History of Nigerian Civil War

The Nigerian civil war is commonly referred to as the Biafran War.  It was fought between 6th of July, 1967 to 15th 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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