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Nigerian Civil War Breaks Out - History

Nigerian Civil War Breaks Out - History

In January, a series of insurrections in the Nigerian army brought chaos to the country. Troops murdered their officers, civilians killed each other. The governor of the Nigerian Eastern Region, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwi Ojukwu, set up an independent regime. On May 30, 1966 he declared the eastern region independent as the new Republic of Biafra.

Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970)

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War, was a three-year bloody conflict with a death toll numbering more than one million people. Having commenced seven years after Nigeria gained independence from Britain, the war began with the secession of the southeastern region of the nation on May 30, 1967, when it declared itself the independent Republic of Biafra. The ensuing battles and well-publicized human suffering prompted international outrage and intervention.

Carved out of the west of Africa by Britain without regard for preexisting ethnic, cultural and linguistic divisions, Nigeria has often experienced an uncertain peace. Following decades of ethnic tension in colonial Nigeria, political instability reached a critical mass among independent Nigeria’s three dominant ethnic groups: the Hausa-Fulani in the north, Yoruba in the southwest, and Igbo in the southeast. On January 15, 1966, the Igbo launched a coup d’état under the command of Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi in an attempt to save the country from what Igbo leaders feared would be political disintegration.

Shortly after the successful coup, widespread suspicion of Igbo domination was aroused in the north among the Hausa-Fulani Muslims, many of whom opposed independence from Britain. Similar suspicions of the Igbo junta grew in the Yoruba west, prompting a joint Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani countercoup against the Igbo six months later. Countercoup leader General Yakubu Gowon took punitive measures against the Igbo. Further anger over the murder of prominent Hausa politicians led to the massacre of scattered Igbo populations in northern Hausa-Fulani regions. This persecution triggered the move by Igbo separatists to form their own nation of Biafra the following year.

Less than two months after Biafra declared its independence, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis fell apart. On July 6, 1967, the federal government in Lagos launched a full-scale invasion into Biafra. Expecting a quick victory, the Nigerian army surrounded and buffeted Biafra with aerial and artillery bombardment that led to large scale losses among Biafran civilians. The Nigerian Navy also established a sea blockade that denied food, medical supplies and weapons, again impacting Biafran soldiers and civilians alike.

Despite the lack of resources and international support, Biafra stood firm refusing to surrender in the face of overwhelming Nigerian military superiority. The Nigerian Army however continued to slowly take territory, and on January 15, 1970, Biafra surrendered when its military commander General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu fled to Cote d’Ivoire.

During this civil war, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people died daily in Biafra from starvation as a result of the naval blockade. The international reaction to the military conflict helped define how the world now views and responds to similar crises.


The Five Most Destructive Civil Wars in Modern History

There are many types of civil wars. Sometimes, such as the American Civil War, one segment of the population simply wants to leave and set up a separate country. Other times an upstart political faction wishes to gain control of the country.

In other circumstances, outside interests may attempt to partition the state to weaken it or gain access to its resources. Somewhat common during Cold War were civil wars in which a single people were partitioned into separate states, and then one group attempted to force a single state solution.

When a country is threatened with dissolution or partition it strikes at the heart of nationalist sentiment. For that reason, civil wars can be uncommonly brutal—especially to civilians trying to escape the battlefield. Here are five of the most lethal civil wars of all time.

Chinese Civil War

The Chinese Civil War, fought between Chinese nationalists and a revolutionary communist movement, lasted from 1927 to 1950. In the end, the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek evacuated to the island of Taiwan to carry on as the Republic of China, while the communists under Mao Tse-tung established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.

More than eight million people were killed during the war, mostly civilians killed by disease, starvation and reprisals conducted by one side in areas thought to be friendly to the other.

The initial phase of the civil war was mostly an insurgency by Chinese communist forces against the Chinese nationalist government. The communists did poorly however, and only escaped complete destruction after the so-called “Long March” to the relative sanctuary of Shaanxi province.

