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Not Just Jos

IT is defeatist to look at riots as if they were indigenous to Jos, the Plateau State capital, which has had an unfair share of them. Riots, unrests, and variants of them, have become common Nigerian ways of expressing their anger at a federation that does not work.

They are also ready instruments in the hands of politicians, who use them to surreptitiously push their self-serving agenda. Riots in Jos have hurt the city, the people and Nigeria.

What is so special about Jos that riots must break forth so often? What issues cause these riots? Each riot is usually a carry over of unresolved ones. The main issue, no matter the guises, is the fight over the control of Jos.

Any attempt to bring the perpetrators of the riots to book starts another riot. The November 2008 riot is the subject of two probes, the Justice Bola Ajibola panel by the Plateau State Government, which has finished its work and the on going General Emmanuel Abisoye panel of the Federal Government.

Riots date a little bit further and in the North appear to be used in furthering religious hegemony. They have been extended to political disputes and in some instances poorly managed ethnic relations. Some major riots – riots Jos in 1945, Kano in 1957,  most parts of northern Nigeria in 1966, Kano in 1980, Maiduguri in 1982, Jimeta in 1984, Gombe in 1985, Kaduna and Kafanchan in 1991, Bauchi, Katsina, and Kano in 1991, Zango-Kataf in 1992, Funtua in 1993, Kano in 1994 and 2000, Kaduna Sharia riot 2001, Jos 2004, Kano 2004 and Kano 2007, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano in 2009. The losses have been estimated at over 100,000 and property worth billions of Naira.

More than 6,000 people perished in the December 1980 Maitatsine in Kano, which spread to Yola, Maiduguri, Bauchi and Gombe. Maitatsine sects have been regrouping under different names since then, wrecking havoc wherever they go.

Rioters target churches under the cloak of religious differences. When Muslim sects disagree, they burn churches, and attack non-Muslims. Riots are more political than religious.

Estimates of deaths from riots in Jos and other towns in Plateau State since 2001 are in the 4,000 mark. The
Yelwa–Shendam–Wase killings in 2002, and 2004 led to emergency rule in the State.

No solutions would be found to the riots in Jos, or elsewhere, until those who instigate them are punished.
There has been no conclusive implementation of the reports on riots. In fact, some of the suspects in the 2008 Jos riot taken to Abuja have not been prosecuted after a year.

Once a regime of impunity is established, people would exploit it – and that is what is happening with riots in Jos, Kano, Maiduguri, Jimeta, Gombe, Kaduna, Kafanchan, Katsina, Funtua, Yobe.


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