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THE RECURRING INCIDENTS OF ETHNO-RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA: A PERSPECTIVE ON NATIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGES FOR NIGERIA
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
The security of a state translates to its capacity to protect its citizens as well as national assets from both internal and external threats. National security entails a condition in which citizens of a country enjoy free, peaceful and safe environment; and have access to resources which will enable them enjoy the basic necessities of life (Enahoro,2004). It also guarantees individuals and groups the freedom to carry out their legitimate businesses without hindrances. A nation’s security may be undermined by either external or internal conflicts resulting from political, social, religious and economic misunderstanding within it. These conflicts usually reflect varying interest between two or more opposing forces, communities or groups within or outside the society. These may lead to competition, tension, hostility, fear and suspicion; and usually to one form of aggression or the other among the competing parties (Chaplin, 1979:3). Conflicts also affect social, political religious and economic lives of societies.
Religion is value based; as such people are usually emotionally attached to it and less tolerant with any attack on it. Religious conflict can be described as disagreement from differences in faith and belief (Dentsch, 2001:3). However, most conflicts referred to as religious in Nigeria may actually be ethnic based. Ethnic conflicts are struggles for or rights to certain needs such as land education political autonomy or representation and preservation or identity among other demands. Ethno-religious conflicts in Nigerian could therefore be described as a situation that often results in conflict when 2 or more ethnic or religious groups desire to achieve a goal. Obviously these conflicts are not confined to any specific geo-political region of Nigeria.
Ethno-religious conflict is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. For instance, there was a politically or ethnically motivated riot known as Kano Riot in 1953. The 1962 and 1964 Tiv riots, the 1969 Agbekoya farmers uprising and the 1979 Kafanchan Christian-Muslin religious disturbances were thought to be politically or religiously motivated. Also, there are many instances of ethno-religious crises in the country such as
the 1980 Bakolori farmers uprising in Sokoto state, the Maitasine intra religious disturbances, the Ife-Modakeke conflict in 1986 and the numerous riots in universities and tertiary institutions at various times in the country. There was also riot in Kano in 1991 over an open air Christian crusade by a German based evangelist Rev Reinhard Bonke’s. Within 1993 and 1996, the Ugep and Idomi ethnic groups in Cross Rivers State were also involved in communal conflicts. The list is in exhaustive. These conflicts have negatively affected political and socio-economic activities in the affected states and in the country as a whole especially in the areas of commerce and tourism.
A vital interest in Nigeria’s national defence objectives is to ensure her survival and security .The Federal Government of Nigeria in an attempt to eradicate the threat posed by ethnic and religious conflicts have put measures in place to prevent its continued re-occurrence. The increase in the number of conflicts and the nature of violence associated with each crisis and the sophistication of weapons employed in recent ethnic and religious continues to makes Nigeria insecure. These emerging trends have thus proven the government’s measures to combat the crises as inadequate. Despite federal and state government preventive efforts, ethnic and religious crises have continued to occur sporadically in Nigeria. The need to curtail the re-occurring incidents of ethnic and religious crises therefore poses a challenge not only to government but citizens of Nigeria.
Consequently, this research is interested in finding solutions to the recurring incidents of ethnic and religious crises in Nigeria. The recurring ethnic crises in Nigeria have encouraged the formation of ethnic based groups. Some well known examples of these groups are the Ijaw militants in the Niger Delta, the Movement for the actualisation of the state of Biafra, Arewa People’s Congress and the Odua People’s Congress. The activities of these groups agitating for emancipation along ethnic lines are of serious concern. The situation if unchecked could have a ripple effect on the other parts of the country, thus encouraging other ethnic groups to pick up arms in furtherance of their aspirations. Additionally there are emerging threats from activities of members of religious groups, like the Boko Haram group. The activities of these groups with the support of other well known global movements could breed tension and eventually lead to flash points like Kano, Jos, Kaduna amongst others.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The rising spate of ethno-religious conflicts in the country has become a dreadful phenomenon. These conflicts are known to have posed some threats to security, peaceful co-existence of various ethnic groups and disruption to socio-economic lives of the people, especially in areas where they occur. Genuine and meaningful development for sustainable growth can only be achieved in a peaceful and secure environment where security of lives and properties are guaranteed.