The communist forces’ big break came in the aftermath of World War II, when Soviet forces in Manchuria and Korea turned over captured Japanese weapons—and surplus Soviet weapons—to Mao’s armies, greatly increasing their firepower and overall effectiveness. The tide turned and Chinese nationalists were eventually forced off the mainland.

The Korean War is generally known in the United States as a military intervention on behalf of the South Korean government, but in broad terms can be considered a civil war that still has not technically ended.

At the end of World War II, Korea had been partitioned into two separate states: the South backed by the United States and the United Nations, and the North backed by China and the Soviet Union. The North Korean People’s Army under dictator Kim Il-Sung crossed the international border on June 25th, 1950 with the intention of unifying the country. The war triggered interventions by American, Chinese and Soviet forces.

It was also exceptionally deadly by modern standards, with several million killed on the Korean Peninsula, an area the size of Utah.

Military losses in the war are thought to be 70,000 by the Republic of Korea, 46,000 by the United States, and a combined one million North Korean and Chinese forces killed—600,000 in action, 400,000 through disease and illness.

Nearly one million South Koreans died during the war, or just under five percent of the population. North Korea, which experienced heavy aerial bombing by allied forces, suffered an estimated 1.5 million killed—ten to fifteen percent of the overall population. Such losses exceed losses (in percentage terms) suffered by the Soviet Union in World War II.

Vietnam Civil War (Vietnam War, 2nd Indochina War)

The 1954 partition of Vietnam into two nations made an attempt at reunification inevitable, especially when one side was run by the successful leader of a guerrilla army. The combination of a North Vietnam lead by Ho Chi Minh, the man who had forced France out of his country, and a restive South Vietnamese population led by a corrupt government made conditions ripe for a civil war.

Until 1968 the war was fought by South Vietnam, the United States and other allies versus the Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese regular forces. The Tet Offensive in January 1968 spent the Viet Cong as a military force, and North Vietnam continued to fight the war until victory in 1975. The fighting also carried into and destabilized Laos and Cambodia.

Military dead amounted to 1.5 million on all sides: 300,000 South Vietnamese personnel, and up to 1.1 million North Vietnamese personnel. In addition, 58,307 Americans, 5,099 South Vietnamese, and 1,000 Chinese military personnel were killed.

Up to 2.5 million civilians died in the Vietnam Civil War, if one counts associated fighting in adjacent Cambodia and Laos.

Congo Civil War

The Congo Civil War has been called “the widest interstate war in African history.” Ironically, the war actually began as Rwanda attempted to reign in anti-government forces operating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire.) The fighting expanded to ultimately involve nine countries and 20 armed groups, fighting not only for territorial integrity but also control of the country’s estimated $24 trillion in natural resources.

One of the most lethal wars of the last one hundred years, the Congo Civil War claimed the lives of 5.4 million people over a period of five years. This translates to nearly 3,000 fatalities a day, a shocking number given the general lack of conventional, decisive combat. Like most civil wars—and African wars—most of those killed in the Congo Civil War were civilians, killed by starvation, disease and atrocities committed by armed groups including children.

Nigerian Civil War

The four year long Nigerian Civil war broke out on July 6, 1967 and lasted until 1970. The Igbo people, with Nigerian military government rule and second-rate status in Nigerian society, seceded and formed the independent state of Biafra.

The bulk of the international community supported Nigeria, and with their help the military government was able to capture Port Harcourt — Biafra’s outlet to the outside world — and take back oil-producing areas that might have made Biafra a viable country.

Only about 30,000 Biafrans were killed in actual fighting. Isolated and impoverished by a lack of oil revenue, around 2 million others died of starvation and disease. On January 11, 1970 Biafra was forced to surrender and was re-absorbed into Nigeria.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. This article first appeared in 2015.


Millions Lost: These Were the Worst Civil Wars (America Does Not Come Close)

The U.S. Civil War was deadly, but these conflicts were worse and some of them took many more lives.

Key point: Some civil wars last long, others take forever. Worst, some of these terrible conflicts resulted in an astounding number of lives lost.

