Ethnic Militias

Ethnic militia groups have become a major part of Nigeria’s present political landscape. Often inflicting or threatening to inflict violence for political and economic advantage; the activities of ethnic militias are not new to Nigeria.

However, the ferocity with which these violent attacks have occurred since the enthronement of the present democratic rule has made them one of the challenging daring monsters that need to be tamed.

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The reasons for ethnic militancy are diverse and they include those generated by continuous conflict and contradiction between citizen’s and indigene’s rights, ethnic and communal intolerance, environmental degradation, historical animosities, political competition, hunger, and tension arising from the dynamics of everyday life between indigenes and settlers or strangers.

The nature and outcome of the various ethnic militant attacks from 1999 to 2004 are presented below:


  • On 31 May 1999, Ijaw and Itsekiri militiamen engaged in a violent clash in Warri town, Delta State. The violent conflict erupted over the Olu of Warri’s throne and recognition.
  • In October 1999, the OPC attacked Ijaw, Itsekiri, and Urhobo indigenes (Egbesu) in Ajegunle, Lagos, over a disagreement between a resident and the vigilante (OPC).
  • On 8 November 1999, the Egbesu group killed a policeman in Odi. The remote cause of the incident was the kidnapping and killing of policemen by Egbesu youths in retaliation for the killing of their members. The government later deployed soldiers, who killed and razed down the town of Odi in Bayelsa state.
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  • On 20 January 2000, Mr. Afolabi Amoo, the DPO of Bariga Police Station was killed by OPC militants in Lagos.
  • On14 April 2000, the Agyragu crisis in Nassarawa state led to the killing of their fellow indigenes. The violence erupted when the militant youths of the town of Agyragu protested the location of the local government headquarters against the choice of their town.
  • On 16 May 2000, a bloody ethnic feud between Akasa and Igwama communities in Bayelsa state claimed many lives on both sides. Ethnic crises championed by militant youths, which resulted in killing on both sides, sparked off the ethnic feud.
  • On 5 June 2000, the violent clash among the two militant groups linked to the contenders to the throne of Olowo of Owo in Ondo state led to the killing of people and the colossal destruction of property.
  • In May 2001, the Tiv-Jukun and Fulani militias engaged in a feud over disputed land and property in Jukun land in Taraba state.


  • On 28 June 2001, many lives were lost in Azara town, Nasarawa state when the Azara people revenged the killing of their traditional leader by the Tivs.
  • On 7 October 2001, several lives were lost and property destroyed in Okrika town, Rivers state in the struggle for clan chieftaincy.
  • On 29 October 2001, nineteen soldiers were killed by the Tiv militias in Tiv/Jukun, in Taraba and Benue states in an escalation of the ethnic feud between the Tiv-Jukun and Fulani.


  • On 18 January 2002, some people were killed and many injured in the Awe crisis in Nassarawa state. The old feud among the communities in the local government re-echoed as militant youths raided and killed people indiscriminately.
  • On 12 February 2002, the OPC sacked the Hausa residents in Idi-Araba, Lagos. Misunderstanding between a Hausa resident and the Yoruba degenerated into an OPC violent attack on non-indigenes.
  • On 25 March 2002, more than 12 people were killed in a revenge attack on the Nselle people by the Ofara militants in Ikom, Cross River state.
  • On 12 June 2002, about 15 people were killed and many injured when ethnic youth militias of Ozoro and Okpaile communities clashed in Isiko, Delta state.
  • On 17 October 2002, an OPC-led attack in a bid to change the emirate system in Ilorin led to the death of many people. The attack was on both the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba ethnic nationalities.
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  • On 25 April 2003, the attack on the Navy and the Army by Ijaw militiamen left ten dead in Warri, Delta state. The Ijaw militia also intercepted the radio communication of the Navy and Army.
  • On 30 April 2003, women were killed in crossfire between the Ijaw militia and Nigerian security agents. The security agents intervened when the Ijaw militia opened fire on an Itsekiri town, killing five women.
  • On 1 May 2003, Ijajw militias attacked government forces and oil installations in Opumani Tanke farm, Okerenkoko, Delta state.
  • On 2 May 2003, Ijaw militiamen attacked government forces and oil installations in Effurun, Ubeji, Delta state.


  • On 22 February 2004, Hausa/Fulani militiamen launched an attack on a church, in Yelwa, Shendaam L.G.A of Plateau state, killing 48 persons.
  • 2-4 May 2004, Gamai and Torak militiamen launched a reprisal attack in Yelwa, Plateau state, killing about 600 people and destroying 49 vehicles and 210 houses.
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This piece is an extract from Democracy and Development in Nigeria Vol. 3. Written by Festus F. Asamu; Asamu is with Anti-Terrorism Movement (ATM), Ikeja, Lagos.

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