What is the Nigerian Army still doing on the streets of Jos?

Where is the Nigeria Police: A student from the University of Jos, North-Central Nigeria has narrated to the story of what he witnessed in the last religious riots in Jos. He also claimed the Nigerian army still stationed in Jos Township have been harassing and killing their students. When I called him back he simply asked me, “but is it fair for the army to be in our place and not in their place”?

The student said he saw the army kill 3boys and 1 girl at close 2 Etobaba streets, and his roommate was stabbed. He also said the riots must have been sparked for political reasons. (See the unedited conversation ensued between us below)

The problem is this, since the beginning of the Jos religious riots; the Nigerian army was deployed to maintain the peace. But Plateau citizens have condemned the military personnel as being part of the problem.

The chief of Army staff, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau, confirmed accounts that some residents had been dragged out of their homes and shot by men dressed in what appeared to be army uniforms. He said five of the suspects arrested were dressed in khaki army-style uniforms and claimed to be police officers, though only one of the five men could provide police identification.

Muslims and Christians fought with each other for several days in January.

The official death toll was given by police as 326 – although other estimates are much higher, with Muslim officials saying that 364 Muslims were killed.

Christian leaders have not yet confirmed a death toll – although earlier estimates said around 65 Christians had died.

More than 300 people have been arrested.

The following unedited conversation ensued between us:

Student: hello

Elombah: hi

Student: how is work?

Elombah: kool, did u actually witness the Jos Riots?

Student: I was there, when the whole thing stated

Elombah: really? Too bad… who started it….Muslims or Christians?

Student:  it was on Sunday when we were coming back 4rm church

Elombah: ok, so the Muslims started it?

Student:  yep

Elombah:  what was their main grouse this time?

Student: we don’t know; i think it must have been there god fathers

Elombah: but why? Why would someone start burning houses without a cause?

Student: honestly I wonder

Elombah: but more of the Muslims were killed?

Student: yep, but they burned our houses

Elombah: they are very silly

Student: You are right

Student: they were having guns

Elombah: Christians have guns?

Student: no, if we had it would have been too bloody, but d military men were against us

Elombah: you should buy guns…Igbo’s in Kano bought guns and the riots ended

Student: yep, but the gun men seized some from our guys

Elombah: by whom?

Student: how do u mean

Elombah: who seized your guns?

Student: the military men

Elombah: the army? Why?

Student: yep, I don’t know

Elombah: that your governor, is he weak?

Student: may be

Elombah: he should be tough like Makarfi

Student: but is it fair for the army to be in our place and not in their place?

Elombah: nope, is the army still there?

Student: yep

Elombah: no way

Student: I am telling you the truth

Elombah: I’ll find out why?

Student: please do, they killed our students, I mean the armies

Elombah: students of which school?

Student: of my school, university of Jos

Elombah: how many?

Student: the once I saw 3boys, 1 girl

Elombah: can you recall the date they were killed?

Students: on Tuesday, last week

Elombah: where, I mean, the exact location they were killed?

Student: close 2 Etobaba streets; I was there, when we were running 4 our lives

Elombah: ok, please, what local government area in Jos is still occupied by the army?

Student: at Terminus, Bauchi road & Etobaba, the once I know of

Elombah: and these are areas where Christians live?

Student: yep, I wish u were there

Elombah: do they harass people?

Student: of course yes, on that day I cried so badly

Elombah: some say they sent only Muslim soldiers, is this true?

Student: very true, they caught some

Elombah: how do u mean, they cut some?

Student: the armies cut some fake Muslim soldiers

Elombah: really? What they did do to them?

Student: that I don’t know

Elombah: ok, it’s too bad that your so-called Christian governor should allow this to happen

Student: I am still weeping the lost ones, I think something is wrong somewhere, because the GOC as they said is a Muslim man

Elombah: my brother, its politics, nothing to do with religion, I will check out who is the GOC

Student: please do, but why are they involving students & Christian ones

Elombah: how are students involved?

Student: because they were killed, & their houses were bunt

Elombah: that’s too bad!

Student: they stabbed my room mate

Elombah: a Christian?

Student: yea, his dad is a pastor; it was only God that saved me

Elombah: You’re lucky

Student: thanks bro, you know anything you are doing

Elombah: Thanks, for your help, I will use this information for my reports to the authorities, do you want me to mention, (name) in my reports?

Student: no

Elombah: ok, that’s fine; I will simply say a student in Unijos

Student: thanks

Elombah: have a nice day

Student: and you too

Meanwhile, a Nigerian rights group has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate violence between Muslims and Christians in the city of Jos. The group, known as SERAP, wrote to ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asking him to open an inquiry into the deaths of 326 people in the riots.

The activists also want the army and police investigated over claims they used excessive force to restore order.

Lawyer Femi Falana wrote the letter to Mr Moreno-Ocampo, arguing that the ICC should step in because the government was unlikely to take action.

In Jos, witnesses said rioters armed with knives, homemade firearms and stones had attacked passers-by and fought with security forces, leaving bodies in the street and stacked in mosques after fighting began.

Authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew in January, people walking around the center of the city. When an army convoy passed, they stopped and raised their hands above their heads to show they were not a threat.

“We want the government to come and help us,” said Abdullahi Ushman, who said he had seen rioters attacking people with firearms and bows and arrows.

Plateau State governor Jonah Jang said the violence was not provoked by a lack of opportunity in this rural farming community. He claimed many of the attackers were from Muslim-dominant northern Nigeria and from the nearby, predominantly Muslim nations of Niger and Chad.

“There are people masterminding this for their own selfish reasons,” said Jang, who is Christian.

The Minister of Police Affairs, Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, issued a statement blaming the violence on “some highly placed individuals in the society who were exploiting the ignorance and poverty of the people to cause mayhem in the name of religion.”

In Jos, Plateau State, there have been Deadly riots in 2001 and 2008; the City is divided into Christian and Muslim areas. People classified as indigenes and settlers – Hausa-speaking Muslims living in Jos for decades still classified as settlers. Christians mostly back the ruling PDP; Muslims generally supporting the opposition ANPP

“Those who are suspected to be responsible for the latest violence and previous outbreaks of deadly violence in Jos have not been arrested let alone brought to justice,” Mr Falana’s letter stated.

“The government has shown itself to be too weak to act, contrary to its international legal obligations, including under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

Hundreds of people were killed in similar outbreaks of violence in Jos in both 2008 and 2001.

Violence erupted in Jos on 17 January and rapidly spread to nearby villages.

Several thousand people remain displaced, having abandoned their homes to escape the violence.

Jos, the capital of Plateau state, lies between Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south and has seen sectarian riots in the recent past.

But analysts say the real cause of the violence is a struggle for political superiority in the city.

Sectarian violence in this central region of Nigeria has left thousands dead over the past decade, and the latest outbreak came despite the government’s efforts to quell religious extremism in the West African country.