There are many types of civil wars. Sometimes, such as the American Civil War, one segment of the population simply wants to leave and set up a separate country. Other times an upstart political faction wishes to gain control of the country.

In other circumstances, outside interests may attempt to partition the state to weaken it or gain access to its resources. Somewhat common during Cold War were civil wars in which a single people were partitioned into separate states, and then one group attempted to force a single state solution.

When a country is threatened with dissolution or partition it strikes at the heart of nationalist sentiment. For that reason, civil wars can be uncommonly brutal—especially to civilians trying to escape the battlefield. Here are five of the most lethal civil wars of all time.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Chinese Civil War

The Chinese Civil War, fought between Chinese nationalists and a revolutionary communist movement, lasted from 1927 to 1950. In the end, the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek evacuated to the island of Taiwan to carry on as the Republic of China, while the communists under Mao Tse-tung established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.

More than eight million people were killed during the war, mostly civilians killed by disease, starvation and reprisals conducted by one side in areas thought to be friendly to the other.

The initial phase of the civil war was mostly an insurgency by Chinese communist forces against the Chinese nationalist government. The communists did poorly however, and only escaped complete destruction after the so-called “Long March” to the relative sanctuary of Shaanxi province.

The communist forces’ big break came in the aftermath of World War II, when Soviet forces in Manchuria and Korea turned over captured Japanese weapons—and surplus Soviet weapons—to Mao’s armies, greatly increasing their firepower and overall effectiveness. The tide turned and Chinese nationalists were eventually forced off the mainland.

The Korean War is generally known in the United States as a military intervention on behalf of the South Korean government, but in broad terms can be considered a civil war that still has not technically ended.

At the end of World War II, Korea had been partitioned into two separate states: the South backed by the United States and the United Nations, and the North backed by China and the Soviet Union. The North Korean People’s Army under dictator Kim Il-Sung crossed the international border on June 25th, 1950 with the intention of unifying the country. The war triggered interventions by American, Chinese and Soviet forces.

It was also exceptionally deadly by modern standards, with several million killed on the Korean Peninsula, an area the size of Utah.

Military losses in the war are thought to be 70,000 by the Republic of Korea, 46,000 by the United States, and a combined one million North Korean and Chinese forces killed—600,000 in action, 400,000 through disease and illness.

Nearly one million South Koreans died during the war, or just under five percent of the population. North Korea, which experienced heavy aerial bombing by allied forces, suffered an estimated 1.5 million killed—ten to fifteen percent of the overall population. Such losses exceed losses (in percentage terms) suffered by the Soviet Union in World War II.

Vietnam Civil War (Vietnam War, 2nd Indochina War)

The 1954 partition of Vietnam into two nations made an attempt at reunification inevitable, especially when one side was run by the successful leader of a guerrilla army. The combination of a North Vietnam lead by Ho Chi Minh, the man who had forced France out of his country, and a restive South Vietnamese population led by a corrupt government made conditions ripe for a civil war.

Until 1968 the war was fought by South Vietnam, the United States and other allies versus the Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese regular forces. The Tet Offensive in January 1968 spent the Viet Cong as a military force, and North Vietnam continued to fight the war until victory in 1975. The fighting also carried into and destabilized Laos and Cambodia.

Military dead amounted to 1.5 million on all sides: 300,000 South Vietnamese personnel, and up to 1.1 million North Vietnamese personnel. In addition, 58,307 Americans, 5,099 South Vietnamese, and 1,000 Chinese military personnel were killed.

Up to 2.5 million civilians died in the Vietnam Civil War, if one counts associated fighting in adjacent Cambodia and Laos.

Congo Civil War

The Congo Civil War has been called “the widest interstate war in African history.” Ironically, the war actually began as Rwanda attempted to reign in anti-government forces operating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire.) The fighting expanded to ultimately involve nine countries and 20 armed groups, fighting not only for territorial integrity but also control of the country’s estimated $24 trillion in natural resources.

One of the most lethal wars of the last one hundred years, the Congo Civil War claimed the lives of 5.4 million people over a period of five years. This translates to nearly 3,000 fatalities a day, a shocking number given the general lack of conventional, decisive combat. Like most civil wars—and African wars—most of those killed in the Congo Civil War were civilians, killed by starvation, disease and atrocities committed by armed groups including children.

Nigerian Civil War

The four year long Nigerian Civil war broke out on July 6, 1967 and lasted until 1970. The Igbo people, with Nigerian military government rule and second-rate status in Nigerian society, seceded and formed the independent state of Biafra.

The bulk of the international community supported Nigeria, and with their help the military government was able to capture Port Harcourt — Biafra’s outlet to the outside world — and take back oil-producing areas that might have made Biafra a viable country.

Only about 30,000 Biafrans were killed in actual fighting. Isolated and impoverished by a lack of oil revenue, around 2 million others died of starvation and disease. On January 11, 1970 Biafra was forced to surrender and was re-absorbed into Nigeria.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.


Nigeria Is Haunted by Its Civil War

The conflict’s legacy continues to hold the country captive, half a century later.

Mr. Siollun is a Nigerian historian.

LAGOS, Nigeria — Fifty years ago, on Jan. 15, Nigeria’s civil war ended. Fought between the country’s southeast region, which seceded and called itself Biafra, and the rest of the country, which Britain supported and armed, the war was brutal. Over a million people died during three years of conflict. After being starved into submission by a blockade, the Biafrans surrendered and their leaders promised to be “loyal Nigerian citizens.”

Half a century later, the war’s legacy continues to hold Nigeria captive. It simultaneously brings the country together and pushes it apart.

In the early aftermath of the war, the country appeared to be unified. Despite the war’s shocking human tragedy, reconciliation was remarkably rapid. War and partition ironically created a consensus: The country, now united, should never be allowed to break apart again. The government declared a general amnesty for wartime combatants, refused to punish either those who led the secession or those who suppressed it and did not give medals to any soldiers who fought in the so-called Brothers’ War.

The country was re-engineered to prevent another secession. To find a way for Nigeria’s more than 250 ethnic groups to live together peacefully, the country was split into 36 states, most of which coincided with the location of a major ethnic group. The federal government, whose power was increased, provided the states with funds — which created a financial deterrent against secession.

Postwar leaders found another way of building national unity: the concept of “federal character.” A new Constitution required the composition and conduct of government to “reflect the federal character of Nigeria.” Its purpose was to ensure that no ethnic group would monopolize leadership of the government or be excluded from national economic and political opportunities. Still in place today, it in effect operates as one of the world’s biggest affirmative action schemes. Nigerian law even bans political parties if they adopt names, logos or mottoes with ethnic, geographic or religious connotations, or if their membership does not satisfy constitutional diversity requirements.

But these efforts to ensure national unity, however well intentioned, froze Nigeria in time-bound assumptions about what the country should look like. The postwar desire to prevent another secession generated a near obsessive ethnic micromanaging of national life — and created a nation that exists almost simply to share money and jobs. “Federal character” became the most controversial two words in Nigeria’s Constitution. An ethnic quota regulates almost every facet of public life: Admission to the government and the Civil Service, schools and universities, the military and the police is decided by regional origin.

Rather than working as a glue for unity, the fixation on ethnic sharing of national opportunities and resources made Nigerians more aware of their ethnic differences. Resentment rose in parts of the country badly served by the quota system. The irony is plain: To prevent the recurrence of a war fought at least partly on ethnic lines — Biafra was populated mainly by the Igbo ethnic group — Nigeria’s rulers solidified ethnic identities.

What’s more, instead of ensuring the country’s unity, the postwar settlement generated conflict. For much of the past 20 years, Nigeria’s military has been engaged in fighting insurgencies in the north and south of the country. The long-running insurgency in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, in the country’s south, has indirect links to the postwar settlement. By controlling revenues from the country’s lucrative petroleum industry and requiring them to be shared nationwide, the federal government stripped control from local communities.

