Tribal conflicts in Nigeria

Nigeria has a long history of tribal conflicts. Find out what are the main causes for them and how they can be solved.

There are lots of various problems in modern world, such as poverty, starvation and many others. Tribal conflicts in Nigeria are one of the biggest issues of this country.
Tribal conflicts in Nigeria

Let’s find out what this term actually means. It is usually a confrontation of two or more tribes, living on the territory of a particular country. There might be various reasons for it, but all of them, as a rule, include the difference in the views and interests.

Reasons for tribal conflicts in Nigeria

Any confrontation appears by a certain reason. Thus, there are always sources of conflict. In Africa they include:

Tribal conflicts Boundary conflicts. People have always fought for the territory. Even nowadays conflicts may occur on this basis. Some tribes may want more land, or they think it should be owned by them historically.

Conflict of Economic Development. Some states, where particular tribes live, are forced to join any trade blocs, however they don’t want to.

It leads to the growth of cross-border networks. Thus, the competition among different tribes can also arise.

Militarization of the society. Because of the availability of weapons and soldiers (including volunteer ones) warlords can appear.

Conflict Governance. There can be dictator leaders, who don’t provide any rights for certain tribes. Thus, the latest suffer from hunger, underdevelopment, absence of medical assistance, and so on. Such situation can lead to the rebellions.

Foreign intervention. When any political or other figures interfere into the inner affairs of the country, there will always be people who are against it. Such intervention can influence the way of their life, culture, and other important things.

There are several reasons for tribal conflicts in Nigeria. Among them, there are:

 conflicts in Nigeria

  • Religion. This reason is connected with the history of conflict in Nigeria.The confrontation between Muslims and Christians has initiated long time ago. You probably know that there are tribes of different confessions in this country. The first stage of violence on this basis started in 1953. It was the Kano Riot against all the non-Muslim people. As it often happens it’s been inspired by bigotry. This very factor has always been one of the main causes of confrontations in Nigeria, because politicians couldn’t cope with it and develop tolerance. Twelve of 36 states in this country have Sharia as the main body of criminal and civil law. Thus, the pure Islamic society has been formed. However, you should know that it’s not only Muslims, but also Christians who have initiated the attacks. For example, in 2010 they did it in Jos. And it is considered the bloodiest conflict since 1990s. Over the last forty years, Nigeria has faced the rises of such radical movements as Maitatsine (1980-1985), Darul Islam (2009), and Boko Haram (2009-2015).

  • Tribalism. It is a kind of ethnocentrism, when the government (or the ruling class) supports and favors only one tribe. Such conflict took place in the 1960s, because of the mass fight for the political power. After Igbo soldiers had killed several politicians and weren’t punished for that, people from the north thought it was the attempt of Igbo to reach the power. It led to the blood massacre, where thousands of people of that tribe were murdered. Besides, it provoked the Civil War. During that time, more than 3 million Igbo people were killed. Some authors describe it as holocaust.

  • Trade disputes. There were several examples in the history of Nigeria. All of them were connected to the taxation, wages, and subsidy issues. The first one happened in 1929. It is known as Aba Women’s’ Riot. The reason was the revision of direct taxation. Women were sure it would lead to its extension. Thus, many tribes took part on that protest, including Ibibio, Igbo, Opobo, Orgoni, Andoni, and Bonny. Then there was a wage protest in 1949. It was peaceful, however, more than 20 miners were shot by policemen. The most recent dispute started in 2012. “Occupy Nigeria” movement was formed in response to the fuel subsidy elimination and other social injustice. There were lots of demonstrations both within the country and abroad.
    Tribal conflicts in Nigeria 1

  • Resource control. Such conflict happened in 1966. People wanted to have more control over the resources of their state (Niger Delta). They even tried to create independent Niger Delta Republic. But they were soon crashed by the Nigerian Armed Forces. Then, there was the same thing in 1995. About eight activists (most of them were the Ijaws) lost their lives. In 2001, conflict started again and it was more violent. The confrontation lasted until 2009. Nowadays it is still a big issue in Nigeria.

  • Land disputes. There have been plenty of such conflicts all over the country. The most glaring examples are Aguleri and Umuleri groups in Anambra State as well as Brass and Nembe ethnicities in Bayelsa and Rivers States.

As you may see, there have been many tribal conflicts in Nigeria. And they remain a big problem for the modern country.


You must understand that tribal conflicts, especially violent ones, have certain effect on the different aspects of people’s life. They have the most tangible effects on:

  • economy,

  • politics,

  • society.

conflicts in Nigeria 2

Any confrontation leads to losses. The first and the most terrible consequence is death. Lots of people are killed during various religious, resources or any other disputes. The others may just suffer from hunger or absence of medical assistance. Every time such situations make plain people more vulnerable (even if they don’t have any connection with the conflict itself).

When a conflict appears, the government needs to take special measures to stop it and to protect the population. It always requires money to be spent. Besides, any part of the country, where the confrontation occurs, stops being financially capable. Business and trade are withdrawn as well as the investments. Moreover, there are cases, when the government has to use force to cease the conflict. Sometimes army is necessary. And it takes much more money.

Moreover, during confrontations, people of various tribes start hating each other. And instead of having a united and tolerant state, there is a country full of hostility and violence. It becomes very weak in the course of time.

Tribal conflicts 2It’s also important to mention that armed clashes add to the problem of IDPs (internally displaced persons). People have to leave their homes and look for the other shelter somewhere else. Thus, some states might get overpopulated, while the others devastated.

Tribal conflicts are thought to be a big problem of many African countries, including Nigeria. There are many tribes living on its territory, and various confrontations occur quite often. There exist plenty of reasons and sources of such clashes, among which you may find trade, religion, boundary issues, etc. The government is not always able to solve it amicably. Thus, it has to use armed forces.

READ ALSO: Causes Of Terrorism In Nigeria

Any conflicts have very bad influence on different aspects of people’s life. They affect the economy, society, and even take away lives. That’s why something must be done to prevent them. Tolerance should be spread in order to teach people respect each other despite of the views and beliefs.

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