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 Nigeria has become an arena of intense ethnic anxiety, fears and suspicion, the ethnicisation of nearly every issue, the erection of ethnic shelters and security, a growing ethnic self assertion, increased ethnic activism and disputation and increased ethnic based contestation and challenges. Ethnicity has since the 1990s acquired a heightened political salience. It has become highly mobilized and group platforms for collective ethnic action hav proliferated. Ethnic and regional groupings are now at the center of the political arena, influencing the political direction of the nation (This Day, 2002). Ethnic conflicts too have emerged as one of the main sources of violence and conflicts . Since democratisation opened up the political space in 1999, ethnic politicisation and mobilisation for political action have been reinvigorated. Particularly, contestation and claims for and against the state and other ethnic groups have become more recurrent . Ethnic politics in the form of the threat or actual deployment of violence to actualise ethnic objectives is on the rise. Ethnic and ethno-religious groups have engaged themselves violently at the slightest provocation. On several occasions, profound conflicts and crises that have pushed the nation’s delicate unity and stability to the tip of the precipice and threatened the very basis of the nation’s ethnic pluralism have occurred in the last few years. Ihonvbere (2000) notes that Nigeria is characterised by ethnic violence and “all forms of underground resistance and challenges to the state and instability”. Ethnic based clashes with security forces in some parts of the country have became a rampant phenomenon and have recently assumed a more dangerous dimension , particularly in the South-West, South-South and Middle Belt regions. The intensification and mobilization of ethnic nationalism has fed into a multiplication of ethnic nationalist movements and militias in the Southern and Middle Belt Regions and fundamentalist militias in the Northern region. In the Niger Delta, a cluster of armed communal and ethnic militias groups has been active in the resource, selfdetermination and environmental struggles. Militia groups have become the instrument for ethnic contestations and confrontations. The very bloody and highly destructive ethnic clashes between the Itsekiris and Ijaws in Delta, the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani STATE, ETHNIC MILITIAS AND CONFLICT IN NIGERIA $XJXVWLQH,NHOHJEH 11  67$7((7+1,&0,/,7,$6$1'&21)/,&7,11,*(5,$ in Lagos, Ogun, Kwara, Kano, Oyo and Kaduna states, the Yoruba and Igbo in Lagos, and the Hausa/Fulani and Igbo in Kano, Kaduna, Abia and Imo States have had some participation of ethnic militias. Major ethnic and religious conflagrations and incidences have occasioned serious devastation, not only of lives and properties but of national integration, trust and confidence . The trend of ethnic and communal conflicts, the spate of violence and destruction , the scale of state security operations, and the frequency and recurring nature of the conflicts are some of Nigeria’s worst experiences since the civil war. There are serious fears that the amorphous, standing and transient ethnic and fundamentalist militias could constitute the ready standby armies or the recruitment base for various groups in the event of civil war. Mobilized ethnic groupings and militias represent a serious political challenge to Nigeria’s statehood and democracy. Ethnic conflicts reflect the failure of political integration , the accentuation of divisions and the persistence of centrifugal tendencies. There are fears that this trend may not only scuttle the embroyonic democracy but undermine national unity and security. The ethnic conflicts not only point to a failing state or one on the brinkbut raise serious fears of an implosion. The greatest challenge today to Nigeria as a nation and a fledgeling democracy is the maintenance of unity, peace and stability, which in the contest of increased ethnic contestation, conflicts and violence has been fairly lacking. The chapter examines the phenomenon of ethnic militia groupings, the reasons for their emergence, and their objectives, roles and activities. It seeks to identity how the character and nature of the Nigerian state and the configuration of ethnic power or hegemony, democratisation, economic crisis and other factors impinge on or underlie the phenomenon of ethnic militias. It examines the underlying factors of ethnic militia deployments against the state and other ethnic groupings as well as the nature and magnitude of the encounters. The nature of state responses to militia group formation and activities as well as the problems and consequences of ethnic militia operations on inter group relations and security are also examined. Finally, the chapter prescribes policy recommendations and prospects for the management of ethnic militias, ethnic conflicts...


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