a major critic of Governor Odili's administration. According to southern-based non-governmental organizations, there have been frequent bouts of political violence and intimidation in Rivers State over the last year or more, as Governor Odili has attempted to consolidate his power.
Ogu/Bolo local government area (LGA), along with Okrika LGA, is the home of the Okrika ethnic group. Since the 1999 elections, both LGAs have been sharply divided between the PDP, which is the party of Governor Peter Odili, and the ANPP. Chief Rufus Ada George, a former governor of Rivers State in the early 1990s and one of the most prominent political figures in the Okrika area, supported the ANPP in 1999 when the party won the chairmanships and majority of council seats in both local governments. Two senior officials in Governor Peter Odili's PDP administration also hail from Okrika and have represented PDP interests there, countering the strong influence of Chief Ada George: George Sekibo in Ogu/Bolo, who until recently was the Governor's Special Advisor on Projects; and Secretary to the State Government Abie Sekibo in Okrika LGA. Although Human Rights Watch did not investigate recent events in Okrika LGA, a similar conflict prevails there between the PDP and ANPP and has led to many deaths. The political dimension of rivalry in Ogu/Bolo is a new manifestation of an old division that began with a chieftaincy dispute in the early 1990s between the king and the majority of members of the chiefs' council, the traditional authorities in the area. While the dispute did not cause a violent crisis for many years, the split eventually became the party fault line in the 1999 elections, in which Mina Tende of the ANPP became the chairman of Ogu/Bolo local government. After Mina Tende took office, his party continually complained about threats and harassment suffered by the community at the hands of the "Agaba Boys," a group of youths sponsored by George Sekibo.63 On the other side, PDP supporters claimed that the King and his supporters in the ANPP used "Palace Boys," also known as "Vigilante Boys," to impose their will on the community.64
On April 26, 2001, fighting broke out within Ogu between ANPP and PDP supporters; Lambert Saturday Dagogo, an adviser to Mina Tende, was shot dead, and property was looted and destroyed.65 The PDP said the violence was initiated by Mina Tende and his supporters, whom they accused of killing a PDP supporter on April 25, and that they and their supporters suffered overwhelming damage to their properties on April 26.66 The ANPP faction, on the other hand, blamed the fighting on the PDP, saying the violence was orchestrated in order to discredit Mina Tende's administration and to justify his suspension and imposition of a state of emergency in the LGA.67 In the event, Tende was suspended on May 10, 2001, by resolution of the Rivers State House of Assembly over the protest of the local council.68 The resolution also directed the Governor to suspend George Sekibo until the Committee had concluded its investigation. Shortly thereafter, Governor Odili appointed Frederick Anga as chairman of the Ogu/Bolo local council.
The fight for political power in Ogu/Bolo, as in many places across Nigeria, is linked to the power to dispense jobs and other favors to one's supporters. Soon after taking office, Frederick Anga initiated an investigation into the payment of local government staff salaries by Mina Tende's administration, accusing Tende of making payments to some supporters who were not on the staff. Anga suspended payment of some of the salaries, and many civil servants complained that he was using this as an excuse to fire ANPP supporters and replace them with his own supporters.69 On August 6, 2002, the investigating panel had scheduled a personnel audit, requiring salary recipients to present themselves at the headquarters in order to verify whether they were really civil servants. This was the context for the violence that broke out in Ogu that day.
August 6, 2002, Crisis and Subsequent Killings
According to a chief in the community, the fighting on August 6, 2002, began at about 4:30 p.m. when one of the Agaba boys attacked Egerebipi Evans, a local government staff worker and ANPP sympathizer who was undergoing the audit. According to this witness, Evans was beaten with broken bottles while the entire staff including Anga looked on.70
The conflict escalated to the whole community. I reported to the Ogu Police Station because I was afraid it would continue to escalate. The Agaba boys had taken up different posts in the town, and youths sympathizing with each side were already looking for each other. I came into town with seven police officers; they called for reinforcements and about five more arrived around 6:45 p.m. By then the Agaba boys had already struck, attacking [ANPP] sympathizers and supporters of the King. The Agaba boys had AK-45s, G-3 pump actions, and local pistols. The other side initially defended themselves, but then ran away. At about 8 p.m., the police had driven the two sides apart. We used a local media system to urge the sides to stop fighting. At about 3:45 a.m., the Agaba boys started creeping closer to the park in the center of town, where I was with about fifteen police officers and three trooper vans. When the shooting became serious we all went into the troopers.... At about 5:45 a.m. on August 7, the Agaba boys set fire to two homes [including the home of the deputy chair of the ANPP in the local government.] On seeing the flames, a police officer led the troops to town and put out the flames.... At 8:40 a.m., we drove the troopers back into town, but in the meantime the Agaba boys had looted and demolished houses and vehicles. The town by then was like a ghost town; thousands of sympathizers of the ANPP and King had fled.... On the morning of August 8, Anga's deputy chairman asked me to leave town because I was hindering their efforts to resolve the situation; they threatened to kill me if I didn't leave. The police were right there, too. The police told me to leave to avoid problems, even though they didn't agree.... So I took a taxi out of town; but three of [George] Sekibo's bodyguards started to chase me. When my taxi stopped to drop someone in Eleme [a neighboring local government area], they grabbed my collar and tried to pull me out of the car, displaying a gun. So I ran out the other side of the car and into the crowd, and to a nearby police station.71
A member of the UNPP who fled Ogu on August 6 reported:
I was at home at about 6:45pm when I heard gunshots. I came out of my house, saw people destroying buildings and cars. I went to my car and all the windows were broken. I drove the car to the local police headquarters, parked it, and went into an open sandfield in town. All the young men in our party were gathered here. At about 7 p.m. some police came and called me, Frederick Anga, and Fidelis Opiyo, a leader of the Agaba boys. He advised us all to go home. I went home, but at about 4 or 5 a.m., I heard gunshots again. I ran for my life to the water and got a speed boat which we used to convey our people to the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT); we had to go back and forth several times.... About seven people sustained bullet injuries.72
Among the injured were Caleb Sika, an aspirant for a position on the local government council, who was shot in the leg, and Iwarisimama Caleb, whose head was grazed by bullets.73 Another UNPP member and councillorship aspirant reported:
On August 6, there was an audit where staff employed by the former chairman were being threatened with sacking by the current chairman.... The opportunity was used to attack the non-PDP members in the council premises and chase them away. I wasn't there but my house is on the road to the council. I saw people running, and I saw Agaba boys whom I recognize chasing them. They were holding rifles and matchets [machetes]. I ran out of my house. A half-brother of George Sekibo shot at me, but the bullet missed me. I ran to the sandfill where others were gathering, a group including women and children. We had decided the solution was to flee. Police were mixing with the Agaba boys and shooting at us. So we had to flee the community. I slept at the waterside and the next morning I left. I had given my wife money and put her and other women in my family on a boat the night before.74
