1.1 Background of the study
Presently in Nigeria, the formation of ethnic and religious have completely taken over the stage and also have played a noticeable role with socio-political interactions of the Nigerian state.
The scenario of this ethnic militia has posed itself to be a threat to Nigerian democracy and security, spanning from the North, East, and South of the Nigerian state. In the Northern state, the exertion of Boko Haram sect which has destroyed millions of lives in the region cannot be ignored. The Obatse Cult activities in Nasarawa state in north central Nigeria is likely going to be out of control. Taking it to the east, the frequent kidnapping by bad men/criminals remains dangerous in that region. In the South-south area, the activities of Niger Delta militants who in spite of the amnesty offered to them by the late President Yar Adua is still not steady, for this reason the environment still remained threatened day by day.
One of the major challenges that have constrained development in Nigeria is superiority, power of ethnic militias which is now a threat to democracy and security of the country and also eclipsed the nation for over a decade now. The lasting presence of violence expressed between these groups who feel excluded and unimportant from existing power structures on one hand and central authority on the other hand have seriously affected not only peace and security but also undermined and weakened the countries national development. Also, the violent conflicts with security personnel, and the deliberate destruction of public properties by both ethnic militias and insurgency seriously undermines the safety of lives and properties of the people, and infuse fear and sense of insecurity on the majority. These negatively influence the development of the Nigerian state.
Nigerian as a developing country has in recent times been at the receiving end of the frequent rise of ethnic militias. It has been pointed that this has also been a huge challenge in a significant number of African and Asian countries seeking to migrate from the stage of electoral politics to the consolidation of democracy. The weight of confirmation shows that democratic openings have often annoyed ethnic and communal tensions in divided societies. It is now at the back of every citizen’s mind that we live today in an “era of militant ethnicity”, with its grave social, economic, political and human costs because of the challenges facing the state.
Among the most critical and violent of this new brand of released political forces of which many have thought of as ‘resurgence’ is the intractable phenomenon of ethnic nationality/identity movements. Presently in Nigeria, this development has overshadowed and taken on the form of ethnic militia movements ostensibly standing in for and seeking to protect their different ethnic interests in a country in which the state is to a large extent perceived as unconcerned to the needs of the ethnic nationalities in the country. The most important and well pronounced among these militias include the plethora of the Niger Delta militias such as the Egbesu Boys of Africa (EBA), the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, and the Chikoko Movement. Other new and more pronounced militias include the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Arewa People’s Congress (APC). Without any question, the move towards ethnic national self-determination, in whatever form it clearly shows itself, is the maximum challenge facing the security of the Nigerian nation from the 1990s onwards. In densely populated slums of Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, Aba, Onitsha, Kaduna and Kano, militant groups sporadically unleash extreme violence on civil society as well as on the symbols of governmental authority (Okechukwu 2000). The weight of the killing of many people by these militant groups is better imagined than experienced. Agitating youths boldly overrun state security squads, ransack police stations and overtakes the streets for days. An order or law that requires people to be indoors are inflicted from time to time while embattled governmental authorities resort to shoot-on-sight orders to quell riots and restore order in the volatile Nigerian urban communities. The sudden increase in ethnic militias ironically seems to be what unifies Nigerians against the excesses of the state after many years of pernicious rule. Generally, Nigerians do not have of faith in their government; they lack the rule of law and a sense of being oppressed. Common to these militant groups are the attributes of the uncritical use of violence, a preponderance of youth membership, ethnic identity affiliations, and movements of a basically pronounced and well-known nature and pressing change over the status quo such as the calls for a Sovereign National Conference or a National Conference as the case September be. It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to unravel the interesting fact of ethnic militias and its threat to democracy and Nigerian security.
1.2. Statement of the general problem