Asaba massacre

The Asaba Massacre occurred in October 1967 in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria during the Nigerian Civil War.

Asaba Massacre
Asaba massacre is located in Nigeria
Asaba massacre (Nigeria)
LocationAsaba, Nigeria
Date5-7 October 1967
TargetIgbo/civilians of Asaba
Attack type
Mass murder
DeathsAt least 1,000.
PerpetratorsNigerian 2nd Division under Murtala Mohammed Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim Taiwo


In August 1967, three months into the Biafran War, Biafran troops invaded the Midwest Region, to the west of the River Niger. They spread west, taking Benin City and reaching as far as Ore, where they were pushed back by the Nigerian Second Division, under the command of Col. Murtala Muhammed.[1]

The Federal troops gained the upper hand, and forced the Biafrans back to the Niger, where they crossed the bridge back into the Biafran city of Onitsha, which lies directly across from Asaba. The Biafrans blew up the eastern spans of the Onitsha bridge, so that the Federal troops were unable to pursue them. It was at this point that the people of Asaba met their ill fate. [2]


The Federal troops entered Asaba around October 5, and began ransacking houses and killing civilians, claiming they were Biafran sympathisers. Reports suggest that several hundred may have been killed individually and in groups at various locations in the town. Leaders summoned the townspeople to assemble on the morning of October 7, hoping to end the violence through a show of support for "One Nigeria." Hundreds of men, women, and children, many wearing the ceremonial akwa ocha (white) attire paraded along the main street, singing, dancing, and chanting "One Nigeria." At a junction, men and teenage boys were separated from women and young children, and gathered in an open square at Ogbe-Osowa village.[3] Federal troops revealed machine guns, and orders were given, reportedly by Second-in-Command, Maj. Ibrahim Taiwo, to open fire. It is estimated that more than 700 men and boys were killed (both the innocents) , some as young as 12 years old, in addition to many more killed in the preceding days[4].[5]

The bodies of some victims were retrieved by family members and buried at home.[6] But most were buried in mass graves, without appropriate ceremony. Many extended families lost dozens of men and boys. Federal troops occupied Asaba for many months, during which time most of the town was destroyed, many women and girls were raped or forcibly "married," and large numbers of citizens fled, often not returning until the war ended in 1970. The total death toll during early October was in excess of 1,000, although the exact numbers will likely never be known.


I.B.M. Haruna has sometimes been named as the officer who ordered the massacre, following a report of his testimony to the Nigerian Human Rights Violations Investigations Commission, known as the Oputa Panel.[7] This article quoted him as claiming responsibility (as the commanding officer) and having no apology for the atrocity. However, Haruna was not present in Asaba in 1967. He replaced Murtala Muhammed as C.O. of the Second Division in spring 1968.

In October 2017, the Asaba community marked the 50th anniversary of the massacres with a two-day commemoration, during which the new, comprehensive book on the massacre, its causes, consequences, and legacy, was launched: "The Asaba Massacre: Trauma, Memory, and the Nigerian Civil War," by S. Elizabeth Bird and Fraser Ottanelli (Cambridge University Press). This book, which draws on interviews with survivors and military and government figures, as well as archival sources, discusses how and why the massacres happened, and the impact of this community trauma, decades after the event.


  1. ^ "Nigerian Civil War: How Asaba indigenes were massacred 53 years ago". Vanguard News. 2020-10-15. Retrieved 2021-09-10.
  2. ^ Omipidan, Teslim (2021-03-02). "Asaba Massacre: How Hundreds of Asaba People Were Killed In 1967". OldNaija. Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  3. ^ "Asaba Massacre: After the killings, Asaba became a town of just women, with no men –Gwam". Punch Newspapers. 2017-11-18. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  4. ^ says, Dr Uche Kalu (2020-01-21). "Asaba massacre: Untold story of tragedy and carnage". The Sun Nigeria. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  5. ^ "Asaba Massacre: Terrible Blot on Nigeria's History". Vanguard News. 2020-10-10. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  6. ^ "Asaba massacre: How we can heal our wounds — Soyinka". Vanguard News. 2017-10-14. Retrieved 2021-09-10.
  7. ^ (Vanguard, 10 Oct. 2001).


  • Bird, SE and F. Ottanelli (2017). The Asaba Massacre: Trauma, Memory, and the Nigerian Civil War. Cambridge University Press.
  • Bird SE and F. Ottanelli (2014). The Asaba Massacre and the Nigerian Civil War: Reclaiming Hidden History. Journal of Genocide Research 16 (2-3): 379-399.
  • Bird SE and F. Ottanelli (2011). The History and Legacy of the Asaba, Nigeria, Massacres. African Studies Review 54 (3): 1-26.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

  • [ The Asaba Memorial Project website, which includes comprehensive information, video clips of witnesses, and other resources.
  •, "Most Vulnerable Nigerians: The Legacy of the Asaba Massacres." Video created as part of the Asaba Memorial Project]