Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in central Nigeria after Christians and Muslims clashed over the result of a local election.
MORE violence erupted yesterday morning in Jos North local government area of Plateau State following the final announcement by the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission, PLASIEC, of results into the council polls, the cause of the riots which started on Friday morning.
As at yesterday, death toll in the sectarian crisis has reportedly risen to about 153.
Chairman of the electoral commission, Engr. Gabriel Zi who announced the outcome of the council polls declared that the People's Democratic Party, PDP, swept all the 17 chairmanship positions in the state. The announcement however sparked up early morning uproar as some residents took to the streets to protest the results which they alleged have been manipulated.
Demonstration began early on Friday after rumours spread that the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP's candidate had lost the race to the ruling PDP party.
The State government extended the curfew in some areas of the state capital and ordered the army to shoot on sight yesterday to stop more clashes between ethnic and religious gangs after fighting left hundreds of people dead. Sporadic violence had continued overnight despite a previous dawn-to-dusk curfew.
A statement from the governor's office said the security forces had been directed to shoot on sight to enforce the measure.
A witness said a military truck was seen carrying scores of dead bodies. The Red Cross said at least 20 people had been killed and more than 300 injured in Friday's fighting alone.
Gunfire and explosions heard in the early hours of yesterday morning died down and many streets in the city were deserted as the military patrolled.
At the state headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force yesterday, more than 1,500 mercenaries were arrested Patrol commander of the security forces deployed to maintain the peace said those arrested.
came from neighbouring Bauchi, Gombe and Kano states. According to the Patrol commander, the mercenaries "have confessed", to be a "re-enforcement" brought into Plateau state to fight.
The State governor, Jonah David Jang, who went out as early as six o’clock yesterday to monitor development, immediately announced 24-hour surveillance in designated flash points including Bauchi Road, Angwan Rukuba, Masalanchi Juma’a, Congo Russia, Gangare, University of Jos settlement areas, Nasarawa Gwom, Dutse Uku and Rikkos. These settlements have always been flash points in recent violence in the state since 2001 when the state went up in flames following similar ethno-political cum religious upheavals.
The tensions in Plateau state have their roots in decades of resentment by indigenous minority groups, mostly Christian or animist, towards migrants and settlers from Nigeria’s Hausa-speaking Muslim north. Unrest in the state has in the past triggered reprisal attacks and tit-for-tat killings among different ethnic and religious groups in other areas of the country.
Hundreds were killed in ethnic-religious street fighting in Jos in 2001. Three years later, hundreds died in clashes in the town of Yelwa, leading then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew
Jos North, according to the indigenous people, mostly Beroms, Anagutas and Afizires were completely sidelined in the State creation arrangement. While the Beroms were ceded to Jos South, the Afizires to Jos East, the Anagutas remained largely in Jos North.
The indigenous communities believe the Hausas were able to get what they wanted- "political control", and that they have continued to have upper hand in subsequent state and federal elections.
In the past state elections, the Hausas have won in various polls conducted in the state House of Assembly elections in Jos North-, while the locals always take charge of Jos North-West. In the federal elections, the Hausas have dominated in the federal constituency of Bassa/Jos-North. This arrangement has given the Hausas the reason to believe that it is their birthright to have a hegemonic control over the Jos North local government in any given elections.
Reacting to the crisis at a press briefing yesterday, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, through the state Chairman, Most Rev Dr. Ignatius Kaigama said "we are greatly pained and saddened by the events that took place and we deeply sympathise with all those who have been affected directly or indirectly in the crisis.
He said: "We were greatly taken aback by the turn of events in Jos. We thought it was a political issue, but from all indications, it is not so. We were surprised at the way some of our churches and property were attacked and some of our faithful and clergy killed.
"The attacks were carefully planned and executed. The question that bog our minds are; how were churches and clergy attacked and killed? Why were politicians and political party offices not attacked if it was a political conflict? Why were the business premises and property of innocent civilians destroyed? We strongly feel that bit was not political but a premeditated act under the guise of elections." Youth leader of the Christian body, Pastor Bala Adamu told our correspondent "the whole riot was a well orchestrated plan by the Muslims to bring about the Hausa-Fulani hegemony." According to him "the Hausas think they are born to rule and they (Christians) born to follow", adding "on the contrary, it is not so, as this is the home of Christians. The Hausa-Fulani are mostly found in the middle of the town at settlements like Gangare, Ali Kauzaure, Bauchi Road, Angwan Rogo while the Christians dominate areas like Tudun-Wada, Tafawa Balewa, Apata, Gada-Biyu/Kagbong, Maza, GRA, Nasarawa and Naraguta". He said "if we have not pacified our followers, the reprisals would have been worst than that of 2001".
The body said it distanced itself from foreign reports that it started the crisis. "It is unfortunate that some journalists fell short of the ethics of good journalism regarding the objectivity, balance and truthfulness of their reports." The National Secretary of CAN, Engr. Samuel Salifu told newsmen in Kaduna yesterday that the political crisis in Jos was taking a dangerous dimension with the burning of places of worship by political thugs. "I have spoken with the Sultan of Sokoto and he also assured me that he will issue a statement calling for calm. I am sure he will do that if he has not done it yet,’ he added.
Salifu also said that the association have cause to believe that the crisis was pre-planed, pointing out that the spontaneous nature of the violence led the association to believe so. "I have been in touch with Christian leaders in Jos. They have been briefing me constantly on what is going on. CAN is deeply pained by these reports especially when worship places have been burnt due to what is purely a political crisis.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress (AC) has called for the cancellation of the council polls, considering that the perceived rigging of the elections is the main cause of the violence and hundreds wounded or displaced.
The AC said the violence was fuelled by the fact that Nigerians can no longer stand the continuous destruction of democratic values by the PDP, warning that the people might fight back in other PDP controlled states where such LG fraudulent elections are in the offing.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party condemned the government's gross insensitivity in going ahead to release the results of the elections, especially that of the Jos North that precipitated the crisis, even as the smoke was yet to clear from the ruins of the violence.
''This action of the state government is incredibly provocative, and we condemn it in unequivocal terms. It shows that the action that triggered the violence was pre-meditated by the state government.