The postwar settlement created another profound division: between Nigeria’s people and their political leaders. For much of the past 50 years, Nigeria has been governed by the soldiers who won the war. For three decades, the form of rule was direct: Nigeria was under military dictatorship. But the passage to democracy, undertaken in 1999, did not dispel the military’s hold on the country. Military rulers were reluctant to cede power to, or accept the demands of, civilian opposition groups that called for national restructuring and the devolution of power to state governments. Instead, the generals engineered what the civilian opposition criticized as an “army arrangement” and ceded power to one of their own — the retired general Olusegun Obasanjo, to whom the Biafran Army surrendered in 1970.

The generals’ reluctance to dismantle the postwar system mummified Nigeria, ushering in a kind of gerontocracy. In a country whose population is overwhelmingly young — two-thirds are under 30 — the distorting effects of such generational asymmetry cannot be understated. Even now, the officers of the civil war continue to rule the country. Muhammadu Buhari, a 77-year-old retired major general, is Nigeria’s current president.


History of The Nigerian Civil War: The Full Story

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian – Biafran Civil War, or the Biafran War was fought between the Federal Reublic of Nigeria and the secessionist State of Biafra from July 6th, 1967 – January 15th, 1970. This was a dark period in the history of the country.

The war was fought to re-absorb and unify the Republic of Biafra back into Nigeria as its territory, under the rule of the then Federal Military Government of the country, headed by Colonel Yakubu Gowon, with Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu being the military governor of the Eastern Region and the first President of Biafra after it seceded.

The Nigerian Civil war was a product of the various corrupt practices by goverment officials of the first republic, how the military stepped in to rid the political system of corruption, only to be enmeshed in the dirty game that they sought to utterly destroy.

This resulted in coups and counter-coups that divided the Nigerian military, the pogroms in the north of the country and the outright break out of the war in 1967 which lasted for 30 months. Ethnic, cultural and religious issues were prominent reasons that also led to the war.

On January 15, 1966, Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and four other army majors, carried out the first military coup in Nigeria.

In this coup d’etat, they assassinated the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Samuel Akintola, the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and other prominent Nigerians.

The coup failed as it was foiled by the top hierarchy in the army, led by General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi.

The coup, though it failed, was carried out by mostly Igbo soldiers and this produced Igbo leaders, with Ironsi emerging as the first military head of state of Nigeria.

That coup also resulted in the death of top northern civilian leaders, which led to the division of the Nigerian army along ethnic borders.

The coup d’etat did not go down well with certain officers of the Nigerian army, especially those of northern descent, so the plan to stage a counter coup was set in motion.

Thus on July 28, 1966, a counter coup was staged by a group of Northern soldiers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Murtala Muhammed and they termed this the July rematch, seeing it as a response to the coup of January 1966.

This counter coup led to the assassination of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lieutenant-Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi who was at that time hosting Ironsi in Ibadan, and it produced Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon as Head of State.

Reasons for the counter coup being that top powerful northern civilian leaders were assassinated by Igbo officers in the first military coup.

Other reasons for the counter coup were that officers involved in the first military coup had not been tried for treason and were being paid while in detention.

Also, that the first coup was a purely Igbo coup to assassinate soldiers of northern descent, many Igbo Majors were being promoted in the army to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonels, and Ironsi’s perceived ethnic bias toward Igbos.

The last reason being that there were plans to swap the 1st and 4th battalions and redeploy the military governors of the different regions to other regions.

These actions in the military, the mutiny, the unrest, the killings of Igbos in the north as a response to the first military coup in the country, their bodies being sent to the east en masse sparked violent reactions in the south east, thus setting the stage for Ojukwu to warn the north of impending actions towards defending the people he governed.

He called the attention of the head of state of the country to the violence being meted against his people and threatened to break the Eastern Region away from Nigeria to form a new country called Biafra.

