In 1859 Henry Dunant, A Swiss businessman traveling in Italy, witnessed the grim aftermath of the battle of Solferino. On his return to Geneva, he wrote an account of what he had seen, A Memory of Solferino, in which he put forward two proposals aimed at improving assistance for war victims:
The first proposal led to the establishment of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, of which there are over 185 recognized by the International red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The second proposal set the stage for the drafting of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which are today accepted by all States.
The adoption of a single distinctive sign that would confer legal protection on army medical services, volunteer aid workers and victims of armed conflict was one of the main objectives of the five-member committee that met on 17 February, 1863to study Dunant’s proposals. This committee was later to become the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The sign- or emblem as it was eventually called- had to be simple, identifiable from a distance, known to everyone and identical for friend and foe alike.
A diplomatic conference that met in Geneva in August 1864 adopted a red cross on a white background, the colours of the Swiss flag in reverse. However, during the 1876-1878 war between Russia and Turkey, the Ottoman Empire declared that it would use a red crescent instead of a red cross as its emblem, although it agreed to respect the red cross used by the other side. Persia also opted for a different sign: the red lion and sun. Both emblems were recognized by a diplomatic conference held in 1929. In 1980, the Islamic Republic of Iran decided to use the red crescent instead of the red lion and sun.
The red cross and red crescent emblems are entitled to full respect under international law. However, they are sometimes perceived as having cultural, religious or political connotations, and this jeopardizes the protection they confer on victims of armed conflicts, medical services of the armed forces and humanitarian personnel. Moreover, until recently, National Societies that did not wish to use either the red cross or thee red crescent could not be recognized as full members of the Movement. This made it impossible for the Movement to achieve universality- one of its fundamental Principles-and raised the prospect that different emblems would continue to proliferate.
To overcome these problems, the idea of introducing an additional emblem that would be accepted to all National Societies and States was put forward. This idea, which was strongly supported by the Movement, became a reality in December 2005 when a diplomatic conference recognized the red crystal as distinctive emblem alongside the red cross and red crescent.
The Red Cross activities first took place in Nigeria as far back as 1917 when an Adamu Orisha Play was staged in Lagos to raise funds for the Red Cross to provide relief for returning soldiers of World War 1. Later in 1951, the Nigerian Branch of the British Red Cross was opened in Lagos by the Governor General and a period of rapid expansion of the organization throughout the country followed. In August, 1960 the two legislative houses passed the Nigerian Red Cross Act and the General Conventions Acts. With the formal handover by the Vice chairman of the British Red Cross Society, the Countess of Limerick, to the Prime Minister of the Federation, thee Hon. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The Nigerian Red Cross Society became an independent National Society in February 1961 following the official recognition by the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent; Nigeria became the 86th member nation of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Committee in Prague in September, 1961. The same time, the Nigerian Red Cross Society was elected to serve on the league of Executive of the International Federation. In 1977, the Nigerian Red Cross society was again honoured, when its National President, the late Hon. Justice J. A. Adefarasin was elected to a fore year term as the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies With over 500,000 Volunteers in all the 36 states branches and the Federal Capital Territory, the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) usually turns out to be the foremost responder to emergencies.