Escalating Communal Clashes In Nigeria

At least 22 Muslims have allegedly been killed by an indigenous Christian community in the latest Nigerian communal clashes in early August as they were traveling for burial in the southwestern state of Ondo, reports  Nigerian Freelance journalist and photographer, Festus Iyorah.

The killings, according to locals, are in response to massacres of minority Christian indigenes by Islamic herders in May. “The people [Christian indigene dwellers ] made their grievance known to the government, but it fell on deaf ears,” native Christian Onuoha told Festus. “As a result, it left them with no choice but to take matters into their own hands, leading to the recent unrest and killings.”

In the city of Jos, north-central Nigeria, another 24-hour curfew has been imposed after some ethnoreligious conflicts that have killed at least 60 people. Jos has oscillated between 12 or 24-hour curfews, journalist Festus adds. 

Root causes of these crises 

According to Festus, the Jos crisis is traced back to the summer of 2001 when ethnoreligious conflicts between Christians and Muslims claimed the lives of 1000 people. It is also part of the settler-indigene conflicts, which continued in 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2015, spilling into other north-central cities like Kaduna.  

Fears of religious domination, unfair allocation of resources and political power, and electoral competition have also contributed to these crises. Human Rights Watch further reports that 13,000 people in Nigeria have been killed in separate interreligious attacks since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.  

These clashes are still present because the government when trying to manage the conflict has not properly put a stop to it. Between the 70s and 90s, “the indigenous Christian tribes in Jos, the Berom, Fizere, and Anaguta controlled local politics, but as Hausa settlers arrived in 1999, electoral power favored the Hausa Muslims more than the indigenes”, a geopolitical security analyst at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence, Confidence MacHarry told newswires. Local politicians then took advantage of religious differences to instigate violence against indigenous Christian communities in northern Nigeria. 

Failed state and leadership

These mass killings, kidnappings of children, and expansion of local-armed groups demonstrate how Nigeria is steadily collapsing. As a result, four state governments in northern and central Nigeria have imposed a series of restrictions on residents to stop mass kidnappings and other violent crimes.

Although bandits have spread fear among local communities for years, now security forces are struggling to contain them. Therefore, local government spokesman Ahmed Matane has announced the suspension of weekly cattle markets, the capping of petrol sales, and prohibited the use of jerrycans at fuelling stations in Niger. 

Additionally, as criminals in the region often use motorcycles and engage in cattle rustling, carrying three people on a motorcycle is now illegal, transporting cattle by truck to other parts of the country is restricted and a night-time curfew for moto-taxis and tricycles is also in place in some parts of Nigeria. For example, in Kaduna, authorities have banned the cutting of trees due to fears that loggers collaborate with bandits.

The military has also been struck directly by bandits when they killed two senior officers and one is still abducted with his location unknown. Most recently, they and the government are under fire since an interview of a retired senior intelligence officer with the Defence Intelligence Agency, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, where he revealed that at the center of gravity of the insurgents’ strength is a long list of sponsors in the current government of President Buhari.

As Louis Ibah recalls, he listed governors, ministers, senators, and Bureau De Change operators as notable sponsors, saying they were all known to the intelligence community and government. The government hasn’t issued its own side of the story.

Mass kidnappings are also another huge challenge in the country. Nigerians are being forced to sell homes and parcels of land to free their kidnapped children, which continues to be a major problem in the state. Since December 2020, more than 1,000 students have been abducted across the northwest and around 300 have not returned, according to Reuters.

Every single 3 weeks a kidnap takes place and hundreds of parents are doing everything they can to raise the ransom money themselves to try and recuperate their children. According to news reports, the latest kidnapping took place in a secondary school on Wednesday 1 in Kaya, a rural town in Zamfara, where more than 500 children were enrolled.

The country is in such a weak state that officials have even pleaded to the population to self-defense and self-determination to protect themselves. Muslim and Christian leaders must not initiate conflicts between supporters. Contrary to what they have done in the past, Muslim leaders must not pinpoint Christians as an enemy, and Christian leaders should cease to publicly encourage their adherents to carry arms and defend themselves. 

Although several peace vows and talks have been made in the past, the calls for peace barely have lasted 48 hours due to deep mistrust and the lack of serving justice to the aggrieved party at the receiving end of the conflicts. 

Some experts are advocating for a constitutional amendment that “devolves power to the states; especially power for internal policing and intelligence gathering” and ensures “that security is not done alone by the federal government, but that states and local councils are all involved”, voices journalist Louis Ibah. If the government finds no viable solution, violence in the region and communal clashes over access to land and resources are likely to increase. 

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