Opinions have been divided on the reasons why the coup d’etat of 1966 happened. Some say it was mainly about the corruption among the political ruling class while some others claim that control of crude oil in the Niger Delta region of the country was the bone of contention.

Ojukwu and Gowon by this time were not seeing eye to eye and the killings in the country continued. One major attempt to restore peace to the country was the meeting of Ojukwu and Gowon in Aburi, Ghana, on the request of the Ghanaian head of state, Lt. Gen. Joe Ankrah.

The Aburi conference was where the Aburi peace accord was agreed upon by both Ojukwu and Gowon for lasting peace in the country. They even embraced each other and returned to Nigeria to find lasting peace to the unrest in the country.

On getting to Nigeria, peace was the last thing that happened as the violence in the country escalated. Many people from the eastern region were massacred in the North and sent back to their home lands in body bags.

This caused Ojukwu on May 30, 1967, to take the eastern region out of Nigeria, seceding from the rest of the country and declaring the region a sovereign state which he called the Republic of Biafra.

His actions led the head of state of Nigeria, Gowon on July 6, 1967 to declare war on Biafra and and attack it.

The war lasted for thirty months (two years and six months) from July 1967 – January 15, 1970. Ojukwu was supported by some foreign nations which recognized the young nation’s sovereignty.

The Federal Military Government of Gowon surrounded Biafra and captured the oil-rich coastal areas in the region as its first acts of war.

Biafra fought back despite having lesser military might and fire power than the Nigerians. They resisted Nigeria throughout the duration of the war till the collapse of the young republic in 1979.

Part of what led to the collapse of Biafra was the food blockade imposed during the war which caused severe famine in the land.

Many see this as a deliberate attempt systematically adopted by the federal military government of Nigeria to cower the republic of Biafra into submission.

To this day, many even see the war as genocide against the Igbo race. Overall, there were about 100,000 military casualties, while nearly two million civilians were killed in the eastern region through starvation, with Great Britain and the former Soviet Union backing Nigeria.

One of the lowest points of the Nigerian Civil War was the Asaba massacre which took place in Asaba, Delta State, where all the civilian men and young boys were killed by the advancing Nigerian military, leaving their women and children utterly devastated.

The war ended when Biafra fell to the Nigerian military led by Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, who advanced into it and took the towns of Owerri and Uli.

Ojukwu had fled to Ivory Coast, leaving his deputy, Philip Effiong with the task of surrendering.

On the 14th of January, 1970, the documents of the surrender were signed and Gowon stated that the war had no victor, no vanquished.

Biafra was fully integrated into the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the country sought to turn a new page in its history afterwards.


The Biafra Civil War And Its End

At the orders of the Federal Military Government, the Nigerian federal troops marched in two divisions into Biafra on the 6th of July, 1976. Division 1, led by Col. Shuwa operated through the north of Biafra, while the second Division advanced on Nsukka which later fell on July 14.

On the 9th of July, the Biafrans led by Lt. Col. Banjo retaliated by marching into the mid-western region of Nigeria across the Niger River, passing through Benin City and later stopped at Ore on August 21.

The Biafran troops captured the mid-west easily because there was little repulsion from soldiers guarding the region. This infuriated Gowon and he asked Col. Muhammad Murtala to form another division (Division 2) to drive the Biafrans out of mid-west and attack Biafra as well.

The mid-west region was recaptured by the Nigerian army on the 20th of September.

Enugu was made the capital of Biafra, and later when Enugu was captured in October 1967, Aba, Umuahia and Owerri served successively as the provisional capitals.

Within a year, the Federal Military Government captured the city of Port Harcourt and many other coastal oil facilities. The Federal Miltary Government blocked all the routes for transporting food into the Republic of Biafra which led to severe starvation.

The FMG saw this as a war strategy and a way to keep Nigeria united, while many people around the world saw this as nothing but a genocide. The food flown in by foreign mercenary pilots was very little and couldn’t solve the starvation Biafra was facing. Over 2 million Biafrans died of starvation.