That night, a two-year-old girl, Dorcas Sam Idadokima, was shot dead, reportedly in the crossfire of Agaba boys shooting toward non-PDP members who were running to or had gathered at the waterfront, preparing to escape the town. Dorcas' family had fled to Ogu some time before, after being displaced by violence in Okrika local government, a telling sign of the violence that has plagued this area of Rivers State.75
Human Rights Watch visited two sites set up in Port Harcourt for displaced persons from Ogu; each was still hosting hundreds of people in February 2003. These sites were not set up by the government but rather were supported by private individuals. One was set up through Chief Ada George in the Rivers State UNPP headquarters and the other was at the premises of a church. We were unable to confirm the claim by ANPP and UNPP members from Ogu that tens of thousands of persons had been displaced. Some of the people we spoke with reported they had lost their means of livelihood and had received no support from the state or federal government.76
Some of the former ANPP supporters have moved with Chief Ada George into the UNPP. They claimed that the PDP in Ogu continues to threaten all non-PDP supporters who return to Ogu. Nonetheless, women from the community have returned to Ogu on several market days to assess the level of tension in Ogu.77 A leader at one of the sites for displaced persons explained, "more than seven times [since August 6] we've sent women to market. Each times they're molested, their things are taken, their clothes are torn, or they're beaten [by Agaba boys]."78 A twenty-seven-year-old woman at the same site explained that, several weeks after fleeing Ogu on August 6, she and five other women had wanted to return to Ogu to check on their property in the market. "The Agaba boys sent their girlfriends to apprehend us or chase us away. They took one of us away and a group of them raped her. Both the men and women beat the rest of us. I recognized by name and face several of the boys who attacked us. I suffered bruises and some pain."79 Both she and her husband were UNPP members, and her husband had wanted to run for a councillorship position in Ogu/Bolo.80 Several of the displaced UNPP members staying at the UNPP headquarters in Port Harcourt reported that they felt unable to go into town even in Port Harcourt because they had been threatened there by thugs from the Okrika area supporting the PDP.81
Since August 6, at least two men from Ogu/Bolo have been killed or disappeared in circumstances credibly linked to the political conflict there. Abiebuari Milton Iruenabere, who was a security officer in Mina Tende's local government administration, was abducted from the fishing village of Owuogono, near Ogu, on October 29, 2002. He had left Ogu before the August 6 crisis in order to fish in Owuogono because he was no longer receiving his salary; his wife Jane remained in Ogu until August 7 when she also ran away and joined him in Owuogono.82 She said that at about 10 a.m. on the morning of October 29, a group of people whom she recognized by name and face as Agaba boys arrived by speedboat in Owuogono. "My husband ran out of our house to hide, but one boy who lived in the fishing port showed the Agaba boys where he was hiding. He asked what he had done, and they just said they were looking for him. They took him into the boat." Later the same day, family members who had been alerted to his abduction came and saw him in an assembly hall in Ogu, where a "mock court session" was held in which he was sentenced to death.83 He was then taken out in a boat and has never been seen again. The family reported the event to the Ogu police station, the Bori Area Police Command, and the State Criminal Investigation Bureau. Within a few weeks they learned that several people were arrested in the case, including Frederick Anga's younger brother, Promise Anga. They were all released soon thereafter. Promise Anga was later rearrested, although Iruenabere's associates believed Promise Anga was unconnected with the case and was being pursued because the police were unable or unwilling to apprehend Frederick Anga. The state attempted to charge Promise Anga to court on February 10, 2003, but he was reportedly released through the intervention of a prominent local ANPP member who tracked the criminal case on behalf of Iruenabere's family and associates.84
William Nimenibo, who had also been a civil servant under Mina Tende's local government administration, was killed on December 10, 2002. He was living in the fishing village of Ikpoama, also in Ogu/Bolo, when he was abducted. His father said that a family relation saw Agaba boys, whom she recognized by name and face, take William into the boat and attack him with machetes. She said there were many witnesses but everyone was too afraid to do or say anything about it. He was then taken in the boat to an unknown destination and his body has never been found. His father, who believed William was targeted because of the father's position as deputy chair of the ANPP in Ogu/Bolo, was too afraid to go to Ogu/Bolo to report the matter to police there. "I know I can't go to Ogu/Bolo, so I reported it to police in Port Harcourt, but they said they can't take my report, I have to go to Ogu/Bolo. So I sent my wife to report it at Bori Area Police Command [a station in a different local government with supervisory jurisdiction over Ogu/Bolo], since I had been advised not to go myself. They also said we had to go to Ogu. So I just wrote a petition to the Commissioner of Police and copied the other authorities. The petitions were sent, but the government has done nothing."85
A twenty-five-year-old man, Solomon J. Siereh, also disappeared on December 28, 2002, on his way to a family reunion in Okrika. His father was a clergyman who had taken in some of the displaced non-PDP people from Ogu after August 6. The friend with whom Solomon was traveling when he disappeared reported to the family that the two of them had met up with Ateke Tom, the leader of the "Ateke boys," a group connected to the Agaba boys that supports the PDP in both Ogu/Bolo and Okrika LGAs. Some of Ateke Tom's associates reportedly drove off in a vehicle with Solomon, and he has never been seen or heard from again. Although he claimed Solomon was not politically active, a family member believed Solomon was targeted because the father had agreed to accommodate displaced non-PDP members at his church in Port Harcourt. In addition, the father's church and residence in Ogu were reportedly destroyed in August 2002.86
Local representatives of the ANPP and UNPP with whom we spoke believed that the violence on August 6 was orchestrated in order to prevent non-PDP supporters from registering to vote in September. Most of the non-PDP members displaced from Ogu reported that they were indeed unable to register in September 2002 or January 2003 to vote in Ogu/Bolo LGA. Although some of them had registered in Port Harcourt LGA, this would not enable them to vote for their representatives in the State House of Assembly or the federal House of Representatives, and eventually for their local government representatives. Theysubmitted a petition to the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Port Harcourt, who reportedly promised that their registration would be transferable to Ogu/Bolo. But it remained unclear how this would occur or, even if the registration was transferred, whether they would be able to return to Ogu/Bolo in April in order to vote.
