Abuja: At least 86 people have died in Nigeria after violent clashes broke out between farmers and cattle herders, police in Plateau state said. Some reports say fighting began on Thursday when ethnic Berom farmers attacked Fulani herders, killing five of them. A retaliatory attack on Saturday led to more deaths, BBC reported on Monday.
The area has a decades-long history of violence between ethnic groups competing for land. A curfew has now been imposed in three parts of the state. Police Commissioner Undie Adie said a search of villages following the bloodshed revealed that 86 people had been killed, and six injured. He said 50 houses had been burned, as well as 15 motorbikes and two vehicles.
The Plateau state government said the curfew would be in place between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (Nigerian time) in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas “to avert a breakdown of law and order”. In Nigeria’s central region settled farming communities and nomadic cattle herders often clash – usually over access to land and grazing rights. But these tit-for-tat clashes have erupted into inter-communal warfare, killing thousands in the last year.
This region, where the Muslim north meets the Christian south is prone to religious tension – herders are ethnic Fulani and mostly Muslim, while the farmers are mostly Christian. But it’s not clear why this spike in violence is happening right now. Nigeria’s president has repeatedly blamed the escalation on an increase in gun-running from Libya. Others blame security forces’ failures in a country busy fighting two insurgences – Boko Haram in the north and militants in the oil-producing south.
The state’s governor Simon Lalong said work was under way “to secure the affected communities and fish out perpetrators of these crimes”. “While we pray for God’s guidance through this difficult time, we will do everything humanly possible to secure our state immediately,” he said. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari – himself a Fulani – is under increasing pressure to address the tensions ahead of elections in 2019.