Anambra State Vigilante Group / Onitsha Vigilante Group / Bakassi Boys (Nigeria)

Country: Nigeria
Details of Formation: Law no.9 – Anambra State Vigilante Services Law, 2000, published in the Anambra State Official Gazette, Awka, August 4, 2000 installed the ASV as an official vigilante service. Before, the Bakassi Boys were only active as mercenaries but had no clear pro-governmental attitude.
Details of Termination: After a short ban in 2000 by federal government which was overturned immediately, the AVS was declared illegal by federal government in September 2002.
Purpose: The state government used the militia as law-enforcement agents. They were supposed to detain alleged criminals and to reduce crime rates in Anambra state. While the police force is held accountable to the federal government, the militia is accountable to the government of Anambra and was also used politically by the Anambra administration. (Human Rights Watch 2002, 3)
Organisation: The militia gained official legal status and became a state vigilante group in 2000. Before, it was a community-based militia. The PGM consists of a security board with the chairperson of the group and a police superintendent. In addition, the Chairperson of the Security Committee at the state House of Assembly, a lawyer, the chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders of the state, and other community representatives make up the organization. The Anambra government sponsored the group financially, provided vehicles and an office (Amnesty 2002b, 9; Human Rights Watch 2002, 12)
Weapons and Training: One source reports that the PGM received training from Mbadinuju’s Anambra government. The militiamen carried machetes and heavy arms. (Amnesty 2002b, 9)
Size: No information.
Reason for Membership: No information.
Treatment of Civilians: Militiamen targeted alleged criminals and used extreme violence against civilians. Nonetheless, the militia received much support from politicians and the population because they were able to reduce crime (Human Rights Watch 2002, 2).
Other Information: In July 2000, the Federal Government tried to terminate the group and their activities, but on the state level group (e.g. governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju) still supported against the directions of the federal government. By September 2000, the Federal Government withdrew the order to end the activities of particular ethnic vigilante groups.
References: Amnesty International 2002a. “Vigilante violence in the south and south-east: Executive Summary”. AI Index: AFR 44/021/2002.

Amnesty International 2002b. “Nigeria: Vigilante violence in the south and south-east.” AI Index: AFR 44/014/2002.

Human Rights Watch. 2002. “The Legitimization of Murder and Torture”. Vol. 14, No. 5 (A).

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD.