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Nigerian Army Says Order Restored in Stricken City


The curfew imposed on the central Nigerian city of Jos, after clashes between rival Christians and Muslims is likely to be relaxed further as relative peace returns to the city. Thousands of troops and police are patrolling the streets of Jos and other main cities in Nigeria. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa filed this report from Abuja.

The army acknowledges some residents of Jos may still be apprehensive. Army spokesman General Emeka Onwuamaegbu told VOA the army is in complete control.

"I spoke to the general officer commanding the third division, which is headquartered in Jos, about 10 minutes ago. And he said all throughout last night there was no reported case of any incident and that people were beginning to be confident and coming out and going about their normal business. However, there is a little bit of apprehension. But there is really no need for that because the military is on top of the situation," he said.

Security has been strengthened in major cities across Nigeria, particularly in the north and southeast, for fear the violence could spread. In the past, the return of bodies of victims of such clashes had triggered reprisals in other parts of Nigeria.

General Onwuamaegbu said the authorities would not allow bodies to be taken out of Jos, at least until the current tensions ease.

"I very much doubt if it would be allowed for those bodies to be taken outside Jos for burial. I am told that a good number of them were buried yesterday. And I very much doubt if bodies will be allowed to leave, at least for now, until nerves are very calm," he said.

Police sources said the clashes were triggered by a rumor Friday that the majority-Muslim All Nigeria Peoples Party had lost a local election to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.

Nigeria's 140 million people are split between Muslims and Christians and the two communities generally live peacefully side by side.

The fighting was rooted in the decades-old rivalry between mostly Christian or animist indigenous groups and Hausa-speaking settlers from the Muslim north.

Despite being citizens of Nigeria, so-called settlers have had limited economic and political rights in the communities where they live, leading to perennial tensions.

University of Jos Sociology Professor Victor Dugga said abolishing the settler/native dichotomy could be an important first step in reconciling communities across Nigeria.

"The issues of whether it is citizenship or indigeneship as written in the 1999 constitution, I think the issue has to be sorted out. Some of us will prefer that residence is used rather than indigeneship," he said.

The violence is the worst in Nigeria since 2004, when up to 700 people died in Plateau state during Christian and Muslims clashes.

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