Calls for calm as ten­sions rise in Nige­ria


JOS, Nige­ria: State gover­nors in Nige­ria on Fri­day moved to calm fears af­ter clashes be­tween proBi­afra sup­port­ers and the mil­i­tary risked tak­ing on a wider eth­nic di­men­sion.

In Jos, the cap­i­tal of the cen­tral state of Plateau, Gov. Si­mon La­long sum­moned lead­ers of the Hausa and Igbo com­mu­ni­ties for talks fol­low­ing skir­mishes on Thurs­day.

At least two peo­ple were re­ported to have been killed in vi­o­lence at two mar­kets but po­lice man­aged to re­store con­trol by fir­ing warn­ing shots into the air, eye­wit­nesses said.

La­long, who called the clashes “avoid­able and to­tally un­nec­es­sary,” im­posed an in­def­i­nite duskto-dawn cur­few in the city on Thurs­day.

Jos lies at the fault line of Nige­ria’s re­li­gious di­vide be­tween its mainly Mus­lim north and the pre­dom­i­nantly Chris­tian south, and has been hit by vi­o­lence in the past.

The Hausa are the dom­i­nant eth­nic group in the north while the Igbo are mainly found in the south­east.

In June, Igbo peo­ple liv­ing in the north­ern city of Kaduna were told to leave, as sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment surged in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try.

In re­cent days, sup­port­ers of the In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra (IPOB) move­ment clashed with the se­cu­rity ser­vices in the south­ern city of Port Har­court and south­east­ern state of Abia.

The mil­i­tary claims a build-up of troops in Abia and around the home of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu in the state cap­i­tal, Umuahia, is part of an op­er­a­tion against vi­o­lent crime.

But IPOB sus­pects it is de­signed to crack­down on its ac­tiv­i­ties. The group wants the Ig­bos to se­cede and create an in­de­pen­dent re­pub­lic of Bi­afra. A uni­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence in 1967 led to a bru­tal civil war that lasted 30 months and left more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple dead.

A Nige­rian Army spokesman, Col. Sa­gir Musa, re­jected as “base­less and mis­chievous” claims that troops in­vaded Kanu’s com­pound.

Kanu is cur­rently on bail pend­ing the re­sump­tion of his trial in the cap­i­tal, Abuja, on charges of trea­son­able felony.

Eye­wit­nesses to the clashes in Jos said Ig­bos were ac­cused of “killing Hausas in the south­east,” although there has been no of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion of such claims.

In Abia, state Gov. Okezie Ik­peazu said sol­diers would be grad­u­ally with­drawn from the streets and he would raise the is­sue with Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari.

In the north­west­ern state of Niger, Gov. Abubakar Sani Bello warned cit­i­zens against “hate speeches, vi­o­lent ag­i­ta­tion, ru­mor and sen­ti­ment” as well as reprisal at­tacks.

“Niger state is very cen­tral in Nige­ria’s evo­lu­tion and has al­ways been a melt­ing pot of peo­ple from var­i­ous parts of the world,” he said in a state­ment.

File photo shows sup­port­ers of the In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra (IPOB) wav­ing Bi­afran flags in the Osusu district of Aba. (AFP)

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