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This research was about Ethno-religious crises in Nigeria and its implications on national security. The study was set out with 6 objectives namely, to examine the relationship between      ethno-religious crises and national security. Others were to examine the causes and nature of ethno-religious crises and impact on national security. The implications of these crises on national security and measures put in place by the government to manage such crises were also considered. Finally, strategies to effectively manage ethno-religious crises in Nigeria were proffered.

The methods used in the study include the interview and documentary methods. The study revealed that causes of    ethno-religious crises in Nigeria include ethnic and religious intolerance, unemployment and illiteracy. Others are corruption, competition for scarce resources, political representation and indigene/settler disputes. The study also established that the implications of ethno-religious crises on national security were political, social and economic.

In considering the management of these crises, the study determined that the application of carefully thought out strategies would be necessary. Consequently, the study recommended the review of the indigene/settler issue in the country and adequate funding of the Universal Basic Education to promote education. Additionally, the study recommended the implementation of recommendations by commissions of inquiries on ethno-religious crises in Nigeria. The study also recommended the sensitisation of the Nigerian populace on the negative effects of ethno-religious crises and benefits of cordial co-existence.     




       Man’s insatiable want and competition for virtually all necessities of life has often pitched him against his neighbours and his environment.  This situation is further complicated by the inadequacy of life’s needs such as shelter, food and security. All these have combined to precipitate disasters, conflicts and crises.  Implicitly, man has lived with conflicts and crises since ancient times (Joseph, 1980:1). Conflict is defined as a condition of disharmony or hostility in relations (Mbachu, Eze, 2009:6). Conflicts usually occur as a result of clash of interests between societies, groups or states that are pursuing common but opposing goals (Okon, 2003:67). The many years of the Cold War between the Western and Eastern bloc was a vivid example of clash of interests as a source of conflict.  Crisis, on the other hand, is a condition of instability or danger that may lead to a decisive change (Ibid:12).

       Some African countries have experienced crises resulting from clash of interests or mismanaged disputes, while some of these crises are localized within towns, regions or nations, others transcend international boundaries.  The crises in Liberia for instance, which started as an internal crisis quickly escalated beyond its borders into contiguous nations of Guinea and Sierra-Leone.  Similarly, the Rwandan genocide, involving the Tutsi and Hutus, spilled over to neighbouring Uganda and Burundi thereby confirming that conflicts, once started may not be easy to localise to a specific place (UN Paper on Perspectives on Conflict and Securing Peace, 2001:3).

       Notwithstanding the scope of a crisis and people involved, crises may either be armed or unarmed, interstate or intrastate and can be classified in terms of its intensity as high, low or violent (Ibid:2). Most crises in Africa in recent times have been intrastate. Nigeria has experienced various crises situations in recent times.  Crises such as the Kaduna and Ife-Modakeke crisis of 2000, Tiv-Jukun/Fulani crisis of 2001 and Jos crisis of 2009 are some of the effects of conflicts in Nigeria.  These crises have had their roots in factors such as religious, ethnic, social, economic, political or a combination of these factors.  Irrespective of the causes, these crises have led to loss of lives and properties, dislocation in governance and threaten the basis of Nigeria’s national security.

       Security can be defined as a state of being or feeling secure (Mbachu, Eze, op.cit.:90). National security is the protection and preservation of the territory, sovereignty and stability of a country from threats.  It entails the freedom to pursue its core values and interests without let or hindrance (Ibid:7). Thus, for a nation to be secured, it should be able to protect its citizens as well as national assets from both internal and external threats.  Nigeria’s crises have been more associated with religious and ethnic differences. These crises have been a product of contradictions among religious and ethnic groups caused by insecurity of particular groups or societies engaged in socio-economic and political competition.  These crises have led to general insecurity, hostile actions and counter-actions which open up the possibility of ethno-religious violence. 

       The intense ethno-religious polarisation and conflict in Nigeria has increased in recent years due to the politicisation of religion and ethnic values.  This has led to a rise in the ferocity and scope of destruction of lives and property, and tension between different ethnic and religious groups in Nigeria.  Some effects of these crises are the increase in arms proliferation by various groups, armed banditry and kidnapping.  There have been several measures put in place by successive governments at the State and National level to prevent or resolve ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.  These measures range from the creation of additional states and local governments to the principles of federal character, quota system, equity representation in the national and state assemblies, among others. However, these measures have not adequately addressed the problems as the rate and intensity of ethno-religious crisis still persist. The scale and prevalence of these crises in Nigeria remains a matter of concern and requires urgent attention from all stakeholders.  As a result of these crises, social, economic and political progress in Nigeria has suffered setbacks, threatening National security.


