Nigeria is the result of a 1914 British colonial decision to lump together more than 250 ethnic groups, differing in culture and social structure. The amalgamation of the Northern and southern protectorate with differing languages and culture has been a cause of conflict in Nigeria. By 1914, Lord Frederick Lugard amalgamated different parts into what is known as Nigeria disregarding to ethnic boundaries. The British “did not seek the views of Nigerians in the two amalgamated territories to ascertain whether they wanted such an amalgamation.” The new constructed administrative unit by the British did not consider difference in religion Muslim/ Christian and this religious difference has been a course of disagreements and suspicion in Nigeria. The colonial government separated the country, after independence ethnic tension was exploited, in addition competition for natural resources fueled tensions between the oil-rich South and the predominantly agricultural North. The location of oil in certain ethnic areas and its mismanagement by post-independence governments has exacerbated ethnic tensions. Ethnic-based militant groups, formed to counter the abuses of the successive military regimes, are accused of fueling recent ethnic violence.
When Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960, many Nigerians expected the attainment of independence to usher in an era of widespread prosperity, democracy, and self-governance. The first Nigerian Republic collapsed due to lack of vision, opportunism, and the political elite’s acceptance of the logic of the colonial political system. The civilian government also engaged in corruption and mismanagement of scare resources, the civilian government also enhanced tribalism where it favored member of one tribe over the other. In terms of government jobs and resources, they only trickled to small section of people. The abuse and misuse of ethnicity therefore has been a cause of violent in Nigeria. For selfish political and economic gain, those in public office often mobilize on ethnic lines to further their political and power base. As one ethnic line benefit over the other, there is a constant rivalry, tension; instability as the sidelined ethnic groups tries to overcome domination from the other ethnic groups.
Nigeria conflict also emanates from religious sphere. Religious fanaticism leads to conflict in Nigeria. Nigeria has three major religious identities, Christian, Islam and traditional religions. Traditional religions are politically inactive of the three groups however the Christian and Muslim have been the backbone of religious disparity and conflict. Within Muslims there are umbrella bodies that propagate different understanding of Islam, for example the Jamaatu Nasril Islam which was established in 1961, the Shiites, Talibans and Boko Haram. These groups demanded the establishment of the purist Islam based on Sharia law also extremist groups demonstrate intolerance towards their coreligionists and other religions. Therefore extremists of all religions react to social, economic and political crises of the Nigerian polity in religious terms.
Another source of armed conflict in Nigeria is resource control. Britain controlled resources in the Niger Delta forcefully; therefore minorities were obscured and not recognized during colonial regime in resource allocation. From the colonial era, there was resource control protests which never went with the colonial regime. Following independence, crude oil exploration turned out to be the most profiting venture, making huge income and therefore the government guaranteed every part of the country fair share from the oil resource. This was done to ensure that no single region took advantage of the land’s wealth to jeopardize the unity of the country. IN 1966, there was military intervention which posed a challenge to resource control in Nigeria when an ethnic minority Ijaw militant, ex-policeman and undergraduate led a group of youths named the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) in an abortive attempt to secede from Nigeria, and establish a Niger Delta republic. This involved suspension of people rights and control over the entire land, cancellation of 50% revenue of the Delta area and neglect of the environment. The resource controls were under the Supreme Military Council and the Federal Executive Council that downplayed the right of people. The military undermined democratic process and the people of the Niger delta were left at the mercy of politicians and oil entrepreneurs. In the Niger Delta, they is extreme poverty, oil pollution, high levels of youth unemployment, political marginalization and neglect by successive administrations. These complaints are with the ethnic minority groups in the Niger Delta who feel are cheated in the fair share of oil revenue because they are politically marginalized by the federal government dominated by bigger ethnic groups (non-oil producing). As a response Niger Delta resistance movements was formed in 1990s where government sees such groups as economic sabotage to the main source of national revenues and a challenge to its power in the Niger Delta. The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) moved the struggle to its next phase in the 1990s when it presented the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) to the government, demanding local autonomy and control of its oil in Ogoniland, which threatened the survival of the people. In return, the MOSOP resistance was crushed through the use of state military force, and the hanging of nine of its leading members.
Another cause of Nigeria armed conflict is corruption and inept leadership. Nigerian society has faced challenges in governance since it attained her independence from British in 1960. Nigerian state has changed from democratic to military regimes then to democracy, a country managed by leadership who are selfish and corrupt who accumulate wealth at the expense of the national development. From Tafawa Balewa to Olusegun Obasanjo ( 1960-2007, crisis of leadership has been witnessed. President Olusegun Obasanjo in his second term was determined to fight corruption but it was fruitless as he and officials under him were corrupt. He sold government property to his cronies below the cost price. In Nigeria corrupt people are honored and the financial resources which would have been used to facilitate economic development have been diverted to private bank accounts abroad. The government is unconcerned in agriculture, general merchandising which are main activities of the ordinary citizens. They deem such areas as very unattractive. Due to corruption the cost of doing business is high due to illicit payments.
There has been no serious conflict since the Biafra war because the Nigeria government has been tough on pro-Biafran activitist. According to Amnesty international 150 activists died on Biafra Day in 2016. After the Biafran war the government went after the followers where post- war punitive massacred occurred, dismissal of some officers of the loosing since and civil servancrts, secret execution of some officials , seizure of igbo properties, boundary adjustment, exclusion of the Igbo from the government in Nigeria, policy of destroying Igbo businesses and lynching of Igbos in the North. In an attempt to create cohesion among ethnic groups, Yakubu Gowon introduced National Youth Service Corp where university graduates were required to spend one year working in another state other than their own state of origin. In 1976, there was also the creation of seven states in 1976 which was meant to give a measure of autonomy to ethnic minority groups in the country. The number of such states has increased to 36. In 1999, President Olugesun Obasanjo established the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commision (OPuta Panel) The commission was mandated to establish causes, nature and extent of human rights violations. Acknowledgement and apology has also been practiced as post conflict restorative justice.