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Nigerian Professor Says Latest Jos Violence a Result of Many Factors

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Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja says the factors include social apathy, economic deprivation, political frustration and a breakdown of law and order

Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered troops to deploy in the city of Jos following deadly clashes between Muslims and Christians that have left a reported 150 people dead.

Authorities also Tuesday expanded the nighttime curfew imposed Sunday to 24 hours.

The exact cause of the violence remains unclear, though it appears to be related to religious differences between Muslims and Christians.

But Professor Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja said the violence in Jos is a result of a combination of factors, including social apathy, economic deprivation, and political frustration.

“What’s happening in Jos is a development that has been recurring in the last two, three years. To say the least, it’s simply an exhibition of the failure of governance in Nigeria; it’s an exhibition of a very serious economic problem that Nigerians find themselves in. It’s a breakdown of law and order,” he said.

Mato said too often in the midst of a serious economic crisis, people often lose sight of the real problem to exploit the most visible difference between groups, in the case of Jos, the religious difference.

“I don’t see anything religious. Wherein religion could be the difference between the two warring factions, fundamentally it’s a manifestation of economic alienation. So Social apathy, political frustration, economic deprivation and so many factors are responsible,” Mato said.

He said the Nigeria federal government and the Plateau State government have in the past few years failed to appropriate public resources in a way to alleviate the suffering of the people.

Mato described Vice President Goodluck Jonathan’s response to the violence in Jos by sending in federal troops as the usual response of successive governments to similar problems.

“Reports that I have received in the last few hours from Jos suggest that security apparatuses seem to be rather very helpless in the midst of the crisis. So I think the deployment of troops is not the solution because it’s not about deploying troops but addressing the very social and economic underlying factors that in the first place precipitated the crisis,” Mato said.

The city of Jos has long been a flashpoint of religious violence in Nigeria. Clashes between Muslims and Christians killed about 1,000 people in 2001 and several hundred others in 2004.

Mato said the problems of Jos and other Nigerian cities will likely continue unless the federal government and the Plateau State government address the root causes.

Vice President Jonathan is effectively running the federal government in the absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua, who has been hospitalized abroad for nearly two months.