Aftermath of the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970): The struggle for peaceful coexistence between parties in post-war Nigeria

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: People’s Friendship University of Russia
Address: Russian Federation,
Journal nameAsia and Africa Today
EditionIssue 6

Fifty years ago, the Nigerian civil war, one of the bloodiest conflicts occurred in Africa, ended but its echoes are still an abiding presence today. It was a fratricidal war ensued between the Federal Military Government of Nigeria headed by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon and the secessionist Eastern Region of Biafra headed by Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, between July 6, 1967 and January 15, 1970.

The main focus of this paper is to analyze the aftermath of the civil war on the post-war Nigeria, focusing in particular on the consequences that the conflict had as a threat to national security, unity and peace, in present days Nigeria. This thirty-month war had devastating consequences for the country, including death, displacement of people, and destruction of public infrastructure as well as physical and social capital. After the secessionist forces surrendered, Biafra was reincorporated into Nigeria as the East Central State. The Civil War left a legacy of death and destruction, particularly in the war-torn eastern region.

Many of Nigeria’s post-war problems still plague the nation today. In fact, ethnic tensions and military dictatorships continue to pose a threat to Nigerian unity. Additionally, this study will put its attention on the reasons why, half a century later, the war’s legacy continues to hold Nigeria captive. It simultaneously brings the country together and pushes it apart. In this scenario, it’s fundamentally important to find peacebuilding solutions and politic actions to maintain peaceful coexistence between parties, in order to avoid the incurrence of new conflicts.

KeywordsNigerian Civil War, Aftermath, Peaceful Coexistence, Ethnic Conflict, Biafra, Nigeria
Publication date11.06.2021
Number of characters28440
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2 The African continent has witnessed a number of bloody conflicts leaving in their tracks serious consequences including political, social, economic and humanitarian problems. The Nigerian civil war, popularly known as the Biafran War, was fought from 6 July, 1967 to 15 January, 1970 between the then Eastern Region of Nigeria and the rest of the country. The Eastern Region declared itself an independent state which was considered as a secessionist act by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria.
3 Since independence in 1960 the country was characterized by a fragile peace and stability condition, which culminated with the outbreak of the war.
4 In fact, many of the conflicts which rage today have their roots in the events which took place whilst Nigeria was under colonial rule. The eruption of the Nigerian civil war was as a result of political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain's formal decolonization of the country. According to the Federal Military Government of Nigeria the war was fought to reunify the country, for the Biafrans instead it was a war for independence, that marked the climax of a series of unfolding turbulent events that began in January of 1966. The civil war posed the greatest challenge to the continuing existence, unity and territorial integrity of Nigeria.
5 The immediate cause of the civil war itself may be identified as the coup and the counter coup of 19661, which altered the political system and destroyed the trust existing among the major ethnic groups. In order to disallow the country from disintegration it was divided into twelve states from the original four regions in May 1967. The former Eastern Region under Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu (1933-2011) saw the act of the creation of states by decree "without consultation" as the last straw and declared the Region an independent state of "Biafra". The Federal Government in Lagos saw this as an act of secession and illegal. Several meetings were held to resolve the issue peacefully without success. To avoid disintegration of the country, the central government decided to bring back the secessionist region to the main fold by force. However, while it is true that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) succeeded in taming the secession attempt, the war seems to have failed to resolve the remarkable issues that brought it about. 1. On January 15, 1966, the first military coup d’état led by Lt. Col. Ch.K.Nzeogwu and E.Ifeajuna, which overthrew the first Nigerian Republic, killed 22 people (including the Prime Minister of Nigeria at the time A.T.Balewa, many senior politicians, many senior Army officers (including their wives), and sentinels on protective duty). As a result, in the same year, some soldiers majorly from the northern part of Nigeria, reacted with a counter coup.
6 The Nigerian civil war appears like a paradox. On the one hand, the war restored the political map of Nigeria that had been redrawn by the seceding Eastern Region. At the same time, death, destruction of property and estranged relations among Nigerian nationalities, among other results or war, were very common [1].


8 As stated by Siyan Chen (American University and a management analysist) [2] war has devastating consequences for a country, including death, displacement of people, and destruction of public infrastructure as well as physical and social capital.
9 One of the most recent and comprehensive reports, World Bank’s World Development Report [3], shows that the economic and social costs of civil wars are not only deep but also persistent, even for years after the end of the conflict. Among scholars there are not enough evidence on the costs of civil war after peace agreements are signed. In fact, they kill people, destroy infrastructure, weaken institutions, and erode social trust. Moreover, the aftermath of any conflict if not well managed could leave the population under conditions that increase the risk of disease, crime, political instability, and could also encourage further conflict to rise in the future.
10 According Nwanne W.Okafor (from Nigeria who wrote in his master thesis at the Tilburg University in the Netherlands) wars have profound effects on the economy as they drain wealth, disrupt markets and depress economic growth of participating parties [4]. As a consequence, they fuel inflation as prices are pushed up, which invariably leads to a reduction of living standards. Wars also affect the inflow of foreign investments as the instability and the risks of investing during conflict may discourage business relationships. In addition, resources that could have been used by the government for the development of infrastructures in the country are diverted to contribute towards the growing costs of the conflict. Parties involved suffer extreme destruction of capital such as factories, cities, farms, hospitals and livestock, which further reduces the level of economic growth. Wars may lead to the internal displacement of people, due to insecurity or loss of their homes during the conflict, the breakdown of health and the spread of diseases owing to lack of medical care and medical facilities; all of these can also have a negative impact on the peoples’ wellbeing and on the economy.
11 After 30 months of fighting, the Nigerian civil war ended in January 1970 after the Biafran army surrendered to the Nigerian army. In accepting the suspension of hostility, the Head of state Yakubu Gowon declared that there would be “no victor no vanquished” and granted a general amnesty for people who had fought on the Biafran side [5]. His “no victor no vanquished” policy was designed to complete the integration of the Igbos back into Nigerian society following their defeat in the war. By virtue of the policy, the Biafran soldiers were neither tried nor executed for fighting against the federal army while some of the Igbo officers who served in the Biafran army were reabsorbed with loss of seniority [6].

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