Nigeria largely ignores sectarian violence, Human Rights Watch report says

December 12, 2013

(Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria after religious riots that killed at least 138 people across the country in five days. February 23, 2006. REUTERS/George Esiri )

Nigerian authorities have largely ignored sectarian clashes in the nation’s religiously mixed central region that have killed 3,000 people since 2010, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Local police rejected the findings by the international watchdog, which said that a series of massacres and tit-for-tat sectarian attacks have gone largely unpunished as police overlooked witnesses or failed to collect evidence properly.

“Witnesses came forward to tell their stories, compiled lists of the dead, and identified the attackers, but in most cases nothing was done,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities may have forgotten these killings, but communities haven’t. In the absence of justice, residents have resorted to violence to avenge their losses,” he said of a new 146-page report entitled ‘Leave Everything to God’.

Africa’s second-biggest economy and top oil exporter is growing as an investment destination but reports of violence and corruption by authorities are tarnishing its image.

The report was based on interviews with 180 witnesses and victims in Kaduna and Plateau states, which lie in Nigeria’s volatile “Middle Belt”, where the largely Christian south meets the mostly Muslim north.

Plateau Police Commissioner Chris Olagbe rejected the findings. “That is totally untrue and unholistic,” he told Reuters. “All the gunmen that have been arrested in Plateau have been taken to court,” he added, without giving details of any convictions.

Read the full story by Joe Brock here.

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