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The literature on ethno-religious violence in Nigeria largely implicates social-economic, political and governance deficits as the major causes of such violence. The thrust of this paper therefore, is to undertaken an analytical inquiry into the immediate and visible factors that trigger religious conflicts in the country. It also evaluates the nature of state management of ethno-religious conflict and posits that government haphazard approach to these conflicts as well as the absence of long-term strategy for its management account for their persistent manifestation. Drawing from the findings made, recommendations on the appropriate approach to curbing ethno-religious violence in the country are proffered.

Keywords: State, Ethno-religious violence and Nigeria




Religion could serve and has indeed served as an instrument of socialharmony in many civilizations. Paradoxically, however, it has also served as a motivation for violence, hence its indication in some literature as a “double edge sword” (Maregere 2011: 17-23; Obasi 2009, cited in, Sampson 2012:104) from the time immemorial, religious bigots have attempted to legitimize violence in the name of God. Contemporarily act of extreme violence such as terrorist attacks are often justified as “holy warfare”. In the past two decades, religious has been at the centre of most violent conflict around the world, thereby gaining notoriety as one of the prime security challenges confronting the world in the wake of the cold war (Juergensmeyer, 2000:6; Abu-Nimer 2000, cited in, Sampson 2012). Nigeria since independence has remained a multi-ethnic nation state with over 400 ethnic groups (Chidi, 2005; Salawa; 2010), belonging to several religious sects has been trying to cope with the problem of ethnicity on the one hand and the problem of ethno religious conflict on the other. In Nigeria, it is interesting to note that ethnicity and religious bigotry has become a fulcrum of violence forms of nationalism ranging from bitter war of words, cultural autonomy and religious superiority to demand for local political autonomy and self-determination. All these sometimes leads to some forms of contextual discrimination of members of one ethnic or religious group against another on the basis of differentiated systems of socio-cultural symbols and religion. Therefore, in a multi-ethnic and religiously diverse society like Nigeria, with some – forms of contextual discrimination, relationship between people may be characterized by lack of cordiality and mutual suspicion of fear. This mutual suspicion and lack of cordiality among the various ethnic components explain why ethno-religious conflicts have become permanent feature of Nigeria as a nation as far back as 1960’s to date. The Nigeria states have been characterized by various upheavals and vices from ethnic to religious violence, corruption and injustice, accusation and allegations of neglect, oppression, domination, exploitation, victimization, discrimination, marginalization, nepotism, bigotry and so on. All these also have some historical antecedent. This is because many governmental actions during the colonial rule and after independence encourage to a large extents, the sowing of seeds of ethno-religious violence that are found to be rampant in the Nigerian nation today. As noticed by Ikejiani Clark (2005), over the years, many events in Nigeria have led to the politicization of mistrust, intolerance, violence and acrimonious relations between the mainly Muslim North and the Christian South ofNigeria. To this extent, Ikejiani Clark contended that there has been an unfortunate insertion of ethno-religious discrimination and incompatibility in the structures of the Nigerian state since the colonial period. In 1931 for instance, the colonial administration under the leadership of Governor Donald Cameroon did not encourage intermingling of religions. The governor advised the Christian mission to thread softly in Muslim core areas, pushing them instead into the SabonGari (Strangers quarters) so as to maintain the stability of indirect rule. The political events of the June 15, 1966 coup and the July 1966 counter-coup further entrenched ethno-religious configuration in Nigeria.

This is because proper considerations were not taken as colonial administration before merging people of different ethnic and religious groups into one entity. This was done because it made control easier. Although some disagree on qualifying Nigeria as a single entity but an amalgam of two distinct and antagonistic entities with different background, aspirations and interest. The problems escalated during the call for self-determination as the nationalist elites rather than seeks to correct the ills created by the colonial government, were more concerned about attainingpolitical office and consolidating themselves in power. Therefore, the trends and patterns laid out by the colonial administration became the status quo for regulating the function of the state. Religion and its volatile nature which were the central focus of this research is one of the recognized factors that can enhance or destabilize the security of any nation at any given period. It is generally believed that religious value system play a very important role in collective self-awareness and identity which brings together individuals, families and regions and pull them towards great self-consciousness needed to build a nation from within (Williams, 1996).

Nigeria, a country with a population of over 150 million inhabitants is been considered one of the most religious countries in the world. While it is generally believed that ethnic identification is presumed to be the almost salient and consistent source of social identity in Nigeria. (Lewis, 2007).

This common assumption is challenged by a researched by the pew-Religious forum which revealed that religion, rather than ethnicity is the most salient identity in the country. By virtue of its complex web of politically salient identities and history of chronic and seemingly intractable conflicts and instability, Nigeria can be rightly described as one of the most deeply divided states in Africa (Osaghae and Suberu, 2005). The country isessentially heterogeneous society within the two monotheistic religion, Christianity and Islam enjoying the loyalty of most Nigerians. It is this unique religious divide that prompted Archbishop Onaiyekan to describe the country as “the greatest Islam-Christian nation in the world” by which he meant that Nigeria is the largest country in the world with an evenly split population of Muslims and Christians and “really the test of the clash of civilization” (Paden, 2007.)

Religion has always been important in Nigeria and in Nigerian politics (Enwerem, 1995; cited in, Okpanachi 2010.) “The intensity of religious identity in Nigeria is regarded as one of the highest in the world” (Paden, 2008). This claim is supported by the fact that Nigerians are more likely to define themselves in terms of religion than any other identity.

