By Taye Obateru, Emeka Mamah & Victor Ahiumaâ€“ Young with agency reports
JOS â€” FRIGHTENED residents flooded a military checkpoint to flee Jos, yesterday, after Muslim-Christian clashes that killed some 450 people and left scores of buildings burnt.
While the fighting has subsided in the central city and troops have been deployed to end the unrest, fleeing residents said they remained too frightened to stay. At a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Jos, where long queues of cars and buses carrying fleeing residents formed, soldiers searched all vehicles. Several vehicles were laden with baggage.
Samira Yaya, 32, said she was leaving Jos: â€œThe last few days have been very traumatizing for me and my two children.
My husband is out of the country on a business trip. We were indoors without food or water with killings and burnings all around us. I am going to Kano to stay with my family until my husband returns. I feel uneasy here.â€Â Danladi Kabir, a 28-year old trader, who was quoted as sayingÂ as he crammed luggage into a taxi that he was leaving Jos for his Jigawa home state: â€œMy family in Jigawa has been agitated over the fighting in Jos and my safety. The best way to assure them I am alive is to visit home.â€
At least 150 bodies were recovered from wells after the clashes, a village head said Saturday, taking the unofficial death toll compiled from various sources to 464. State officials have given no official death toll for the violence, which broke out on January 17 in Jos, capital of Plateau State, and spread to nearby towns and villages.
Dozens of cars, houses, churches and mosques were also burnt during the four days of unrest. A curfew remained in effect between 5:00 pm and 10:00 am.
The head of Kuru Karama village, Umar Baza, said that 150 bodies were dug out from the wells and that 60 more people were still missing. At the Saint Michaelâ€™s Catholic Cathedral located at the heart of the fighting in Jos, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, during his Sunday sermon, appealed for calm. He castigated both Christians and Muslims involved and those who instigated the deadly fighting.
Christian and Muslim leaders in Plateau State have both said the unrest owed more to the failure of political leaders to address ethnic differences than inter-faith rivalries. Jos has been a hotbed of religious violence in the country in recent years.
An estimated 200 people were killed in religious clashes in the city in late 2008. Meantime, the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) has blamed both the Federal and Plateau State governments for being responsible for the intractable ethno-religious crisis in Jos saying that the ugly situation showed the level the â€œcrises of governance Nigeria has plunged into.â€.
General Secretary of the union, Comrade Issa Aremu who made this known at a news conference in Kaduna, yesterday, however, demanded that Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state must resign as he has shown that he was incapable of protecting the lives of the people of the state. The textile workers also demanded that Jangâ€™s counterpart in the neighbouring Bauchi State, Alhaji Isa Yuguda must give an undertaking that he too can govern the state, without which he should resign due to what they described as the â€œaddictive and serial violence in his state (which) shows he is not on duty.â€
Curfew now 6 pm to 6 a.m
Meantime, following an improvement in the security situation in the Plateau State capital, the curfew imposed on the state has been further relaxed to last from 6.pm to 6.am.
The state Security Council took the decision at a meeting last night. A statement by Director of Press and Public Affairs to the governor, James Mannok however said the suspension of the activities of commercial motorcyclists and the ban on sale of petrol in containers is still in force. It urged workers to feel free to resume work and go about their normal duties.