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Nigerian Army Implicated in Attacks on Villages in Jos

A British-based human rights organization has received reports that members of the Nigerian Army have again been implicated in an attack on a village in Plateau State.

According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), on Jan. 23, a village in Farin Lamba was attacked and two men, a woman and a baby were killed. The villagers said the attackers wore military uniforms.

The villagers retaliated, shooting one of the attackers in the arm, who reportedly turned out to be a solider from a nearby security post. The villagers chased the men, who fled in a military vehicle. CSW said an investigation revealed that soldiers belonged to a team led by Captain Zakari. The army has refused to comment on the allegations.

CSW said the latest attack follows the controversial introduction of a shoot-to-kill policy by the Nigerian army.

CSW said on Jan. 18, military spokesman Captain Charles Ekeocha told the BBC that soldiers had been given permission to shoot-to-kill. That was to retain order in Jos following outbreaks of violence over the Christmas period, and the alleged murder of an election official the day before at a polling station in Tina Junction.

However, CSW said, continuing discrepancies in reports of this incident, coupled with persistent allegations of military complicity in violence, have forced a reappraisal of the policy.

According to officials at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Jos North, no staff members were killed in Tina Junction. In reality, CSW said, an argument broke out between young Christian and Muslim men at a voters registration booth for Rikkos Ward, which had been moved by INEC officials.

When a young Muslim man from a different ward tried to register at the booth for Rikkos, he was challenged by young area Christian men. In the resulting argument, CSW said, the Muslim youth stabbed a young man from Rikkos, the crowd attacked him and he was lynched and burned. The military intervened and shot into the crowd, killing three young men.

CSW said in an interview with a Nigerian newspaper, the President of the Civil Liberties Organization, Titus Mann, and the member of the House of Representatives for Jos East and Jos South, Bitrus Kaze, have questioned the composition of the hierarchy of officers in the Plateau State Police Command. These individuals say it doesn’t reflect religious diversity, as required by the federal character principle.

All of the higher ranks, including the Commissioner of Police and his deputy, as well as the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department, are Muslim.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in a news release, “Renewed indications of some level of military complicity in violence, and allegations that senior members of the Plateau State Police Command do not sufficiently reflect the federal character principle, underline the urgent need for a review of local security arrangements.”

He added, “These arrangements are clearly not working, and the non-Muslim community has no confidence in them. In order to ensure the confidence of both religious communities and restore peace, the Joint Task Force must be cleansed of sectarian elements, and the hierarchy of the police force must be restructured to better reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of Nigeria.”

CSW is a human rights advocacy organization specializing in religious freedom, working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promoting religious liberty for everyone.

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