Research Programs

Ife-Sungbo Archeological project

The Ife-Sungbo Archaeological project gives new perspectives on the urbanization history chronology as well as the socio-political dynamics of West-African tropical forest societies.

The Ife-Sungbo archeological project’s 2019 team on site at Oduduwa College site, Ile-Ife. Osun state.

The Ife-Sungbo archeological project’s 2019 team on site at Oduduwa College site, Ile-Ife. Osun state.


 The ambassador of France to Nigeria and ECOWAS and his team, and representative of Ife-Sungbo archeological project meeting His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile-Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi

The ambassador of France to Nigeria and ECOWAS and his team, and representative of Ife-Sungbo archeological project meeting His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile-Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi 

The Ife–Sungbo Archaeological Project aims to study domestic life, vernacular architecture and spatial organization in the humid forests of the Gulf of Guinea. Often forgotten in mainstream African historiography, the Guinean tropical forests witnessed the rise and decline of major demographic and civilizational centres, long before the opening of the Atlantic trade in the late 15th century CE.

The project has two main objectives:

1) The town of Ile-Ife known as the mythical center of the Yoruba civilization and a major archaeological site

Map of Ile-Ife


2018 was the fifth season of excavation in Ile-Ife. We excavated two test pits on the site of Oduduwa College, south of the 19th c. inner enclosure that defended Ife’s inner core area. They revealed a series of domestic features that seem promising in terms of understanding medieval architecture and spatial organization. 

Excavation of potsherds and stones

In 2019, we returned to the same site to excavate seven units (by hand) and one trench (with the excavator) in the same location, for a total surface of about 140 sq. meters. Our 2019 season enabled us to identify one type of dwelling characterized by a platform made of compacted fine clay, erected on the top of an irregular, stony surface, which corresponded to the stone line, the ubiquitous three-dimensional layer of stone that is a marker of the natural sub-soil at Ile-Ife. 

In 2020, the research could not be conducted, and were postponed to June 2021. 

2) The early polity of Ijebu, as delimited by the monumental enclosure of Sungbo’s Eredo, a system of banks and ditches now lost under dense forest cover. We aim to document life, death, innovations and change in these forgotten sites.

In Sungbo, we seek to implement Light detection and ranging, or LiDAR technology, a measurement and mapping revolutionary tool for archaeology. Its application is used for the documentation and conservation of the world’s largest earthen enclosure, Sungbo's Eredo, a late 14th-century monumental public work (Lagos and Ogun States, south-western Nigeria).

Indeed, the feature is largely forgotten and neglected by researchers and the public alike. This despite its massive scale: the earthwork consists of a trench – 5 to 15 meters deep – and an inner bank – 2 to 5 meters high. It is the largest-known single earthen monument in the world and a powerful testimony to the political sophistication of Nigeria’s deep past and its central place in the emergent Atlantic World. Large parts of the monument are located under dense forest cover, which has reduced its visibility and impaired delineation, conservation, and heritage planning. Nonetheless, the forest cover has not provided enough protection to the monument which is under increasing pressure from urbanization, industrialization, and erosion. Indeed, large portions of Sungbo’s Eredo have already been destroyed by human action, and the monument is under considerable threat, a process that is made worse by its unusual size and location in an environment with torrential rain and associated weathering.

In this project, we propose state-of-the-art remote-sensing technology and 3-D scanning at the service of mapping, heritage conservation, and preservation. Our project aims to document the entire monument in support of the development of a comprehensive conservation strategy for an area of 1640 square kilometers, and a model project for the preservation of two 8-kilometer sections of the ditch and bank enclosure.

Academic Partners 

  • William & Mary University (Virginia, USA), 
  • The Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) (Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria),
  • The University of Ibadan (UI) (Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria),
  • The Augustine University at Ilara (AUI).
  • National Commission for Museum and Monuments(NCMM)
  • Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)


Gerard Chouin, Principal Investigator, an Associate Professor in History and Director of Medieval and Renaissance studies at William and Mary, is a leading expert in pre-Atlantic and early modern Atlantic West African landscapes, earthworks and sociopolitical systems. He has extensive experience conducting archaeological research in Nigeria, as the director of the Ife- Sungbo Archaeological Project.

