ICHITE Christian (2015) Land conflicts, population pressure and lethal violence in the Niger Delta (Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta), 2006-2014
This study relies on the Nigeria Watch database to assess the contributions of land and population pressures to overall lethal violence in the core Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta over an eightyear period (2006–2014). Disaggregated data on land issue-related violent deaths was obtained for each Local Government Area (LGA) of the four states under review. Population densities were computed based on the Nigeria 2006 Census and available or ‘real’ surface area.
The study arrived at two main findings. First, casualties associated with land issues in the core Niger Delta states do not account for a significant contribution to overall lethal violence in the region, contrary to popular claims and declarations based on the unresearched impacts of the Land Use Act of 1978. Fatal land conflicts in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta result significantly from inter-communal clashes, just as inter-communal clashes over political, religious, and ethnic issues also significantly account for deaths. Second, overall crude death rates (mortality) from multiple causes, including land issues, do not strictly conform to a relationship of direct proportionality with the spatial distribution of population densities within the region. Some LGAs with high population densities record low death rates, and vice versa. Moreover, intercommunal clashes also significantly account for most of the deaths from multiple causes in the LGAs, irrespective of the patterns of population density.
The findings, by implication, attest to a deteriorating quality of human conditions and habitat in the Niger Delta, despite existing measures aimed at resolving conflicts in the region. They also make necessary a re-assessment of studies on the region. Such studies hitherto have often been based on simplistic applications of the Malthusian theoretical framework to the relationships between environmental degradation, population density, and lethal violence in the region. A reassessment would involve a renaissance of rigorous research into the causes and drivers of lethal violence in the region—in a disaggregated manner and based on systematic evidence. Such research increasingly requires a hybrid of qualitative and quantitative methodologies.