Human Rights Watch spoke with an ANPP member and resident of Wakama-ama, another town in Ogu/Bolo local government. He reported that the ten-day voter registration in Wakama-ama was disrupted on September 13 by young men parading through town, firing rifles into the air, and shouting "PDP! Power to the People!"87 He said that a similar operation was carried out by the Agaba boys on September 14, and that many non-PDP members did not register because they were intimidated. He also reported that on September 18, three members of the PDP were killed in Wakama-ama, and a fourth was severely beaten.88 Although he claimed they were killed by other PDP members while being initiated into a local cult, a member of the ANPP was reportedly arrested in connection with the killings.89
Attacks in Ogoni and on Ogoni activists
In the Ogoni area of Rivers State, which encompasses four local government areas (Tai, Eleme, Khana, and Gokana), a local human rights organization reported that there were frequent political clashes. Violent gangs were directly attached to the chairmen of some of the former local governments or current caretaker committees, including in Gokana and Khana LGAs.90 In a bye-election in Khana LGA in February 2002 for a State House of Assembly seat, three local non-governmental organizations accredited to observe the election reported that an armed group of youths claiming to be sent by the local government chairman was controlling passage of persons in some areas. A second armed group, opposed to the local government chairman, attacked the observer team, injuring one of the observers and vandalizing their vehicle.91 The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), a minority rights pressure group, also documented the killing of George N. at the PDP's local government primary in Gokana LGA on July 1, 2002, when police and supporters of the former local government chairman clashed with the opposing faction.92
On Saturday, March 22, 2003, an armed group of eight men broke into the home of MOSOP President Ledum Mitee in Port Harcourt.93 The intruders gathered the seven occupants of the home and demanded to be led to Mitee, who was out of the country at the time but had been scheduled to return the day before this attack. The intruders departed, taking nothing but a cellular telephone and threatening to return. On March 23, police arrested another MOSOP member at the airport, who was on his way to Geneva to attend a session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. He was detained for four hours and asked why MOSOP had decided to send him out of the country at this time, and what MOSOP hoped to achieve.94 MOSOP leaders have been outspoken critics of the Rivers State government. Mitee had been interviewed on the radio on March 8, just a few days after the killing of Marshall Harry, criticizing the state government's use of violence.95
In another case of violence in Ogoni, Prince Ntah, a young man from Tai local government area, had both of his ankle tendons cut and was severely beaten on June 23, 2002, by supporters of Monday Ngbor, a politically influential figure and supporter of Governor Odili. Prince Ntah belonged to a group that was critical of Governor Odili's administration. The group evolved into Salvation 2003, the campaign organization of Sergeant Awuse, who moved from the PDP to the ANPP to challenge Governor Odili in the general elections. Ntah reported:
On the morning of June 23, I was to attend a special thanksgiving service at a church in Nonwa. [The service was organized by supporters of the former council chairman, Barry Mpigi.] When I arrived, the environment was unfriendly, with broken bottles littering the area. It looked as though there had been a fight earlier. Obviously the event had been cancelled, so I left and went to a friend's place until about mid-day. There were no buses so I decided to get a bike to the motor park. I was stopped by a green 406 model car driven by Monday Ngbor. He asked me, "what are you doing here? Didn't you hear I said nobody should go to the church? Odili has said the present council chairman should be supported. Why are you disobeying?" A bus came up, with Ngbor's associates. They had matchets, axes, and rocks. He said he would teach me a lesson. He took 25,000 Naira, my shirt, sandals, and cell phone. He opened the boot of his car, took out a matchet, and aimed it at my head. About twenty people were there; they attacked me, they cut the tendons on both of my feet. Eventually they left me for dead.... I was in a clinic in Eleme for a month.... Monday Ngbor and his associates know I saw them and am telling people about it, so I still live in fear.96
Scars on both of Ntah's ankles were clearly visible, and he walks with a limp. Monday Ngbor was arrested in September along with thirteen others. He was released on bail the next day. According to Ntah, Monday Ngbor bragged publicly about the attack afterwards, and Ntah continued to receive threatening phone calls in the months after the attack. He has followed the investigation closely and reported there has been no prosecution.97
c. Kwara State: Violence and shifting political alliances
Across Nigeria, politicians have shifted their individual and party alliances with disconcerting regularity. The break-up of "godfather" relationships-where prominent businesspeople or politicians sponsor political candidates-has been a source of violence when a godfather feels that his protégé has not sufficiently served his interests. One of the most striking examples is Kwara State, where Governor Mohammed Lawal has defied his more conservative mentor Olusola Saraki. Although both were members of the ANPP in 1999, Saraki officially moved to the PDP in 2002 and encouraged his supporters to join him. Since then, there has been open hostility between Lawal and Saraki. In the 2003 elections, Lawal will attempt to retain the governorship under the banner of the ANPP, while Saraki's son Bukola Saraki has secured the nomination of the PDP. In this heated contest, both men have surrounded themselves with armed supporters, and there have been several killings and other incidents of violence in the state.
There have been repeated claims by both political camps of politically motivated killings, attempted assassinations or other attacks, and stockpiling of arms; Human Rights Watch has not been able to verify all these claims.98 A serious spate of violence occurred over a few days in April 2001, when Saraki and Lawal were both still in the same party. According to a report by a national human rights organization, two people were confirmed killed and several others injured in a fight between supporters of the two factions, and many government vehicles were destroyed.99 On August 15, 2002, around the same time that Saraki and his supporters were moving into the PDP, the state chairman of the PDP, Ahmed Pategi, was killed en route from Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, to Abuja. According to a close friend, he was in a vehicle with a driver and a police orderly when they noticed a car driving erratically, which then stopped in front of them at the bottom of a hill. The driver of the car emerged, shot twelve bullets at Pategi and the police orderly, and ran Pategi over with the automobile; the police orderly was also killed. The friend reported that Pategi had told him he was worried about warnings he had received that he was going to be killed.100 Parties on both sides of the clash between the Kwara State governor and Saraki claimed that Pategi was a politically ally and that their respective opponents therefore had a motive for the killing.101 A political motive is plausible in view of the tensions existing at the time within the PDP and between the PDP and ANPP in Kwara. Pategi's driver was arrested and questioned early on, but was released, and no serious progress in the investigation appears to have taken place since then.
In one of the most recent incidents, a motor convoy of Saraki supporters on their way to the initiation of President Obasanjo's campaign in Benue State reported that they came under attack on February 13, 2003; one Saraki supporter was shot dead and at least two others sustained bullet injuries.102 The government, on the other hand, claimed that the Saraki convoy attacked Lawal supporters gathered at a nearby residence.103 The police were reportedly looking for five persons in connection with the attack, including the personal assistant to the Governor's Commissioner for Special Duties.104
The national secretary of Governor Lawal's party, the ANPP, told Human Rights Watch that the former party leadership had had informal discussions with Lawal on about two or three occasions in advance of the party primaries "asking him to desist from some abusive practices.... If he had continued, we would have shown him no support."105 Aside from the question of whether Lawal did in fact desist, or whether the ANPP continued to support him, the statement betrays a disturbing lack of serious accountability within political parties, by no means peculiar to the ANPP.
Newspaper office explosion
On November 15, 2002, an explosion at the office of the National Pilot, a weekly newspaper owned by Bukola Saraki, disrupted the busy Friday afternoon production cycle. The building was destroyed; about eighteen employees were present, and five of them were injured. Approximately one month later, Human Rights Watch visited the site of the explosion. The newspaper office was a one-story residential style structure; there was a crater in the floor where the bomb had exploded just beyond the entryway. A major section of the roof along with sections of walls had been blown off. A severely damaged metal door in the back of the building showed the force of the explosion.
The bombing of the paper was most likely politically motivated; the paper itself was unmistakably politicized as a venue for pro-Saraki propaganda. According to an editor for the paper, staff had received threatening phone calls from an unidentified caller in the weeks leading up to the explosion. Four or five calls were received by one staff member, in which she recognized the same voice asking her to come for a meeting with the caller. In the last call, the voice said, "If you don't come over, we will kill you. Do you want to die?"106
An employee of the newspaper explained how the attack was carried out:
Around midday, a young man came to the office and asked to speak with any editor. I said they were too busy, they couldn't attend to him today. He was holding a bag. He said he would leave the bag there; he needed to go buy something, but would come back soon. He carried another bag away with him. All of a sudden, I just fell, I thought I had died.... Later, I pushed some blocks of cement away from my head, and I heard others saying I was dead.... I had cuts on my face, my ear, my eye, and my arm. I spent three weeks in the hospital. My eye before had too much blood in it, it was hard to see. Last week they performed an operation to remove a hard fragment from my forehead. 107
Another employee at the newspaper explained how he was injured:
All of a sudden, I heard a terrible blast.... I looked up to the ceiling, and saw the sky. I climbed up the burglar bars over the wall [the back wall of the structure was still standing] and jumped into the back yard. There were pellets all up and down my left leg, and the left side of my chest was burned. I was bleeding furiously by the time I got to the hospital. They removed the particles, and gave me stitches. Up until now, I've had trouble hearing, but they say it will gradually improve. My ears pain me also.... I still have shock problems, I keep thinking about that situation and that moment and I cry.108
On November 18, three days after the explosion, the National Pilot published a letter allegedly written by Rasaq Lawal, Kwara State Government's Commissioner for Special Duties. The accompanying news article interpreted the letter as containing a threat to use violence against Saraki supporters, and claimed the bombing was motivated by a desire to halt publication of the article.109 The state government, on the other hand, claimed the letter was forged and Saraki supporters orchestrated the bombing themselves to discredit the governor.110
In this case, which received national media attention, police arrested several people within a week of the explosion, and by the end of December had charged eleven suspects; almost two months later nine of the eleven were released on bail. Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine when or whether their trial will begin.111 After criticizing the alleged "anti-government" bias of the police, the state government also initiated its own judicial commission of inquiry, which at the beginning of March reportedly had not yet submitted its findings.112
Killings at wedding ceremony, September 2002
Supporters of Governor Lawal disrupted a wedding ceremony in Ilorin in September 2002, killing two people. According to a witness,
About 150 people were present. Many people from the Saraki faction were there. Lawal boys were also among the guests.... I saw a group shouting "Up Lawal," [a slogan often used by supporters of the Governor]. Some of them left at around 3 a.m. They came back at about 4:30 a.m. They had cutlasses and were shouting, "Up Lawal." Two boys pointed at us and said: `you're in the Saraki faction.' We left at about 4:45 a.m. Outside the gate, we saw people shooting with double-barreled guns. They were wearing long black shirts and black caps. There were about four of them. They brought two buses. One had "Up Lawal" written on it. They shot dead two people: Yekimi Gobiri, aged about thirty, from the Saraki faction, and Gani, aged about twenty-six, who just happened to be at the party. Yekimi was shot in the chest, Gani on the neck. They died on the spot. They were shot from the front. It was continuous shooting. They used all their bullets. Four other people were injured. They were not from the Saraki faction; they were just at the party. One was shot in the side; he was in the hospital for two weeks. I don't know the others. I identified three people from the Lawal faction who had come into the party before.... I couldn't identify who fired the shots. We left the place. We climbed the fence because they had blocked the gate. There were two policemen with our group. We left with them. They said they were not on duty so couldn't intervene.113
One of the victims, Yekimi Gobiri, was described by Bukola Saraki as a "party loyalist," not an official, who was used for "protective" functions and praise-singing.114
Earlier that same day, the witness reported having seen the same group of Lawal supporters intimidating Saraki's supporters at a building owned by Saraki. "At about 2:30 p.m. they went to Saraki's secretariat. They fired shots and took Saraki's portrait away. They were shooting in the air.... They threatened people and told them to leave. They beat the gateman on his head with a stick. Then they went to the kitchen and beat the women cooking there. They beat one woman with a stick on her leg. Other women ran away.... The attackers were shouting `Up Lawal'.... It lasted about ten minutes, then they left."115
Assault on AD candidate for Kwara State governorship
Lai Mohammed, the Kwara State governorship candidate for the AD, reported that his convoy was attacked by ANPP supporters in October 2002.116 Although the incident did not cause any serious injury, the unraveling of events that day shows the bitter spirit that pervades politics in Kwara, as in much of Nigeria. Lai Mohammed had attended a non-political fundraising function in Oke-Onigbin earlier in the day, at which Governor Lawal was also present.
