(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Governor orders arrest of preachers who incite violence

The Governor of Plateau State in Nigeria’s central region has ordered the arrest of religious preachers who incite the people to violence, blaming them for the protracted ethno-religious clashes in the state in the past year.

Joshua Dariye, who issued the order in the state capital, Jos, on Friday, said plainclothes security operatives have been assigned to churches and mosques across the state to monitor the preaching of pastors and imams. Those who encourage bigotry are to be arrested, he said.

"We will not allow innocent blood to be shed for nothing," Dariye said. "We are ready to go any length to ensure that peace returned to Plateau State."

The state’s longstanding reputation for peace was shattered in September 2001 by a major eruption of sectarian violence between the largely Christian community of the state and Muslim Hausa-Fulani residents, whose origins are in the extreme north of Nigeria. More than 1,000 people died in a week of
violence.

Since then state has been in the grip of a low level conflict, with the different groups launching sporadic attacks on each other in its outlying districts. More than 200 people are estimated to have so far died in such attacks since this year said to have in some cases involved mercenaries from
neighbouring countries.

Last week scores of people died in days of violent incidents described by officials and residents as raids by bandits and clashes between local farmers and nomads.

In one incident gunmen identified by locals as Fulani herdsmen attacked the farming village of Maza, 30 kilometres north of Jos, with at least eight people killed in the ensuing clashes.

In the Shendam and Langtang districts residents said more than 35 people were killed in raids on several villages in the areas by armed bands thought to include Fulani herdsmen and bandits from rebel wars in Nigeria's northern neighbours Niger and Chad, who have been operating in the region in recent
years.

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