By the end of the year 1969, it was obvious that the war will soon come to an end. The FMG launched its final operation known as “Operation Tail-Wind” on January 7, 1970.

The operation was carried out by the 3rd Marine Commando Division and supported by the 1st and 2nd Infantry Division. Owerri was captured on the 9th of January, while Uli fell on the 11th of that same January.

Aware of the hopelessness of the situation, the self- acclaimed Biafra head of state, Lt. Col. Ojukwu fled the Republic immediately with his family on the 10 th of January 1970.

The commander of the Biafran army, who was left with the administration of the Republic later surrendered to the Federal Government on the 14 th of January, 1970, thus bringing the civil war and bloodshed to an end. The war officially ended on the 15 th of January, 1970.

The sudden end of the war in 1970 was a big relief to both sides and the entire world was elated when General Yakubu Gowon said there was no victor, no vanquished. His government also introduced the popular three ‘Rs’, which stood for Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

At the end of the civil war, the Federal Military Government ordered that all Biafran currencies must be deposited into a bank account immediately or they would become worthless.

After everyone complied with the directive, they again ordered that every former Biafran account holder will receive only the sum of 20 pounds regardless of how much they had in their account.

This most Biafrans believed was an unjustified act of the civil war as heads of households were forced to rebuild their financial holdings as well as support a typically large African family with only 20 pounds.


This is exactly how the Nigeria civil war, Biafran war started — The Untold Story

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War and the Nigerian-Biafran War (6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970), was a war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra.

The civil war which started 6 July 1967 lasted for 3 years and is popularly known as the Nigeria-Biafra war and almost destroyed the unity of Nigeria.

Thee civil war was fought to reinstate the unity in the country. It was a result of the Nigeria’s government’s effort to counter struggle by Igbo people of the eastern region to break away from Nigeria under a new name.

The igbo people felt they could no longer co-exist with the Northern-dominated Federal Government of Nigeria. The civil war broke out and was a culmination of an uneasy peace and instability that plagued the nation from independence in 1960.

The Republic of Biafra made up of states in the former eastern region of Nigeria is now divided into 4 tribes – igbos, ibibio-efik, ijaw and ogojas.

Map of Biafra

The Nigerian federal forces launched their final offensive against the Biafrans on December 23, 1969 with a major thrust by the 3rd Marine Commando Division (the division was commanded by Col. Obasanjo, who later became president twice) which succeeded in splitting the Biafran enclave into two by the end of the year.

The final Nigerian offensive, named “Operation Tail-Wind,” was launched on January 7, 1970 with the 3rd Marine Commando Division attacking, and supported by the 1st Infantry division to the north and the 2nd Infantry division to the south. The Biafran town of Owerri fell on January 9, and Uli fell on January 11.


Nigerian Civil War Breaks Out - History

A History of the Republic of Biafra: Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War

Cambridge University Press, 2020

The Republic of Biafra lasted for less than three years, but the war over its secession would contort Nigeria for decades to come. Samuel Fury Childs Daly examines the history of the Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath from an uncommon vantage point – the courtroom. Wartime Biafra was glutted with firearms, wracked by famine, and administered by a government that buckled under the weight of the conflict. In these dangerous conditions, many people survived by engaging in fraud, extortion, and armed violence. When the fighting ended in 1970, these survival tactics endured, even though Biafra itself disappeared from the map. Based on research using an original archive of legal records and oral histories, Daly catalogues how people navigated conditions of extreme hardship on the war front, and shows how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country's long experience of crime that was to follow.

