Nigeria chaos grows, 16 killed in attacks

2012-01-11 07:40

Kano - Ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria claimed 16 more victims on Tuesday, with gunmen killing eight in the north and a mob torching an Islamic school in the south, as a fuel strike added to the deadly tension.

Amid the sectarian and social turmoil, Nobel literature prize laureate Wole Soyinka, one of the country's most respected voices, warned that the continent's most populous nation was heading toward civil war.

A two-day old general strike has paralysed the country and sent President Goodluck Jonathan's government - already battling a spate of bloody attacks by the Islamist sect Boko Haram - into crisis mode.

Analysts said the tension in Africa's top oil producer contributed to rising world oil prices, with Brent North Sea crude gaining 83c to $113.28 a barrel on Tuesday.

In the latest attack blamed on Boko Haram, gunmen killed eight people, including five police officers, in a pub in Potiskum town in the northern state of Yobe before speeding off on a motorcycle.

A doctor said eight bodies were brought to the local morgue, including "five policemen, a bartender, a customer and a 10-year-old girl".

Police confirmed the shooting but did not give a casualty toll.

Gunmen also killed three people in an attack on a Christian village in northern Nigerian Bauchi state, police and community leaders said.

Meanwhile in the country's south, a mob burnt part of the central mosque complex in the city of Benin, where earlier clashes killed five, following six deaths there the previous day.

Fears of a wider religious conflict

Witnesses said an Islamic school adjacent to the mosque was torched and a bus parked next to it also went up in flames.

The unrest in the city started on Monday amid protests against the government's January 01 scrapping of fuel subsidies, which caused petrol prices to more than double, sparking widespread anger.

Most of Nigeria's 160 million people live on less than $2 a day.

During the rally in Benin, a crowd split off to attack a mosque and terrorise people in neighbourhoods that are mainly Hausa, an ethnic group that dominates the north and is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Nigeria is roughly divided between a predominantly Christian south and mainly Muslim north.

Recent violence targeting Christians - including a series of Christmas Day bombings - has sparked warnings from Christian leaders that they will defend themselves and stoked fears of a wider religious conflict.

Soyinka, who became Africa's first Nobel prize for literature winner in 1986, warned in a BBC interview that the country could face a new conflict akin to its 1960s war, which killed more than one million people.

"It's not an unrealistic comparison - it's certainly based on many similarities... We see the nation heading towards a civil war," he said.

The UN leader Ban Ki-moon met Nigeria's Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru in New York as the UN expressed fears about militant groups in West Africa.

Boko Haram and al-Qaeda

The two met just after the release of a UN report that hinted at links between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa.

President Jonathan on Sunday warned that the violence blamed on Boko Haram was worse than the 1967-70 civil war, saying also that there were sect sympathisers in the government and within the security agencies.

The president on Tuesday met his security chiefs in the capital Abuja as he faced the toughest challenge since taking the post in 2010, battling on two fronts - against the social protests and Boko Haram.

Across Nigeria, unrest prevailed and thousands protested over fuel prices, police fired tear gas and businesses shut down.

Gangs set up roadblocks of burning tyres on major roads in the economic capital Lagos and threw stones at cars while extorting cash from drivers.

Protesters marched through the streets to the sound of blaring afrobeat music, sometimes with soldiers clapping and taking pictures.

One person brought a goat wrapped in a union flag while others carried a mock coffin labelled "Badluck", a play on the president's name.

A 24-hour curfew was imposed in the northern city of Kaduna for fear protests would degenerate after thousands of fuel protesters tried for two successive days to force their way into a government complex.

Lack of real trust

Residents said police fired teargas to disperse thousands of young men who besieged the complex for a second day running.

The government says it scrapped the fuel subsidies because they cost more than $8bn in 2011 and that it needs the money to improve the country's woefully inadequate infrastructure.

Nigerians have viewed the fuel subsidies as their only benefit from the nation's vast oil wealth, and many people lack any real trust in the government after years of deeply rooted corruption.

The Nigerian government late on Tuesday ordered all striking workers back to work, warning that their employers would enforce a "no work, no pay policy" if they failed to do so.

  • Nurain - 2012-01-11 07:55

    "This is a message from Mohammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on... them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. "No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. "No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. "Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world). Therefore, whoever did such he is not a true believer."

      The-Azanian - 2012-01-11 09:26

      Well written, people like that are in demand at this time.

      Neville - 2012-01-11 12:36

      Well said but why do some muslims pick up arms they are not very tolorant even to their own, it looks they want to rule the world.the prophet must be very dissapointed with this people.

  • Phumezo - 2012-01-11 08:05

    The day Africans accepted religion as their way of life be it Christianity or Islam was a begging of an end for us! No where in history have you ever heard of Africans fighting each other about Africanism and our customs!

      Moi - 2012-01-11 09:12

      You just keep telling yourself that. “A weekend of violence between isiZulu- and seSotho-speaking residents in a Howick informal settlement escalated into a full-blown war on Sunday night, as dozens of houses and shacks were razed to the ground by arsonists in revenge attacks. At least seven isiZulu-speaking residents were admitted to hospital on Saturday. Five of them were treated and discharged by Sunday after suffering serious injuries inflicted with sticks and sharp objects.”

      Moi - 2012-01-11 09:12

      “The reign of King Moshoeshoe coincided with the rise of power of the well known Zulu king, Shaka. During this first part of the 1800's King Shaka attacked many smaller clans along the Eastern coast of Southern Africa incorporating parts of them into his steadily growing Zulu nation. Various small clans were forced to flee the area currently known as the KwaZulu-Natal province. The period that followed was called the Lifaqane (SA Sesotho: difaqane / Zulu: mfecane - means times of great calamities) and was characterized by a lot of violence and plundering against the Sotho peoples by invading Nguni clans. The attacks also forced King Moshoeshoe to move his settlement to the Qiloane plateau. The name of the plateau was later changed to Thaba Bosiu or "mountain of the night" and it proved to be an impenetrable fortress against enemies.” “The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) proposed a truce with the African National Congress (ANC) as an effort to calm violent clashes between members of the two parties. The Secretary General of the IFP, Oscar Dhlomo, communicated the peace offer to the ANC in exile. Despite this effort, the IFP still maintained prospects for peace were unlikely for as long as the Frontline States were not part of any negotiations.”

  • Cara-Ann - 2012-01-11 09:04

    very well written...

  • The-Azanian - 2012-01-11 09:21

    Another happy ending african story, just like here at vote for someone and when they get the top job, they start doing the opposite of what they canvassed

  • Tom - 2012-01-11 17:34

    Tom - January 11, 2012 at 10:34 Report comment ''Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka warned on Tuesday that his country was heading towards a civil war, blaming political leaders who spread religious intolerance.'' He makes a good point........politicians using ''religion'' as a vehicle to further their own political aspirations or agendas. And is it not an opportune time to have this kind of ''religious war'' when the ecinomy is in shambles with the fuel subsidy protests etc....perfect scenario to deflect attention from the failures of government.....its an age old trick.....sometimes, religion is the vehicle or its race or communal sectarian divisions....chose the most appropriate one for your particular country and the rest as as they say is history.....

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