On our way out of town, my convoy was blocked by the ANPP campaign headquarters for Senator Ajadi, who is very close with Governor Lawal. We were blocked right in front of the office, on the main road to Ilorin. The ANPP supporters came to block the road with their bodies; some of them were armed with cutlasses. I had a six-person police escort; the police prevented them from approaching by shooting guns into the air, so they started throwing stones and bottles. I was riding in my wife's unmarked car that day. My usual jeep and four other vehicles were damaged, and one lady was hurt by splintering glass hitting her thigh.117
At the community fundraising event earlier in the day, Lai Mohammed said he and his own supporters had also been confronted by a group of pro-Lawal supporters.
The governor arrived late, and came in with about ten vehicles, security details and youths; they were shouting `Up Lawal!' The governor came to greet us, [the other dignitaries,] but there was pandemonium among his supporters, reckless driving through the venue and so on. We were all disgusted, because this was not meant to be a political affair. Later, I went to see off an invited guest who was leaving. When I was walking back from the car park, some of my supporters were following me, drumming and showing the party colors. The governor's people came up and told us to stop. They were at least one hundred people, some of them armed with knives. I appealed to my supporters not to get involved in any fight, but we were still unhappy with the treatment we had received. Then [in his speech] Lawal gave a thinly-veiled threat to me: `We'll run the small fries out of town'.118
d. Enugu State: violence within the state legislature
In Enugu State, Governor Chimaroke Nnamani and Senator Jim Nwobodo, among others, have been pitted against each other in a contest for political influence, notably in the state legislature. Although Nwobodo was a key supporter of Nnamani's candidacy in 1999, the relationship between the two began to deteriorate after they took office. In advance of the 2003 elections, Senator Nwobodo declared his candidacy for presidency under the banner of the UNPP, and has actively campaigned on behalf of his party to defeat Nnamani's re-election bid in Enugu. The opposition between the two politicians was sharply reflected in the state's House of Assembly,119 where legislators lined up behind either Governor Nnamani or Senator Nwobodo. The way the political crisis within the Enugu legislature degenerated into actual physical fighting within the state House of Assembly provides a disturbing example of the way violence is used as a political tool in Nigeria. Several other states have also experienced a split between legislators supporting a state governor against those supporting federal politicians based in the state. The faction supporting the federal politician - in this instance, the Nwobodo faction - is sometimes referred to as the "Abuja group" after the federal capital.
The political conflict in the Enugu State House of Assembly has existed more or less since the beginning of the current administration. Already in September 1999, there was a bitter fight over the suspension of Nwabueze Ugwu, a state legislator who was strongly opposed to the governor. Ugwu vehemently and publicly protested against the suspension, which he claimed had not been carried out according to constitutional procedures and was motivated by the governor's displeasure with Ugwu's repeated criticism of the governor's unconstitutional actions.120 Only four days later, Nwabueze Ugwu's brother Sunday was killed in the brothers' shared residence on September 9, 1999, in circumstances that indicated the killers had intended to target Nwabueze. The killing coincided with a dispute in the state, in which Nwabueze was also involved, over the failure to pay civil servants for two months and an impending strike by those workers.121 Although this killing occurred well over three years ago, no one has been charged to court in the case. Governor Nnamani said the investigation into this case was still on-going, but that the killing must have been an armed robbery or cult-related.122 Since then, Nwabueze Ugwu has made several complaints about renewed threats or attacks against him.123 Two months after Sunday Ugwu's death, the faction opposed to the governor impeached the then-Speaker, who was loyal to the governor. In July 2002, the Nwobodo faction again attempted to impeach the Speaker of the House of Assembly. A dispute over the validity of the impeachment led to the current crisis in the Enugu State House of Assembly.124 The anti-governor faction selected its own Speaker, and since that time, the two factions of the state house have operated independently of each other, each claiming to pass the only valid legislation for the state. Later in July, the crisis reached an exceptionally low point when physical fighting broke out in the grounds of the state legislature.
July 2002 Crisis in the House of Assembly
Representatives of the Nwobodo and pro-governor factions have offered different versions of what occurred in the July 2002 crisis in the state House of Assembly. Nwabweze Ugwu told his version of events to Human Rights Watch.