‘A striking mixture of the human interest of “true crime”, and theoretical insight into the operation of “lawfare” in a breakaway state at war […] The legal history of Biafra offers a West African parable of power and idealism.’ Times Literary Supplement

'With a powerful and thoughtful analysis, Daly shows how secession and civil war remake a nation and national culture. Nigeria after 1970 is not a case of lost causes and triumphant nationalisms, but of stolen weapons and survival strategies that spread from the war zone to the scams in our in-boxes.' Luise White, University of Florida

'One of the most critical, systematic and lucid analyses of the unravelling of the pre-Civil War social order in Nigeria. Daly takes legal history and unfurls it as social history - and vice versa - in a vivid and intense narrative of the shape of everyday life in the secessionist enclave of Biafra and beyond. This is an extraordinary account of the different dimensions of life in wartime as well as in immediate post-war Nigeria. An eloquent testimony to the barbarity of war as well as its shattering banality.' Wale Adebanwi, University of Oxford

'Using surviving Biafran court records, supported by oral histories, Daly vividly shows the disintegration of traditional norms and behavior, presenting a compelling case that lawlessness in Nigeria emerged directly from wartime conditions. A valuable and unique contribution to current reassessments of the Nigerian Civil War.' S. Elizabeth Bird, University of South Florida

'Much more than a history of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, this book is a mediation on how the Nigerian civil war emerged from, reconstituted, and scarred government institutions. It is simultaneously sensitive social history and a provocative attempt to explain postwar Nigeria's corruption and political dysfunction.' Steven Pierce, University of Manchester


History of Nigerian Civil War

The Nigerian civil war is commonly referred to as the Biafran War. It was fought between 6 th of July, 1967 to 15 th of January, 1970. Purpose of the war was to quell the secession of Biafra from the original Nigeria.

Biafra is a part of Nigeria covering the old eastern region of the country. This part has now been divided into the South South and South East regions.

The leadership of the old eastern region came to the conclusion that they just could not continue to coexist with the rest of Nigeria, especially because of the ill treatment meted out to people of the old eastern region in the Northern part of Nigeria by northern military men, especially during the counter coup of June 1967, in which many eastern military officers were murdered.

The whole processes started with a military coup headed by Aguiyi Ironsi, a counter-coup headed by Murtala Muhammed and finally the persecution of people of Igbo extraction, especially in the northern part of Nigeria. The war was actually as a result of religious, cultural, ethnic, economical and political tension that prevailed during this period.

The Biafran region was completely surrounded within just one year after the war began. Port Harcourt oil facilities were among the very first to be captured shortly after the war began by the Nigerian military.

The complete surrounding of the Biafran coastline and borders led to blockage of routes through which goods and services could enter into Biafra and made it difficult for the country to feed itself and its populace.

Soon after, severe famine became the order of the day and feeding became very difficult for the Biafra military and people. They also could not get adequate equipment to fight the war.

Up to 2 million civilians died in the course of the Biafran War on both sides, with majority of the victims coming from the Biafran side. Major causes of death were diseases and starvation. This was the same factor that led to the quick end of the war.

The world was forced to take note of happenings during the Nigerian civil war when pictures of malnourished children were circulated to the outside world in the middle part of 1968. This promoted Non-Government Organizations to rise up and raise funds towards providing for the Biafran starving populace.

The Nigerian federal government was backed mainly by United Kingdom and old Soviet Union. Other countries backing the federal government were Bulgaria, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Chad, Niger, United States and Canada. Egypt provided air support for the Nigerian military.

Biafra on the other hand was backed by countries, like France, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Tanzania, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Rhodesia, Haiti and Israel.

Commanders on the Nigerian side were Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Benjamin Adekunle, Olusegun Obasanjo, Mohammed Shuwa, E.A Etuk, Shehu Musa Yar-Adua, Theophillus Danjuma, Ibrahim Haruna, Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, Ted Hamman, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Isaac Adaka Boro and Idris Garba.

On the Biafran side, main commanders were Odumegwu Ojukwu, Philip Effiong, Alexander Madiebo, Albert Okonkwo, Victor Banjo, Ogbuago Kalu, Joseph Achuzie, Azum Asoya, Mike Inveso, Tomothy Onwuatuegwu and so on.

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Watch the video: Civil War. Biafra Crisis. Nigerian Civil War. This Week. 1969 (January 2022).