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Joes erupts again: Osasu Obayiuwana reports on the violence that is threatening to become a permanent fixture of Nigeria's northern city of Jos.

Death and destruction are gradually becoming associated with Jos, usually a sedate Northern Nigerian city known as a getaway spot for people keen to take a break from the daily grind.


This follows a weekend of political and religious mayhem in late November that over 350 people dead and valuable property worth millions of dollars destroyed.

It is second time in four years that violence has gripped the city. In May 2004, the situation-similarly caused by political and religious disputes-deteriorated to a warlike state, forcing the then president Olusegun Obasanjo, to unilaterally impose a state of emergency.

That led to a six-month suspension of the erstwhile Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye. The retired Major-General Chris Alli replaced him and was Obasan-jo's special administrator in the state until calm was restored and authority handed back to Dariye.

The recent outbreak of mayhem in Jos, which saw people burnt to death in their own homes, started as a dispute over results of elections held on 27 November in 17 local government areas in Plateau State--of which Jos is the political capital.

The ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) was declared to have emerged victorious in all 17 areas. But members of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), who were expecting a win in Jos North, after having an initial lead of 58,000 votes, reacted violently when the final result gave victory to the PDP.

Accusing the electoral officials of colluding with the ruling PDP to falsify the results, an angry ANPP crowd ran amok throughout the Jos metropolis, burning over 1,000 vehicles and scores of houses.

But it was the torching of churches and mosques in what was supposed to have been a dispute over election results, that added a deadly religious twist to the whole affair.

Relations between Christians and Moslems in Plateau State, as in many parts of Northern Nigeria, have been fraught with suspicion in recent years. especially with the controversial introduction of Sharia law in several Northern states

The trail of death and destruction compelled Jonah Jang, governor of Plateau State to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Jos and order soldiers and policemen to "shoot in sight" anyone inciting inciting violence.

President Umaru Yar'Adua, criticised by Nigerians for having a "slowcoach" attitude towards governing the country, promptly summoned Jang to Aso Rock (Nigeria's seat of government in the capital, Abuja), for a security consultation.

It was during this claimed mercenaries had been recruited from as far as the Republic of Niger and Chad to foment the chaos in his state.

But Yar' Adua averted more trouble when he stopped a subsequent order by Jang, that the local government chairmen and councillors who emerged from the disputed elections be sworn in on 1 December.

Emeka Eneukwu, a national official of the ANPP, whose supporters were accused of starting the chaos, says his party is not in support of the violence that has claimed many lives. But Eneukwu, who insists his party was robbed of victory in certain areas of Plateau State, warns that only the conduct of transparently free and fair elections will eliminate the violence that continues to take place in the country.

According to Plateau State government officials, over 1,500 people were arrested in connection with the violence.
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Title Annotation:NIGERIA
Author:Obayiuwana, Osasu
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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