On July 18, after the Speaker had been successfully suspended, the Speaker left his seat and the Deputy Speaker took it over. When the Deputy Speaker adjourned the proceedings, the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Chief Security Officer and the governor's Chief of Staff entered the chambers with about a hundred thugs.... The thugs overpowered the police, almost beat to death Honorable Francis Ben Agwu, who had moved the impeachment motion, beat two other legislators, Honorables Jack Chukwuma and Uche Ekete, and ordered everyone else to leave.125
The "Abuja group" legislators reported feeling so insecure that they relocated to Abuja with the financial support of Senator Nwobodo, returning to Enugu only with a police contingent. On July 25, they returned from Abuja amid tight security. Ugwu reported:
The gate [of the Assembly complex] was locked when we arrived. Close to five hundred police, including one hundred mobile police, were there to protect us. As we stood around trying to decide what to do, Governor Nnamani's private army came toward our right flank, shooting indiscriminately toward us. They were about one hundred. The police were still among us, but they did nothing about it. They didn't want to kill us, but probably just scare us. They destroyed a lot of cars, and beat up some members. Honorable Chijioke Aroh was hospitalized.... Since then, each of us has a police officer always with us and two others to guard our homes.126
Legislators loyal to the governor told a different story:
On July 18, the other group brought thugs into the assembly grounds. We informed the speaker, because we were afraid to enter the chambers, but we saw police there too so we gained confidence. After the Speaker said we were adjourned, Francis Agwu tried to read something; he was told to stop and people were tearing at the paper. He jumped into the Speaker's seat and got into the Speaker's way, so the Speaker pushed him out of the way and left the chambers. We were exchanging words, and pushing, too, but that was it. Some of Agwu's colleagues entered the chambers, but I ordered police to evacuate the chambers. Some thugs entered the chambers, too - some civil servants, some unemployed - but they didn't do anything. The Speaker gave an order to police, and the chamber was emptied. That was the end of the incident.... On July 25, the other group landed at the airport with police from Abuja.... Some police also met them here and showed them the injunction preventing them from parading themselves as officers in the House of Assembly; the police then accompanied them to the state house. They had thugs with them who started shooting indiscriminately. No one was injured, but the police couldn't resist them; the police were also afraid to hurt legislators. They brought a carpenter from town to cut the chain on the gate. [On a later date,] they vandalized the state house; police from Abuja assisted them. They must not really feel threatened; even now they move around without security and have left their families here.127
The crisis dragged on in October 2002 when the federal House of Representatives resolved to take over legislative functions for the state. The tension in the state legislature seemed to die down somewhat after November 2002, when opponents of the governor in the state legislature were reportedly told they would get salary arrears if they were willing to work with the pro-governor faction. Since then, pro-government legislators claim at least one legislator has done so, although they insist "[he] came back because of personal conviction, not because of the money."128 Nevertheless, the two factions continue to hold separate sessions in different buildings.
When Human Rights Watch spoke with the governor about the conflict in the state legislature, he said it was his policy, as head of the executive branch, not to involve himself in conflicts within the legislative branch.129 Although in certain non-violent situations, this may be a good application of the principle of separation of powers of government, it remains the responsibility of the governor, as chief security officer in the state, to help ensure that any persons who organize or participate in violence, including using armed thugs to intimidate their opponents, are subject to arrest and prosecution under the criminal law, especially in cases where supporters or members of his own government are allegedly involved.
Other violence in Enugu
Although physical violence within the House of Assembly is a particularly alarming sign of the way politics is practiced in Enugu, political violence has not been limited to the state legislature. The state government's reportedly widespread use of violence and political thugs has contributed to a decline in security in the state. For example, the Civil Liberties Organisation, a national human rights group, documented a case in March 2002, in which a young man posting anti-government posters was apprehended by government thugs and taken to Government House where the governor interrogated him by telephone. He was beaten there and at the police station, and detained for around two weeks, until his relatives were able to get a lawyer who secured his release.130
Some leaders in the Catholic Church, which has a fervent following in Enugu State through the charismatic leadership of Father Ejike Mbeka, have been strongly critical of Governor Nnamani's administration. The church vehemently criticized the governor's response to an incident in which fourteen people were killed at a church event on March 7, 2002. The church had issued a statement saying the deaths were caused by "unknown persons presumed to be hired killers,"131 and many, including the governor, presumed that this implied that he had been responsible. A state-appointed judicial commission of inquiry into the incident reported the deaths were caused by a stampede,132 but the Catholic church did not accept that conclusion, urging that the government could not be a judge in its own cause, and claiming many witnesses had been afraid to come forward to testify.133 A leader of the church in Enugu also claimed that agents of the state government attempted to assassinate him as a result of his criticisms of Governor Nnamani.134
The Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), a national organization affiliated to the church, was accredited to observe the September 2002 voter registration exercise. According to JDPC, violence marred the registration effort in Enugu, and there was at least one incident in which JDPC monitors were assaulted by pro-governor thugs.135 In Mpu, Aninri local government area, they noticed several serious anomalies in the voter registration exercise. As they discussed this with the election officials, a "group of boys between the ages of eighteen and thirty came and surrounded us. Having listened to the discussion for some time one of them shouted, `take that cassette away from him,' and another shouted, `take the video camera' from them. Immediately they rushed and snatched away the cassette recorder...." JDPC said their video camera and tape, as well as a cell phone and writing materials, were seized by the group of young men.136 JDPC officials returned some days later to Mpu with three police officers to attempt to retrieve their property. A JDPC official reported to Human Rights Watch: "We saw the electoral official, who was a teacher, but he ran way into the bush. At least ten young boys emerged, three of them with guns.... We tried to explain to the boys that we were trying to help them... The brother of the Secretary to State Government [whose home is close to that area] told us to leave. Then those boys came around our car and tried to block us but we drove away quickly."137
When Human Rights Watch discussed these and other violent incidents in the state with Governor Nnamani, he said that Enugu was "safe and peaceful." 138
5 This is just a sample of reports during this period; it does not cover all reported cases and does not include the many cases that never reach the national media.
6 Ahmed Oyerinde, "No One Died in Party Clash - Police," This Day, March 8, 2003.
7 Utibe Uko, "ANPP Guber Candidate Alleges Threat to Life," This Day, March 2, 2003.
8 "Ebonyi ANPP Boss Escapes Assassination," This Day, March 3, 2003.
9 "Explosion Destroys Rivers SSG's Clinic," This Day, March 8, 2003.
10 Emma Amaize, "Armed Youths Attack Igbinedion's Campaign Team," Vanguard, March 6, 2003.
11 "Ekiti AD Women's Leader Dies of Acid Attack," Vanguard, March 5, 2003.
12 See discussion in section below, IV. Political Assassinations.
13 Amby Uneze, "APP Senatorial Candidate Escapes Attack," This Day, March 8, 2003.
14 "Pandemonium as Armed Thugs Storm Secretariat," Vanguard, March 8, 2003.
15 "Two seriously injured, 53 arrested over clashes in Nigeria," Agence France-Presse, March 12, 2003.
16 "Ruling party, opposition party supporters clash in capital," Vanguard, March 14, 2003.
17 "Hired Killers in Fresh Attack on Dep Gov, SSG's Homes," Vanguard, March 13, 2003.
18 "Presidential Contender Accuses Nigerian Leader of Convoy Attack," Associated Press, March 14, 2003.
