Nigeria: ethnic clashes cause 500 victims

Ethnic clashes in Nigeria in recent days have caused 500 victims as Moslems clash with Christians and Animists. There are fears of a military coup.

Ethnic division again appears in Nigeria, a country so divided that the former colonial language, English, is used (sometimes reluctantly) as a means of communication because the ethnic groups are so varied that they cannot all understand each other.

Besides being divided in language, they are different peoples, with different religions. Nigeria’s 123,3 million people are divided into no less than 250 ethnic groups, the main ones being Hausa/Fulani (29%) and Yoruba (21%).

Recent conflicts between the predominantly Moslem Hausa and the Christian or Animist Yoruba have caused 100 deaths and 400 injuries in the last three days. However, these are part of an escalating spiral of violence which flared up in February 2000 in Kaduna (northern Nigeria), which spread to Aba and Onitcha in the South and in October, 2000, 100 people were killed in clashes between these peoples in Lagos, the capital.

The recent clashes started in Mushin, Lagos but quickly spread to other districts, namely Rod, Ikorodu, Yaba, lawanson, Aguda, Ojuelegba, Ebutte Meta and Ajegunle. Numerous shops have been looted, 1,000 houses have been torched and 3,000 families displaced, as the military forces try to keep the violence at bay.

The Nigerian Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dele Alake, said that he feared anti-democratic forces were at work to prepare the way for a military coup, quoting the recent disasters in which 1,000 people died when a military ammunition dump exploded, the police strike and the recent clashes between the country’s two main ethnic groups.

Mr. Alake declared in an interview with the Nigerian Guardian: “Obviously when you look at the sequence of events, you do not have to be a sleuth to know that it appears to be a programme”. He added that “These events appear to be designed to create an atmosphere of instability and perhaps give occasion to any military adventurers to act”.


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