Nigeria: Perpetrators of religious riots could be freed again

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The aftermath of the Christian-Muslim conflict in the Northern Nigerian city of Jos has seen hundreds of people arrested. However, there are fears that the culprits, like in past conflicts, could go unprosecuted, leaving room for a possible recurrence of religious violence in the near future.

300 people have been arrested, and almost half of them have been taken from the central Plateau state for questioning in the capital, Abuja.

Reports indicate that many of those arrested yesterday had been arrested and taken into custody after the November 2008 Christian-Muslim clashes. A state government spokesman told reporters that the culprits are never prosecuted and they eventually end up inciting more violence, eventually.

“We are afraid the same situation will occur again. They were moved to Abuja last time, but they were never prosecuted,” Plateau state government spokesperson Gregory Yenlong was quoted as saying.

Religious violence broke out in the city of Jos last week, rapidly spreading to nearby villages.

Local reports estimate the deaths after the clashes to be over 400, but more bodies have been found in wells near Jos, where Christians and Muslims have failed to co-exist amicably.

Several thousand people remain displaced after abandoning their homes and fleeing machete wielding mobs.

Prominent figures in the religious community [both Christian and Muslim] have said that the real cause of the violence is the struggle for ethnic and political superiority in the city.

There were deadly riots in 2001 and 2008.

Nonetheless, the fear of a weak justice system that allows the perpetrators of this violence to go scot-free and subsequently incite another religious violence is not the only issue troubling the people of Jos.

Intelligence reports gathered by the head of Nigeria’s armed forces said some people were trying to infiltrate the military ranks.

“We are aware of the fact that there is tension in the country. We want to ensure that we control the movement of troops to protect them against people who will try to take advantage of them,” Lt Gen Abdulrahman Danbazzau told reporters in an interview.

Division amongst the Christians and Muslims in Jos also exist along party lines: Christians mostly back the ruling PDP, while Muslims generally support the opposition ANPP.

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