IDPs: Case studies of Nigeria´s bomb blast and the Yoruba-Hausa ethnic conflict in Lagos, Nigeria

By J. Adele Bamgbose


This article examines separately two different incidents of accidental bomb blast at Ikeja Cantonment, and ethnic conflict between the Yoruba and Hausa at Idi-Araba, Mushin in the suburb of Lagos. These incidents which took place at two different locations at Lagos in Nigeria were fundamental and painful because of the magnitude of displacements caused by these two incidents by rendering thousands of people homeless, sent hundreds to the grave beyond, destroyed many properties including buildings and besides, they called for government attention to give succour to the plight of the affected people. The paper further points out that forced/involuntary migration can be responsible for human displacement without people necessarily crossing international boundary. This became the fate of scores of Nigerians who were forcefully displaced through the accidental bomb blast which occurred on 27 January, and ethnic conflict which occurred on 2nd and 4th February 2002.


Even though, the political entity subsequently called Nigeria was colonized by the British Government; the fact remains that, Nigeria was never a British creation. Rather, the various Nigeria's boundaries were delimited by the British Government only after the indigenous cultural geography had already been established. However, before colonization, contemporary Nigerian formation was composed of state systems called differently as empires, a caliphate, kingdoms, chiefdoms and village republics (Oyovbaire 1981: 356; Oyovbaire 1983: 6). But before the British occupation, these different societies had attained different stages of development (Post 1964:169). With the manner in which European nations descended on Africa during the closing years of the nineteenth century, Nigeria gradually became British possession. British penetration into Nigeria began from the annexation of Lagos in 1861.

British penetration to Nigeria was multifaceted. There was a penetration through Lagos which was extended into Yoruba hinterland in order to control Lagos. The occupation of the South-eastern part of Nigeria was taken over by the British Foreign Office. The North was developed and secured for British enterprise (Osuntokun 1979:92). Having gradually penetrated, the British government devised separate forms of government over these areas which conformed not only to the structure of the societies concerned but also to their legal positions (Okafor 1981:1). Thus at the Lagos Colony, Crown Colony type of government existed which was based on the twin pillars of imperial control and a strong local authority. It was characterized by the Governor, the Executive and Legislative Councils. At the Protectorate, the Protectorate system of government existed both in the south and in the north.

In the protectorate, the High Commissioner was the representative of the British Crown and also, the head of the Executive. It had no Executive nor the Legislative Council. These two were entrusted to the High Commissioner. With this arrangement, the British Government, following incessant quarrels over issues relating to boundaries was dissatisfied with the system of maintaining three separate administrative units. This was followed by amalgamation which was first suggested by Sir Ralph Moor (Anjorin 1967:72) and was followed by the 1898 Selborne Committee which investigated the need for amalgamating the different entities of Nigeria of which 1914 climaxed the whole process (Ballard 1971:333). And by this exercise, Nigeria became one political unit having an area of 913,072 square kilometers, a distance of 1,120 kilometres from west to east and 1,040 kilometres from south to north (Afigbo 1991:14).

The country has three macroregions in these order: the forest lands in the south, the Sudan savanna in the north, and the forest savanna interface. Nigeria was an agrarian country even before the advent of the colonialist where diverse farmers cultivated crops for their subsistence living. The British desire for local raw materials and mineral resources, an outlet for its increasingly unemployed labour force and underutilized capital, and a market for the purchase of foodstuffs and sale of its industrial goods necessitated the reorganization of the socio-economic and political activities of Nigeria (Nnoli, 1976:4). Marketing Boards were thus created after the Second World War to supply raw materials to factories in Britain. Her vast land was coupled with her enormous diversity of ethnic groups totaling 374 ethnic groups. Many of these linguistic groups are small and politically insignificant. Among these ethnic groups, three, which are the Yoruba, the Igbo and the Hausa-Fulani comprise collectively two-thirds of the population (Diamond 1995:419). These three as Uchendu claimed should be called nations rather than tribes (Uchendu 1970:57).

However, two issues under consideration are the bomb blast which occurred on 27 January 2002, and the Yoruba-Hausa ethnic conflict which took place on 2nd and 4th February 2002. The bomb blast was as a result of the accident which took place at the Ikeja Military Cantonment armoury called the Ammunition Transit Deport (ATD) constructed by the British colonial masters. The exploded bombs destroyed many residential buildings including schools leading to internal displacement of many soldiers who were moved from Ikeja Cantonment to the nearby barracks. Civilians in the environs of the Cantonment were equally affected as they ran helter skelter for their lives.

The Yoruba-Hausa ethnic conflict took place at Idi-Araba in the suburb of Lagos as a result of disagreement believed to ensue between Musa, an Hausa man and members of the Oodua Peoples Congress - a pan Yoruba socio-cultural group. The disagreement attracted the attention of the two ethnic groups (Yoruba and Hausa) resulting into ethnic tension in which many lost their lives while hundreds were displaced.

The study is guided by the hypothesis that forced/involuntary migration can be responsible for human displacement without people necessarily crossing international boundary as has been the case in the two incidents discussed in this paper.

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