According to Elaigwu, the period 1999 to 2007 witnessed a rise in ethnic and religious crises in Nigeria. The current trend of violence associated with crises has assumed an alarming proportion that was hitherto of ethno-religious conflicts in the country (Elaigwu, 2004). It is against this background that an attempt will be made to address the causes and security implications of ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria, in order to enable the federal government find solutions to stop the re-occurrence. Therefore, the study seeks to find answers to the following:
a. What are the factors that influence ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria?
b. What are the implications of ethno-religious conflicts on national security?
c. What measures can be adopted to prevent these conflicts?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of this research are as follows:
a. To examine the factors that influence ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria.
b. To examine the security implications of ethno-religious conflicts on Nigeria
c. Examine measures put in place to prevent the re-occurrence of the ethnic and religious conflicts.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The research is to contribute towards the federal Government of Nigeria’s effort at preventing the recurring ethnic and religious conflicts. The study is also to sensitise religious and community leaders on the need to embrace tolerance as a tool to resolving conflicts. Furthermore, the study seeks to highlight the need for various ethnic and religious groups in Nigeria to co-exist together. Finally, the research is to add to existing literature and to serve as a reference material for further research on the subject matter.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study is limited to ethnic and religious conflict in Nigeria from 1999 to date. This is the period the incidents ethno- religious conflicts attained an alarming rate of occurrence in Nigeria
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The methodology of the study is mainly interviews, discussions, media reports and books. Literature from these sources would be analysed and conclusions drawn from them. Moreover data obtained from interviews of a cross section of people across flash points in Nigeria will be presented.
The outcome as well as the quality of any research work is determined by detailed accuracy of its findings. As such, for this research, a quantitative preliminary study including a qualitative main study helped in producing results for analysis.
The research methodology used in this work is the analytical method. Unstructured interviews were conducted and data collated in an attempt to answer the research questions. The results were thereafter analysed in terms of content and accuracy of the information obtained.
The study was geared at examining the perspective of ethno-religious conflicts on national security. Consequently the study was carried out in Kano, Jos, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Aba and Port-Harcourt. These locations were chosen because they reflect a fair representation of the population affected by ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria. The choice of locations offers a balanced assessment of the effect of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria on national security.
The samples used for this research include the general populace, religious leaders, government officials as well as senior military and police officers. The justification for using these groups of people is that they were at one time or the other involved in the management of crises in Nigeria. All the respondents were consulted at different times in order to seek their opinion based on their experience during ethnic or religious conflicts.
A total of about 400 people comprising adult male and female civilians between the ages of 18-45 belonging to the Christian, Muslim and African tradition faiths were interviewed. Additionally, government officials, including members of the Armed Forces and Police were interviewed on the subject matter.
This study was conducted mostly by using data from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data were obtained through use of questionnaires interviews and discussions with youth groups, civil servants and market women. Other sources include prominent personalities that were one time or the other involved in the management of ethnic and religious conflicts at one time or the other. A sample of the questionnaire used is at Annex A.
The secondary data were obtained from government documents and library materials such as books, newspapers. The data analysis enabled proper assessment of the causes and security implications of ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria.
The validity of a research instrument is judged in quantitative and qualitative terms. Quantitatively, the response to interviews conducted is a measure of the validity as a research instrument. According to Babble, a renowned research methodologist, a research is valid if a researcher interviews persons in authority. Also, he considered as valid, the conduct of interviews of any person with access to information, fact or evidence (Babble, 2003:12). Therefore, this research would be considered valid considering the personalities interviewed.
The methodology used to obtain data though fast and efficient, it was observed that due to certain bias some questions on the questionnaires were not answered despite the assurance of confidentiality given. Also, it is difficult to ascertain the sincerity of the individuals filling the form due to the lack of personal contact when the forms were being filled.
1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
A study of this nature is not without limitations. Distance and time did not allow an extensive coverage of all relevant places and the people that could have been of greater help to this research work. Additionally, there were uncooperative responses from individuals during the interviews as a result of the sensitive nature of the study. However, the responses from those interviewed were sufficient for a comparative analysis.
The chapter sought to define the research methodology used in the research study. The independent variable is ethno-religious conflicts while the dependent variable is the National security. The research was carried out in form of a field survey with data collected from 5 selected cities in Nigeria.
Data was obtained from primary and secondary sources. The study population consisted of ages 18-45 in selected towns. A total of 400 sample population was taken and considered significant and adequate.