Adisa Ogunfolakan, The Co-Principal Investigator, a Professor and Director of the Natural History Museum, Obafemi Awolowo University of Ife, is an archaeologist of Yorubaland, and co-director of the Ife-Sungbo Archaeological project.


Ife-Sungbo Archeological. Project preliminary report on excavations at oduduwa College II Ile-Ife, Osun State, Septembre 2019. 

PADIR: Perspectives africaines sur le dialogue inter-religieux // African perspectives on inter-religious dialogue (2019 - 2021)

The research programme PADIR, establish at IFRA-Nigeria in 2019, aims at analyzing the field of institutional inter-religious dialogue in Africa from a critical perspective, with Nigeria and Tanzania as case studies.

Discover the project

 Inter-religious organisations, forums and projects have flourished at the global level since the beginning of the 2000s, especially after the 9/11 attacks. They differ from the ecumenical dialogue initiated by the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council as they are based less on theological discussions than on the idea that religious leaders are key actors in the solving of economic, social and political problems, especially linked to poverty, extremism and terrorism. Mobilizing the language of « peace building », many initiatives have been launched by religious organisations, NGOs as well as States and regional bodies as part of their diplomatic action.

With their population roughly divided between Christians and Muslims, both Nigeria and Tanzania have been considered important « laboratories » for inter religious dialogue in Africa. Perceived as being marred with conflicts and in a perpetual state of « crisis », Nigeria is also identified at a frontline of the global fight against terrorism and religious extremism. On the other side of the spectrum, Tanzania is seen as a stable country, a « heaven of peace » and example of religious coexistence, though under multiple threat linked to international Islamist networks, sporadic ethnic violence or separatism.

In both these cases, international involvement in the national fields of inter-religious dialogue has met endogenous dynamics. In Nigeria, several initiatives had been launched since the mid 1990s, with a new vigor since the return to democracy in 1999. Both at the federal and at the States' level, inter-religious forums and organisations have been created, often supported by local « big men » and politicians competing for votes and influence. In Tanzania, the rhetoric of « peace and stability » and the development of local inter-religious dialogue forum has been parallel to the growing involvement of religious leaders in the political sphere, in the context of the perpetuation of a dominant party system and authoritarian politics despite the return to multipartism in 1992.

The objective of PADIR is to identify the actors, organisations and networks that have contributed to the emergence of the field of inter-religious dialogue and its functioning, both from a local, national and transnational perspective. Through the case studies of Nigeria and Tanzania, it intends to understand better inter-religious relations, the dynamics of both Christian and Islamic religious fields, as well as the complex relationships between religious and political actors.


This project will combine several qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews with national and international actors of the inter-religious dialogue field in Nigeria and Tanzania ; biographical interviews with key religious figures involved ; observation of projects and initiatives on inter-religious dialogue ; social network analysis.

The comparison between two contrasted cases will highlight the similarities and differences between the Nigerian and Tanzanian approaches to inter-religious dialogue as well as the factors explaining these variations.

Two workshops will be organized in Dar es Salaam and Ibadan in 2020 and publications are expected in 2021.


Dr Cyrielle Maingraud Martinaud

Research Associates

Abimbola Omopo (Institute of African Studies / UI)

Announcement of the 2019 cohort of the TEEP programme


On March 22, 2019, The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) organised the announcement of the new entrepreneurs selected to join the Programme’s fifth cohort. Entrepreneurs and former beneficiaries but also representatives of foreign countries, agents of Development Financial Organizations and public figures such as the First Lady of Nigeria met at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

The afternoon began with two different meetings taking place. On the one hand, the presentation of the selection process, which is partly outsourced to a firm called Accenture Development Partners. Most officials attended this presentation while entrepreneurs and beneficiaries were listening to a panel of five former beneficiaries interviewed on the scene of the Congress Hall invited to tell their “success story”. Finally, later on in the afternoon, guests gathered around the main scene to follow the selection announcement. The originality of the announcement was undoubtedly the number of beneficiaries: 3,050 entrepreneurs around the continent. While the TEF supports 1,000 entrepreneurs, its partners (African Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, Red Cross, the Benin Republic among others) help 2,050 additional entrepreneurs.

The main objective for the two researchers was to make contacts with entrepreneurs and benefit from their contacts with other beneficiaries as to reach them more easily once on the field in Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire. The assumption was that using interpersonal networks would be complementary to the exhaustive database given by the TEF. It would thus help to have complementary information on beneficiaries (failure or success, migration…) and maybe target those reluctant to reply to formal contact through emails.

However, most of the entrepreneurs present this day were Nigerian. Even though this is not surprising as the event was taking place in Abuja, it underlines one macro characteristic of the Programme: the share of Nigerian beneficiaries, though variable depending on the cohort, is always preponderant. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Nigerians represented respectively 49,7%, 59,1% and 57% of the beneficiaries.


TREEBADAN/IGI’BADAN: “Local Knowledges and Relations to Remarkable Trees in Ibadan (Oyo State, Nigeria)”

Treebadan research program 1

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The research program TREEBADAN/IGI’BADAN “Local Knowledges and Relations to Remarkable Trees in Ibadan (Oyo State, Nigeria)”, aims at establishing an assessment of the natural heritage of the city of Ibadan (Oyo State, Nigeria), from a botanical, but also a historical and an anthropological perspectives.

The Treebadan project is now part of the ANR-funded 4 year research programme INFRAPATRI Knowledges and attachments to urban plants in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal): identification and production of a heritage from below. You can find more information about this ANR in french or in english.

This will involve drawing up an inventory of the trees within the city seen as “remarkable” according to their botanical characteristics (Modelled on the inventory realised by the cities of Paris or New York for instance), but also as supports of the urban memory and identities, markers of specific historical events (rituals, judgments, political or festive gatherings, battles, markets, etc.), places and objects of sociability and urbanity (places of meeting, worship or trade, elements of the local pharmacopeia, objects of ornamentation and attachment, etc.) and tools for urban governance. One of the objectives of the project is also to evaluate the effective tree biodiversity of Ibadan and how it is perceived and used by Ibadan citizens, through an ethnoscientific approach.

More broadly, TREEBADAN aims at deciphering what the relationships of Ibadan’s city-dwellers and authorities to urban trees and nature tell us about:

  • the urbanistic history of the city
  • the construction of an urban memory and the definition of urban social and cultural identities, modes of sociability and of “living-together” in the public spaces of the city
  • the governance of the city, captured through its management of natural elements over the years

To that end, the research is conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers, in social sciences, humanities, urban studies and natural sciences, from France and Nigeria. The scientific team partners also with artists to capture local relations to urban trees through a more aesthetic and poetic apprehension, and to disseminate the results of the program to a wider audience. Finally, TREEBADAN results could lead to a practical programme aiming at recognising the urban remarkable trees as part of the natural, but also cultural heritages of Ibadan, and from that at protecting them, so to as to fight against deforestation and to preserve urban biodiversity, starting from local knowledge and relations to urban nature.

Treebadan research program 5

A kola tree in front of a photo studio at night, Irefin, Ibadan, S. Chevalme


The program is directed by Dr Emilie Guitard, anthropologist and researcher at IFRA-Nigeria. Together with Adedeji Adebayo, PhD student from the University of Ibadan, they have started since 2017 to conduct ethnographic fieldwork by realising open interviews with citizens living close to the trees and/or interacting with them on a daily basis, along with the relevant municipal authorities, and by realising sessions of participant observation to understand the interactions between these different actors in social, economic, political or religious terms with and around the urban trees. Dr Guitard and A. Adebayo are also carrying ethnoscientific data collection to evaluate the local knowledge and uses regarding general and urban tree biodiversity.

As a second step, Dr Guitard will partner with Dr Saheed Aderinto, associate professor of History at Western Carolina University (USA), to redraw the history of the management of the urban natural elements, notably trees, by the successive authorities of Ibadan. A geographer or an urban-planner will also be associated to the program to study the spatial repartition of trees in the city, according to their species and uses, but also in line with the history of their public management. Within this frame, the trees identified as remarkable will be geo-located, to produce a digital map of urban trees in Ibadan, including not only botanical, but also anthropological and historical data. Finally, a botanist will be associated to TREEBADAN to assess the tree biodiversity of Ibadan and proceed to the botanical identification and dendrochronological dating of the urban trees said to be “remarkable” by the city-dwellers.