19 "Violence Trails Rally as Adesina Flags Off Campaign," This Day, March 16, 2003.
20 "Hundreds of Homes Burned in Nigeria Poll Violence," Agence France-Presse, March 17, 2003.
21 "Two die, 20 injured in Nigerian political violence," Agence France-Presse, July 6, 2002.
22 This information is based on media and other accounts. See for example: Daniel Ior, "Police Declare Ex-LG Boss, Two Others Wanted," This Day, March 10, 2003; "7 Killed in PDP/ANPP Clash," News, February 24, 2003.
23 "Two seriously injured, 53 arrested over clashes in Nigeria," Agence France-Presse, March 12, 2003.
24 Ahmed Oyerinde, "No One Died in Party Clash - Police," This Day, March 8, 2003.
25 Nembe town consists of Ogbolomabiri and Bassambiri, two neighboring islands in the Bayelsa creeks separated in some places by not more than 25 meters. The Nembe are a clan or kingdom of the Ijaw ethnic group, the majority ethnic group in Bayelsa State. While the people of Ogbolomabiri consider themselves as the center of the Nembe clan and therefore call their island Nembe, many outsiders consider Ogbolomabiri and Bassambiri to be parts of the joined town of Nembe. For this reason and to avoid confusion with Nembe local government area or the wider Nembe kingdom, this report uses the designation "Ogbolomabiri" to refer to the island.
26 Ijaw Council for Human Rights (ICHR), Ballots of Blood: Report of the July 2002 People's Democratic Party (PDP) Primaries in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, August 2002.
27 See Human Rights Watch, "The Niger Delta: No Democratic Dividend," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 14, no. 7 (A), October 2002; Human Rights Watch, The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria's Oil-Producing Communities (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999).
28 Historically, violent conflict has occurred between the neighboring areas of Ogbolomabiri and Bassambiri, who, among other things, have competed for the seat of Nembe local government area (LGA).
29 Lionel Jonathan secured 100 percent of the votes of Ogbolomabiri for the All People's Party (APP, which later became the ANPP) in 1999, as its candidate for deputy governor. Dimieari Von Kemedi, Oil on Troubled Waters, Working Paper, Berkeley Workshop on Environmental Politics, University of California, Berkeley, 2002.
30 After the state PDP primaries in December 2002, which returned Alamieyeseigha for governor, Chief Amange became a Senate candidate under the banner of the ANPP. Until August 2002 he had been chairman of the Niger Delta Basin and Rural Development Authority, which is responsible for administering water-related development in the delta region.
31 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 2003.
32 Ibid; Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt and Nembe , February 2003.
33 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 16, 2003; Kemedi, Oil on Troubled Waters;
34 Kemedi, Oil on Troubled Waters.
35 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 15, 2003.
36 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nembe, February 14-15, 2003.
37 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
38 Human Rights Watch interview with family member of Sata-Owugha, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
39 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
40 Human Rights Watch interview with family member of Sata-Owugha, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
41 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 15, 2003.
42 Human Rights Watch Interview, Nembe, February 15, 2003.
43 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
44 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 15, 2003.
45 In addition to Sata-Owugha and the three victims named by the Isenasawo youth leader, they are Rufus Ekperi, Nimibo Ekperi, Nengimote Iriakuma, Blessing Azibaole, and Otonye Daniel. Letter from Chief Nimi B.P. Barigha-Amange to the Director General, State Security Services, July 14, 2002.
46 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
47 Mobile Police, also known as MOPOL, are a branch of the federal police specially trained for containing riots or other large-scale conflict; as their name implies, they have no permanent station and are generally sent to deal with crises as they arise.
48 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nembe and Port Harcourt, February 14-15, 2003.
49 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
50 Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003.
51 ICHR, Ballots of Blood.
52 These included Tipu Michah, Aje Koroboh, Godwin Obuerigha, and Ebieme Ogbuah. Human Rights Watch interview, Nembe, February 14, 2003. Note: The name Tipu Michah is similar to Tepe Michael, who was reported by his relative as killed on July 5, as discussed above. It is unknown to Human Rights Watch whether this is a coincidence of similar/same names, or whether one of the reports was false or mistaken as to the date.
53 While the Isenasawo leaders acknowledged that they would prevent any Isongo-furo from returning, they claimed that relatives of Isongo-furo were allowed to stay in the town in peace. Everyone with whom we spoke in Ogbolomabiri was a member of Isenasawo or claimed to be either sympathetic to Chief Amange and the Isenasawo or neutral. Human Rights Watch interviews, Nembe, February 14-15, 2003.
54 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nembe, February 14-15, 2003.
55 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nembe and Port Harcourt, February 14-16, 2003.
56 Human Rights Watch interview with Chief Afa Natebo, Vice Chairman, Nembe Chiefs' Council, Nembe, February 15, 2003; Kimedi, Oil on Troubled Waters.
57 Human Rights Watch interview with staff of ICHR and others, Port Harcourt, February 13, 2003.
58 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nembe and Port Harcourt, February 14-16, 2003.
59 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 16, 2003.
61 The ANPP was formerly known as the All People's Party (APP) but was renamed after a factional split. This section will use the ANPP abbreviation throughout to avoid confusion.
62 See section below, IV. Political Assassinations.
63 Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt, February 10-13, 2003.
64 Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt, February 12 & 16, 2003.
65 Letter from Chief Bapakaye J.I. Oraber, Public Relations Officer, Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, to Governor Peter Odili, May 12, 2001.
66 Human Rights Watch interview, George Sekibo, former Special Adviser to Governor on Projects, Port Harcourt, February 16, 2003. The deceased victim was Francis Iwaritaribi.
67 Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt, February 12, 16, 2003.
68 Rivers State House of Assembly, House Resolution: Crisis in Ogu, Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, Ref. RVHA/ADM/36/367, May 10, 2001.
69 Human Rights Watch interview, Tom Godwill Abaka, Vice Chair, Ogu/Bolo branch of National Union of Local Government Workers, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
70 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
72 Human Rights Watch interview at displaced persons'site, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
73 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 12, 2003.
74 Human Rights Watch interview in displaced camp, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
75 Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt, February 10 & 12, 2003.
