1.1 Background to the Study
Ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria can be divided into two broad periods. They are pre-independence ethno-religious conflicts, that is the period before 1st October, 1960; and post-independence ethno-religious conflicts, that is the period after 30th September, 1960. This work is concerned only with the post independence ethno-religious conflicts. This choice is informed by the practical impossibility of covering the pre-independence ethno-religious conflicts within the scope of this work. This is because there is a dearth of literature on the specifics of pre-independence ethno-religious conflicts in the country. The first ethno-religious crisis in Nigeria after independence emanated (no doubt) from the widespread communal crisis of 1966 resulting from violent military coup d’état which eventually led to the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970. After the war, Nigeria enjoyed relative calm, free from communal crisis throughout the 1970s. The only notable civil disturbances come from university students who from time to time took to the streets across the country in protest against government education policies such as increase of school fees.
The Kano religious disturbance of 1980, dubbed The Maitatsine Conflict,
is perhaps the first major ethno-religious conflict in modern Nigerian history.
This was soon followed by another religious conflict in 1982 within the same
Kano metropolis. Thereafter, periodic conflicts occurred here and there
throughout the 1980s, from skirmishes in rural areas over farmland to communal
disturbances in urban areas over traditional chieftaincy matters. The
floodgates of major ethno-religious communal violence burst opened in 1987 with
the Kafanchan ethno-
religious disturbances. This was followed by the 1991 Tafawa Balewa ethno-religious conflict, the Zangon Kataf and the Tiv-Jukun flashes of on-and-off periodic disturbances that refused to end. Most of the ethno-religious conflicts were confined to the northern part of the country. However, there were recorded conflicts, mostly ethnic in nature that simmered across the south such as the Ijaw-Itsekiri, the Umuleri-Aguleri and Ife-Modakeke conflicts.
Most of these conflicts were caused by internal and external factors. The family, the traditional institutions of chiefs, emirs, igwes and obas etc., the religious institutions, the police, the judiciary, unity Schools, National Youth Service Corps, tribal organizations and associations, the media and government are all institutions which ought to prevent or mitigate the occurrence of ethno-religious conflicts. Yet Nigeria is being plagued by ethno-religious conflicts that keep recurring with unprecedented frequency raising questions about the role of these institutions. This work shall examine these institutions.
The Nigerian constitution as the legal basis for the existence of the Nigerian state ought also to prevent or at least mitigate ethno-religious conflicts in the country. That ethno-religious conflicts occur the way they do in Nigeria calls for an assessment of the performance of the Nigerian constitution as an instrument for unity, and the prevention and mitigation of ethno-religious conflicts in the country; likewise the operators of the Constitution. This work shall examine the provisions of the Constitution1 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that relate to, or have bearing on ethno-religious conflict, as well as their implementation to ascertain why the constitution is not serving as a wall of defense against ethno-religious conflicts in the country.
- CFRN 1999
1.2 Conceptual Definitions of Relevant Key Terms
The word conflict is a common everyday used word, generally understood to mean disagreement, difference of opinion or struggle.2 Conflict also connotes violence, armed fighting and war.3 Conflict can be violent or non-violent. A non-violent conflict is described as competition, and in common language, violence, or the lack of violence, differentiates conflict from competition. A conflict may move through different stages; from a non-violent conflict in its initial stage, into a violent conflict.
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE LEGAL AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE PREVENTION AND MITIGATION OF ETHNO-RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA