Nigeria: Official Comments On The Violence In Western Nigeria

By Paul Ejime, PANA Staff Correspondent, 22 August 1997

 

LAGOS, Nigeria (PANA) — The administrator of Nigeria’s troubled western state of Osun, Lt. Col. Anthony Obi, has defended a government decision to relocate a local council headquarters, which led to violence that has reportedly killed up to 65 people and left substantial property damaged in its trail.

“It is the belief of government that the creation of the council would be an avenue for the people in the troubled area to work together and develop their communities, rather than engaging in communal feud,” he said in television broadcast to mark his first year in office.

It was his first public statement since the six-day violence between neighbouring Ife and Modakeke people, members of Nigeria’s Yoruba stock. Government’s decision last Thursday to move the council headquarters from Madakeke to Ife, ignited the long-standing rivalry between the two communities.

The police confirmed 10 people died and 44 houses torched in the mayhem. Nigerian newspapers reported death toll of up to 65. Twelve of the 22 arrested suspects appeared before an Ile-Ife magistrate’s court Thursday, charged with arson and rioting. The area was reported calm Friday as residents, some of whom had fled the trouble, count their losses.

Elsewhere in Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna, defiant pupils were reported to have continued their two-day protest Thursday, an offshoot of the lingering face-off between the state civil servants and the state government.

The state civil servants, including teachers, launched a crippling strike June 16 in protest against unpaid salaries and alleged poor conditions of service.

The pupils have been trooping out in their thousands in the street protests, and demanding the removal of the state administrator, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Ali. The police have used teargas to disperse the demonstrators.

The state government, which had earlier announced a mass sack of the civil servants, said it was processing the payment of the teachers’ salaries.

Economic activities have ground to halt in the state.

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