At last, to capture the local relations to urban nature through an aesthetic and poetic apprehension, and notably to describe the urban atmosphere under the urban trees and its variation depending on the neighbourhood, the time of the day or the type of activities going on there, the scientific team is collaborating with French and Nigerian visual artists, photographers and documentary film maker. In October 2017, the French graphic designers and visual artists Elodie and Delphine Chevalme (better known as Les Soeurs Chevalme) spent two weeks doing fieldwork with Dr Guitard and A. Adebayo to realise drawings and pictures around “remarkable” trees in the historical centre of Ibadan. These artistic productions will be presented to the general audience of Ibadan, Nigeria and abroad through various mediums, including a multimedia exhibition and a coffee table book, together with brief texts by the members of the scientific team. As a second step, the scientific team will also partner with the French and Congolese documentary film maker Alain Kassanda, to realise a poetic documentary on the relations of the inhabitants of Ibadan to urban trees.

Treebadan research program 3

A garage under an Almond tree, Ita Baale, Ibadan, E. Chevalme

Finally, the results of TREEBADAN could be used to nurture applied programs to fight locally against deforestation by preserving the urban biodiversity. The trees listed as remarkable will be presented to Ibadan and Oyo State authorities to be patrimonalized and protected, as part of the city heritage. The data produced within the frame of the program could also be mobilised to realize a botanical walk throughout the city, presenting by means of panels the main information concerning the most remarkable trees in the different registers studied (botany, history, anthropology). Commented tours of this walk could also be organised in collaboration with the researchers and the inhabitants interviewed for the city schools, together with the screening of the documentary and possibly the presentation of the multimedia exhibition. TREEBADAN/IGI’BADAN will in this context serve as a tool to raise awareness on the wealth of Ibadan’s trees as part of its natural and cultural heritages, and on the necessity to preserve them, starting from the local knowledge and relations to them.

Treebadan research program 4

A Fig tree in front of the Ogunmola compound, Bere, Ibadan, D. Chevalme

Team Members

Academic team

  • Dr. Emilie Guitard, Scientific coordinator of the project (IFRA Nigeria, France/Nigeria)
  • Dr. Saheed Aderinto, Historian (Western Carolina University, USA)
  • Adedeji Adebayo, Research assistant (PhD student, University of Ibadan, Nigeria)

Artistic team

  • Elodie and Delphine Chevalme aka « Les soeur Chevalmes » (visual artists and graphic designers, France)
  • Alain Kassanda (documentary film maker, France/DRCongo)

Associated events

 Treebadan research program 6

Presentation (in French) of the program and its first results by Dr Guitard during a round-table on “Nature, art, ville”, organised by Dr A. Choplin (Global Studies Institute, Geneva) for the Institute for Research for Development (IRD) at the Institut Français du Bénin, Cotonou, December 2017

Treebadan research program 7

Presentation (in French) of the program and its first results by Dr Guitard during a round-table on “Patrimoine dans les villes d’Afrique: les cas de Yaoundé et d’Ibadan”, organised by Dr M. Morelle (University Paris 1/CNRS) and the Fondation Paul Ango-Ela at the Institut Français du Cameroun, Yaoundé, June 2018

Treebadan research program 8

Presentation (in French) of the program and its firt results by Dr Guitard within the Labex DynamiTe workshop on “Perceptions des changements par la biodiversité ordinaire. Savoirs locaux sur la biodiversité et les changements globaux en milieux urbains et périurbains”, organised by Dr A. Sourdril (Ladyss, Nanterre) and Prof. C. Raimond (Prodig, Paris), University Paris Diderot, March 2019


NaijaSynCor: A Corpus-based Macro-Syntactic Study of Naija (Nigerian Pidgin)

naijasyncorNaijaSynCor Research Project

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NaijaSynCor (A Corpus-based Macro-Syntactic Study of Naija, aka Nigerian Pidgin) takes an exhaustive and in-depth look at the structure of Naija (Nigerian Pidgin) in Nigeria today. Spoken by educated Nigerians, it has been proved to develop in Lagos as a discrete language, separate from Nigerian English. This study proposes to assess whether this holds true for the rest of Nigeria where Naija is spoken by over 75 million speakers. It examines diachronic, diatopic, diaphasic, diastratic, and genre variation.

