The ongoing religious violence in Nigeria has a new flashpoint— economics.
In the latest episode in the Nigeria conflict, 86 people were killed in an attack by suspected Muslim nomadic herders against Christian farming communities in the center of the country. The grim discovery came after days of violence apparently sparked after an attack by Christian farmers against Fulani herders on Thursday.
Deadly clashes between herders and farmers in central Nigeria are a growing security concern in Africa’s most populous country, which is roughly split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.
The deaths are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources as drought conditions have forced the Fulani into more populated farming communities in search of grazing lands.
Adamawa police spokesman Othman Abubakar told news outlets: “The violence started when Bachama farmers prevented Fulani herdsmen from grazing in a field outside the village. Clashes erupted as a result. “The Bachama mobilized and burnt some Fulani settlements and the Fulani went into Dowayan and burnt houses.”
The deaths are putting President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year. On Sunday, he called for calm “and assures that no efforts will be spared” to bring those responsible to justice to prevent further attacks.
“The grievous loss of lives and property arising from the killings in Plateau today is painful and regrettable,” he added.
Buhari has been accused of failing to act in previous violence as he is a Muslim and a Fulani former military ruler. His government has proposed setting up cattle ranches to prevent tensions over grazing land.
After the latest killings, Nigerians for hours Sunday on social media shared a growing sense that something awful had occurred.
Those fears were realized when the Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong, said he had awoken to the “shocking news” of the attacks. In a series of message posted on Twitter he gave few details about “this horrible situation.”
Government officials have imposed a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that is in effect indefinitely.