Cover Image
close this bookCountry Report Nigeria - ICRC Worldwide Consultation on the Rules of War (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1999, 56 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAbout the People on War project
View the documentCountry context
View the documentCountry methodology
View the documentExecutive summary
close this folderThe war experience
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentRegional conflict
View the documentThe chaos of war
close this folderProtection of civilians
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentLimits and dissonance
View the documentAn array of norms
close this folderBreakdown of limits
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentErosion of restrictions
View the documentRegional tensions
View the documentConfusion and doubt
View the documentCycle of violence leads to dilemma
close this folderCaptured combatants at risk
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTorture
close this folderGeneva Conventions and limits in war
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPunishment
close this folderThe role of the ICRC/Red Cross
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBiggest role
close this folderReconciliation and the future
View the documentReconciliation
View the documentOptimism
View the documentAnnex 1: General methodology
View the documentAnnex 2: Questionnaire*


Nigeria's civil war was a conventional war fought in the south-eastern part of the country, known during the secessionist period as the Republic of Biafra. The war yielded two very different experiences: one for those close to the violence and fighting, and one for those removed from the conflict. But the war has made an impression on every person in Nigeria, no matter where they lived, or even if they were not alive at the time.

Unlike most of the participants in the People on War project, the people of Nigeria view war through a long lens, backwards through time. Among the respondents in the ICRC survey in Nigeria, all of whom were over the age of 18, only 34 per cent were age 10 or older at the end of the war; 43 per cent of those surveyed were born after the cease-fire was declared in January 1970.5 While the citizens of Colombia, Somalia or Afghanistan can relate stories of war remembered from youth, adulthood or even from past weeks and months, for the citizens of Nigeria, direct experience of war is either a distant memory or a lesson to be learned from history books, television or stories passed down from grandfathers and aunts, retired neighbours and distant kin.

5Forty-five per cent of Nigeria's 110 million people are under the age of 14; only 3 per cent are over the age of 65.

There is no doubt, however, that the 1967-1970 Biafran war made an impression on those born after its end. It still shapes Nigerian life, as focus groups, in-depth interviews and survey results reveal; the long-term consequences of the war range from the overt, such as the string of military governments that have dominated Nigerian political life since the war, to the subtle tensions that still linger on today. As one journalist commented, "Nigeria has been [in peace] almost 30 years, three decades, and we still have Biafra war effects." (FG, journalists, Lagos)

Many Nigerians' concept of war and the rules that govern it comes not from direct experience of violence and bloodshed, but rather from direct experience of the consequences - displacement, poverty, and mistrust born of exaggeration or simple fear. Their responses offer a unique perspective on a war a generation past.