The project is a collaborative effort of two Nigerian leading experts on Naija (F. Egbokhare & C. Ofulue) and two research units that have proved their expertise in corpus annotation in previous programmes: Llacan, on lesser-described languages; Modyco, on the interaction of prosody and syntax in French and the development of large treebanks, and. The macrosyntactic framework developed in the ANR Rhapsodie project (Lacheret, Pietrandrea & Tchobanov 2014) has proved to be particularly efficient in dealing with the specificities of oral corpora, e.g. piles stacking, disfluencies, repetitions, discourse markers, overlaps, co-enunciation, false starts, self-repairs and truncations. This method is data-driven, inductive (the relevant units are identified through annotation) and modular.



The tools developed by the research team in these previous corpus study programs are robust and mature enough to focus on the linguistic problem posed by Naija: in its geographical and functional expansion, does Naija maintain its status as a discrete language, separate from Nigerian English, or does it undergo decreolization? While answering this question, the research programme aims at overcoming two remaining technological challenges, (i) automatic identification of illocutionary units based on intonation data as a parameter; (ii) building a parser integrating intonation data as a parameter.

Through the creation of a deeply annotated 500 Kw corpus, the project documents the emergence of Naija as a language at the national level, challenging existing theories of the development of creoles and languages in contact. Capitalizing on the latest developments in the area of corpus annotation, this innovative approach to the dynamics of contact and change in the areas of human behaviour and sociology of language will powerfully impact the methodology and technology of research on emerging languages.


Starting: February 1st, 2017
: 42 months


Meet the team

Principal Investigator (PI): Bernard CARON, Senior Research Fellow - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Partner #1: LLACAN, UMR 8135, Langages, Langues et Cultures d’Afrique Noire (Inalco – CNRS) : 
Partner #2: MODYCO, UMR 7114, Modèles, Dynamiques, Corpus (Université Paris -Ouest Nanterre La Défense – CNRS) :



  • Bigi, Brigitte, Bernard Caron & Abiola S. Oyelere. 2017. Developing Resources for Automated Speech Processing of the African Language Naija (Nigerian Pidgin). 8th Language and Technology Conference: Human Language Technologies as a Challenge for Computer Science and Linguistics, 441–445. Poznan, Poland.
  • Caron, Bernard. s.p. Clefts in Naija, a Nigerian pidgincreole. Linguistics Discovery 41pp.
  • Caron, Bernard. 2018a. NaijaSynCor. Methodological and technical challenges of a corpus-based study of Naija (a post-creole spoken in Nigeria). Keynote address presented at the SYWAL 2018 (3rd Symposium on West African Languages) , 28th-29th September, Warsaw.
  • Caron, Bernard. 2018b. Could Naija (aka Common Nigerian Pidgin) be a solution to the curse of indigeneity? (Nigerian Pidgin: E fit go be di future?). Presented at the Neuvième édition du CAAS (Consortium for Asian and African Studies, CAAS 2018), Inalco, Paris.
  • Courtin, Marine, Sylvain Kahane, Kim Gerdes & Bernard Caron. 2018. Establishing a Language by Annotating a Corpus: the Case of Naija, a Post-creole Spoken in Nigeria. In Sandra Kübler & Heike Zinsmeister (eds.), Proceedings of the Workshop on Annotation in Digital Humanities co-located with ESSLLI 2018, vol. 2155, 7–11. Sofia, Bulgaria: CEUR. Workshop Proceedings.
  • Gerdes, Kim, Bruno Guillaume, Sylvain Kahane & Guy Perrier. 2018. SUD or Surface-Syntactic Universal Dependencies: An annotation scheme near-isomorphic to UD. Workshop Paper presented at the Universal Dependencies Workshop 2018 (UDW 2018), EMNLP 2018, Brussells. (20 November, 2018).
  • Oyelere, Abiola S. 2018. Vowel Nasality in Naija. Paper presented at the SYWAL 2018 (3rd Symposium on West African Languages) , 28th-29th September, Warsaw.
  • Oyelere, Abiola S., Candide Simard & Anne Lacheret-Dujour. 2018. Prominence in the identification of the focus elements in Naija (Nigerian Pidgin). PROSLANG, 12–13. Wellington, New-Zealand.

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