JOS: Nigerian police on Monday sent reinforcements to the central state of Plateau after violence between herders and farmers left 86 dead, and indications more people lost their lives.
The head of the federal police, Ibrahim Idris, said a special intervention force had been sent “to restore lasting peace” in the affected areas.
“The intervention is to put an end to the crisis,” he said in a statement, adding the reinforcements included two surveillance helicopters, counter-terrorism and intelligence cells.
Plateau state on Sunday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the affected areas as angry youths from ethnic Berom farming communities attacked motorists on the main Jos to Abuja road.
One motorist who escaped the violence said he saw six dead bodies and the youths were targeting anyone who looked “Fulani and Muslim”, referring to the ethnic group of the herders.
The unrest was sparked after an apparent reprisal attack blamed on nomadic Fulani herders against Berom farmers on Saturday that police said left 86 dead.
The authorities in Nigeria have previously downplayed death tolls and local media on Monday quoted several local Berom groups as saying that more than 100 people were killed.
One Christian charity based in the Plateau state capital Jos, the Stefanus Foundation, put the death toll from attacks on six villages at 169.
There was no independent verification of the figures.
Ndi Kato, a campaigner for indigenous people in the central states, told AFP people were angry and security needed to be improved.
“We are losing people at war levels now,” she said, calling for civilian militia to be set up in the restive region.
The violence will heap further pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been accused of failing to stop clashes between the two groups across the so-called “Middle Belt”.
The long-running conflict has its roots in a battle for land and water but over the years has taken on an ethnic, political and religious dimension, making it a huge security concern.
Buhari called the latest attacks “painful and regrettable” and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
Federal police chief Idris appealed to traditional rulers, religious and community leaders, politicians and parents to prevent further reprisals.
Chris Ngwodo, a political commentator, said the cyclical pattern of tit-for-tat violence needed to be broken.
“There has to be a real serious commitment to arresting the perpetrators and very decisively and publicly putting them through the entire judicial system,” he said.
“There´s no commitment currently that´s going to happen. That´s why there´s vigilantism and communities taking matters into their own hands.”