News / Africa

Hundreds Flee as Violence Rages on in Northern Nigeria

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Douglas Mpuga

There are reports of a gun battle between unknown assailants and police in the town of Potiskum in northeastern Nigeria. The fighting is reportedly around a police station and other sections of the town in Yobe State, with unconfirmed reports of casualties.

Potiskum is among 15 regions in northern Nigeria where President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency last week after days of deadly violence.

Saturday's outburst follows two days of attacks when gunmen killed at least 20 people in northeastern Nigeria.

“There has been consistent gun battles between the law enforcement agencies and the [militant Islamic] Boko Haram sect somewhere in Potiskum,” said Dr. Kabir Mato, a professor of political science at the University of Abuja.

“From the information we have, the battle has been raging for some hours now,” he said.

Mato noted that the declaration of the state of emergency may not solve the problem in northeastern Nigeria. “I think there is a serious misconception of the very magnitude of this crisis by the highest security/political echelons in this country.”

If the declaration of emergency means enforcing security measures, he said, “then the developments in Potiskum, Yobe State, and some other parts of the country” show that the move is not serving its purpose.

Mato said neither the security agencies nor the state in Abuja understand the nature of the crisis, which he noted is concentrated in the northeastern part of the country and not all of northern Nigeria. “The fundamental issue is the misplacement of priorities on the part of the security agencies and the national political leadership.”

He attributed the cause of the violence to socio-economic issues and the hopelessness felt by large numbers of youths.

Nigeria, he said, is a country bedeviled by tremendous economic hardships, illiteracy, backwardness, want and apathy, and a population growing at an alarming rate. “The entire social infrastructure such as roads, schools, electricity has been in decline for a very long time.”

As a result, he added, “a lot of young people have not found purpose in existence.”

Rampant corruption, Mato added, has resulted in the inability of the state to properly invest public wealth in infrastructure that will make life, and economic activity, easier. As a result, the public becomes disenchanted and withdraws support from the government.

“If a frantic social effort is not put [in place] in terms of more progressive social policies that will address the concerns of the youth, the crisis will remain.”

Mato said “basically the issue has more to do with the basic economic structure of society. I don’t see it as religious. In my view, it’s economic.”

By Saturday hundreds of people were reportedly fleeing areas of north-eastern Nigeria, after a wave of violence apparently targeting Christian communities.

At least 29 people have been killed in four attacks in the state of Adamawa on Friday night and Saturday morning.

The Islamist Boko Haram group has claimed responsibility.

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