       Ethno-religious crises have continued to affect and threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria, thus drawing interest and great concern.  Often, these crises have led to loss of lives and destruction of properties. They have also led to political instability, economic retardation, social and cultural disharmony in Nigeria.  Nigeria’s national interests, which represent her fundamental and directive principles of State policy as contained in the 1999 Constitution are self preservation and protection of her territorial integrity.  Others are defence and maintenance of her independence, economic and social well being of her people, and promotion of world peace.  Consequently, one or more of these interests constitute a threat to Nigeria’s national security.  The effects and implications of ethno-religious crises, which is part of the social well being of the people, therefore constitute a threat to Nigeria’s national security.It is against this background that the study seeks to examine the causes, impact, implications and management of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria with a view to proffering strategies that would resolve or prevent their future occurrence.  The study therefore seeks to find answers to the following questions:

a.    What are the causes and nature of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria?

b.    What is the relationship between ethno-religious crises and national security?   

c.     What are the impacts of ethno-religious crises on national security?

d.    What are the implications of ethno-religious crises for national security?

e.    What measures have been put in place to prevent and resolve ethno-religious crises in Nigeria?

f.     What strategies could be put in place to resolve or prevent ethno-religious crises?


       The objective of the study is to examine ethno-religious crises in Nigeria. The specific objectives of the study were to:

a.    Identify the causes, nature and impact of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.

b.    Examine the relationship between ethno-religious crises and national security.

c.     Examine the impact of ethno-religious crises on national security.

d.    Examine existing measures put in place by government to prevent or resolve ethno-religious crises.

e.    Examine the implications of ethno-religious crises for national security.

f.     Proffer strategies for managing ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.


       This study examined the implications of ethno-religious crisis on Nigeria’s national security.  The outcome of this study will contribute to the efforts of the Federal, state and local governments at preventing and resolving ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.  The study will provide a better understanding of     ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.  It would also contribute to the existing body of knowledge in this field and serve as reference material for further research on the subject matter.


       Ethno-religious crises in Nigeria have affected Nigeria’s national security since independence in 1960.  However, the focus of this study will be on ethno-religious crises in Nigeria in the period from 1999 to 2010.  This is because the period witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria.  A total of 57 crises were recorded during this period, of which 50 were ethno-religious.  They include the Odi crisis of 1999, Zaki Biam crisis of 2004, Jos crisis of 2009 and Boko Haram crisis       of 2010 among others. 


       This study is limited by unwillingness on the part of government officials, community leaders, politicians, youths and others to respond to interviews, as well as release documents in respect of the various crises.  Similarly, other respondents expressed reservations in providing information due to the sensitive nature of this study.  However, these limitations did not significantly affect the outcome of the research as additional information was obtained from other sources such as the internet. 

1.7           METHODOLOGY

       The research design used in this study is the descriptive method.  This involves observation of the frequency of occurrence of an event without influencing it.  Ethno-religious crises in Nigeria were analysed in order to determine their implications on national security.  Thus, the dependent and independent variables are identified as national security and ethno-religious crises respectively.  This is because Nigeria’s national security is affected by, and thus, dependent on ethno-religious crises.  This research design was used based on the relevance of the topic and to provide answers to the research questions.    

       The study aimed to identify the implications of            ethno-religious crises on national security.  Consequently, a general study of ethno-religious crises in Nigeria from 1999        to 2010 was conducted, covering the major geo-political zones. A map of Nigeria showing the geo-political zones is attached at Annex A.  The population of interest in this study are Nigerians that have been directly or indirectly affected by ethno-religious crises.  These are the people whose actions or inactions are likely to affect national security.  Civilians belonging to the Christian, Muslim and other faiths, along with government officials, serving and retired military and police officers were interviewed for this study. 

       The random sampling method was used in conducting interviews on this study.  Persons were selected from different areas that had been affected by ethno-religious crises.  The samples used involve the general public, religious leaders, government officials and security personnel.  However, due to the constraint of time, the researcher could not be physically present for all interviews and had to employ the use of assistants to conduct some interviews.

       The study was conducted by utilizing data from both primary and secondary sources.  Primary data were obtained from interviews and discussions with individuals such as civilians who had witnessed ethno-religious crises in their areas.  Also, government officials and security personnel who were directly or indirectly involved in these crises provided information for this study. Secondary data were obtained from government documents and library materials such as books, journals, newspapers, magazines and reports.  The internet was also used to acquire information on some of the ethno-religious crises that occurred recently.  The data obtained were used in analysing the implications of ethno-religious crises on national security in Nigeria.

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