76 Human Rights Watch interviews, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
79 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
82 Human Rights Watch interviews with family members of Abiebuari Milton Iruenabere, Port Harcourt, February 12, 2003.
83 Human Rights Watch interviews with family members of Iruenabere; written petition from brothers of Iruenabere to the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, November 4, 2002.
84 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 12, 2003.
85 Human Rights Watch interview with father of William Nimenibo, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
86 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 10, 2003.
87 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 12, 2003. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm this incident with other witnesses.
88 The three boys reportedly killed were Arthur Bright George (the son of the PDP's local chairman); Graham Agokabo and Inidukokaye Christian.
89 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 12, 2003.
90 Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Port Harcourt, December 20, 2002. The caretaker committees were appointed by Governor Odili when the local government council tenures ended on May 29, 2001.
91 Final Report on the Khana Constituency 2 Bye-Election by the INEC Accredited Monitoring/Observer Team, February 2002; Human Rights Watch interview with representative of MOSOP, Port Harcourt, February 13, 2003.
92 Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of MOSOP, Port Harcourt, December 20, 2002.
93 See Human Rights Watch news release, "Violence Against Nigerian Political Activist," March 29, 2003.
95 Human Rights Watch interviews with representatives of MOSOP, London, March 2003.
96 Human Rights Watch interview, Port Harcourt, February 13, 2003.
98 See for example: "Assassination Plot - Lawal Lied, Says Newspaper Boss," This Day, October 10, 2002; Abdul Laro, "Police Deny Alleged Arms Stockpile by Saraki," November 14, 2002; Bell Pottinger Communications, Assassination Attempt Fuels Fear of Nigerian Election Violence, February 2003 (press release issued by Saraki's public relations firm); Adewale Olayemi, "The Scramble for Kwara," The News, March 4, 2003.
99 Report on Ilorin Mayhem, Civil Liberties Organisation.
100 Human Rights Watch interview, Ilorin, December 18, 2002.
101 Human Rights Watch interviews with Bukola Saraki and with Rasaq Lawal, Kwara State Commissioner for Special Duties, Ilorin, December 18, 2002.
102 The man killed was Pele Musa. Chukwudi Nwabuki, "Survivors of Kwara Shooting Narrate Ordeal," This Day, February 17, 2003.
103 Wale Oladepo, Commissioner for Information, Kwara State, "Saraki and Kwara Political Violence," This Day, March 1, 2003.
104 Abdul Laro, "Kwara Police Declare Five People Wanted," Daily Trust, March 3, 2003.
105 Human Rights Watch interview with Sani Dahir El-Katuzu, National Secretary, ANPP, Abuja, February 19, 2003.
106 Human Rights Watch interview, Ilorin, December 17, 2002.
107 Human Rights Watch interview, Ilorin, December 18, 2002.
109 "Plot to Kill Prominent Kwarans Uncovered," National Pilot, November 18, 2002; "Why They Bombed National Pilot," National Pilot, November 18, 2002.
110 Human Rights Watch interview with Rasaq Lawal, Ilorin, December 18, 2002; "Saraki Responsible for Kwara Bomb, Says Lawal," This Day, December 17, 2002.
111 "Seven held over Ilorin explosion," The Guardian, November 19, 2002; "Bomb Blast - Dan Madamin Ilorin, 10 Others Docked," Daily Trust, December 26, 2002.
112 "Police ignored reports before Ilorin bombing, says Lawal," The Guardian, November 20, 2002; "Saraki and Kwara Political Violence," This Day, March 1, 2003.
113 Human Rights Watch interview, Ilorin, December 18, 2002.
114 Human Rights Watch interview with Bukola Saraki, Ilorin, December 18, 2002.
115 Human Rights Watch interview, Ilorin, December 18, 2002.
116 Human Rights Watch interview with Lai Mohammed, Lagos, December 20, 2002.
119 The state houses of assembly in Nigeria are the only organs of the unicameral state legislatures.
120 Human Rights Watch interview with Nwabueze Ugwu, Enugu, February 5, 2003.
121 Goddy Osuji, "Thugs attack protesting workers," News, September 12, 1999.
122 Human Rights Watch interview with Chimaroke Nnamani, Enugu, February 6, 2003.
123 Human Rights Watch interview with Nwabueze Ugwu, Enugu, February 5, 2003; letters from Nwabueze Ugwu to the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State, February 23, 2001; July 31, 2001; November 28, 2001.
124 At the time, there were sixteen legislators in the "Abuja group" and eight pro-governor members. While two-thirds vote is normally needed to suspend the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, the legal aspect of the dispute involved whether a proper quorum had been reached to conduct the vote.
125 Human Rights Watch interview with Nwabueze Ugwu, Enugu, February 5, 2003.
126 In February 2003, Human Rights Watch researchers visited the grounds of the apartment complex that serves as residences for members of the state house of assembly. We were told that all of the members are living there together now; no police officers were in evidence.
127 Human Rights Watch interview with Chukwu Abel, Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, and Igwesi Uchenna, Member, Enugu State House of Assembly, Enugu, February 7, 2003.
129 Human Rights Watch interview, Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, Enugu, February 6, 2003.
130 Letter from Civil Liberties Organisation to the Governor of Enugu State, February 6, 2003.
131 Public Announcement Issued by the Catholic Diocese of Enugu on 7th March 2002 Following the GTC Enugu Adoration Tragedy, reprinted in Statement of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Commission for Development Justice and Peace and Caritas, Human Life is Sacred: The Adoration Ground Tragedy in Enugu: The Facts and the Issues, April 12, 2002.
132 Main Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Deaths at the GTC, Enugu Adoration Ground.
133 Statement of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, April 12, 2002.
134 Father Obiora Ike, the director of Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace, had preached against the governor's importing arms, among other things. Human Rights Watch interview with representative of Civil Liberties Organization, February 6, 2003.
135 Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) Enugu, Observation of the Voters Registration Exercise Conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Enugu from 12th-22nd September 2002.
136 JDPC Monitoring Team, Observation Activity at Mpu on 19th September 2002 (received from JDPC official, February 7, 2003).
137 Human Rights Watch interview with JDPC official, Enugu diocese, Enugu, February 7, 2003.
138 Human Rights Watch interview with Governor Nnamani, Enugu, February 6, 2003.