A study conducted in Spain has found that societies that are divided along religious lines are more prone to intense and prolonged conflict than those divided by political, territorial and ethnic differences (ReynalQuerol 2002). Perhaps, this reality explains the prime position that religious violence occupies on Nigeria’s security pyramid. Although often marginalized traditional religion has a fair of degree of followership and is not by any means isolated from religious violence for instance, in part of Kogi, Kwara and Nassarawa State, Masquerade activities associated with traditional religion have been a major sources of conflicts (Osagha and Suberu 2005:11).

The attitude of ethno-religion violence has deepened suspicion among the Nigerian populace, thus, creating cracks in the effort of the government towards sustainable development. Kaduna state as a composite unit of Nigeria has almost remained under the siege of ethno-religious crisis. Just as in other parts of the country, the sheer frequency of this conflict in the state is a cause for concern, A concern which actually informed this study.


Peace is an integral to national building and sustainable development. Absence of peace in any society breeds instability akin to “a state of nature”. This necessitates effective management of conflict by putting proper mechanisms in order to forestall further deterioration of societal order. Any keen observer of the Nigerian political scene would clearly see that since the nascent democracy in 1999, the Nigerian state has been characterized by all sought of political crisis predominantly of which is religious violence.

The phenomenal reoccurrence of ethno-religious conflict in Kaduna State as evidenced in the recent time has left more to be desired. Perennial loss of lives and properties, dominance of social upheaval in the state collapse of commercial and industrial activities, etc. all combine to precipitate a climate of fear uncertainty and underdevelopment in the state. Kaduna state has two broad cultural and religious blocs, the political system is expected to cope with and control violence in whatever form it may arise, and thus the state inability to effectively curb and curtail ethno-religious violence should not be overlooked or taken lightly. It is against this backdrop that the study addressed the following questions;

1.       Why were ethno-religious conflict rampant in Kaduna State in the

Period under study?

2.       What is the socio-political economic and governance factor that cause vio1ence?

3.       What role, if any, did the non-governmental organization play in the management of aforementioned violence?


The focus of this study rest on the following objectives;

i.        To examine the underlying socio-political, economic and governance        factors that brings about ethno religious violence.

ii.       To examine the present lapses in the Nigerian state that give rise to violence and how it can improve and appropriate strategies for managing religious violence.

iii.      To suggest ways in which incidence of ethno-religious violence can be reduced to ensure peace and security in the state.


What this research intends to do basically is to highlight on the probable factors and causes of ethno-religious violence in the country within special focus on the forth republic, it would as much as possible provide a deep insight on the structures of the state that allows for the mismanagement of its affairs. It would shed light on the reasons for dissatisfaction among different groups that has led to many crisis which the state as witnessed since independence, also how relevant other institutions unwillingly spark of religious grievances and sentiment while carrying out their activities. The paper would provide insights on how certain inactions of the state has created the platform for religious violence to occur. Finally, it will proffer solutions that would be very useful in managing religious differences and violence which if carefully observed can ensure peaceful coexistence among the different religious groups.


The research is limited to Kaduna State ethno-religious crisis from 1999 – 2012 pointing out the various incidents, locations and the causes. However, an analysis of the frequency of these conflicts must necessarily incorporate historical antecedents. This is in agreement with the postulation of (Ekong, 2002: 95). All our past proclaims our future… if we of today would understand where we are at present, we must begin by examining the heritage of our past”.

The research took a historical tour of past ethno-religious conflict in Kaduna from 1986 — 2012 in order to have insight of the nature of the conflicts. Most importantly, it would make more inquiry in the immediate and visible factors that have triggered ethno religious violence in the country. And also, the researcher will look into the state ineffectiveness in the management of ethno-religious violence as in Nigeria.


The study is based on data derived from secondary sources. The research work being historical, descriptive and analytical in nature requires such a methodology.  In this regards, much of the data were sourced from books, journals, magazines, newspaper, published and unpublished materials, seminar and conference papers presented on different fora,  Internet source was also used, data were also obtained from library of Bayero University, Kano. Which help to gain understanding of the issues there in subjected to questioning?


  • State: State is characterized by political apparatuses, distinct from both ruler and ruled )with supreme jurisdiction over a democratic territorial arena, backed by a claim to monopoly of coercive power and enjoying or minimum level of support or loyalty from their citizen (Epelle, 20 10:7).
  • Ethno Religious Violence: Ethno-religious violence means a situation which the relationship between members of one ethnic or religious group and another of such group in a multiethnic and multi- religious society is characterized by lack of cordiality, mutual suspicion and fear, and a tendency towards violence confrontation.
  • Nigeria: Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its federal capital territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares borders with the Republic Of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the East and Niger in the North. Its coast in the South lies on the gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. There are over 500 ethnic groups in Nigeria of which the tree largest ethnic groups are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.


The first chapter which gives the background of the research, statement of the research problem, research objectives, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the research, research methodology, definition of key concept and chapter outline. 

Chapter Two, focuses on literature review and theoretical framework. Chapter three will be based on proper analysis of the historical precedence of the existing problem of ethno-religious violence, the visible causes of the violence, pattern of settlement along religious line and timeline of some cases of religious violence. Chapter four will look into state ineffectiveness in the management of ethno-religious violence. Finally, the fifth chapter will contain the summary, recommendation, conclusion and bibliography.

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