Since November 2008 when at least 300 people lost their lives, there have been far too many incidents of violence in Jos, Plateau State. In January 2010, there were at least 200 deaths as a result of fighting in Jos. The violence forced many to flee their homes to camps in neighboring Bauchi State. That incident was apparently sparked by inciting text messages and spurred the creation of a committee to to review the causes of the violence and create a map for lasting peace, and resulted in the arrest of 108 suspects.
It seems that the city of Jos is once again the epicenter of religious and tribal violence in Nigeria because, once again, fighting has erupted nearby with women and children apparently the main victims. According to reports 300 people might have been killed in fighting between Muslims and Christians. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the military to prevent the entrance of weapons into and around Jos so as to stem the violence.
SHOULD THE GOVERNOR RESIGN?
With the frequency of fighting, the governor of Plateau State (of which Jos is the capital) now faces calls for his resignation. It is argued that his failure to prevent the fighting, which has occurred three times during his 2 years in office, reflects a failure of his duty to protect constituents. Even the Northern Governor's Forum insisted that it is the responsibility of governor's to guarantee the security of constituents. The Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum recently stated,
"as governors and political leaders, our foremost constitutional responsibility is the security and welfare of the people. We must therefore, take the issue of security uppermost in our agenda..."For these and other reasons, the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria called for Governor Jang's resignation earlier in the month. A former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, also blamed the January fighting on the Plateau State governor and suggested that Jang resign. With this new rash of fighting, it will only be a matter of time before even more voices lend to the resignation calls.
However, a state-created panel led by a former Attorney General of the Federation absolved the governor of responsibility for the 2008 fighting. The panel instead concluded that the Hausa Fulani community, the largest ethnic group in Jos, and indeed Northern Nigeria, was partly to blame for the November 2008 fighting. This finding will help the governor defend himself against accusations and calls for resignation given the newest fighting. But, the fact that the panel was created by the governor, calls in question the independence of the panel's members and their decision.
WILL THE ICC INVESTIGATE?
There have been calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to look into the religious/tribal/political violence in Jos. Specifically, a Nigerian NGO called the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) petitioned the ICC immediately after the January 2009 violence to take a look at the
"allegations of unlawful killing ... and perpetration of other crimes under international law during the [January] violence ... in Jos, ... and the reports that the military and police used excessive force against both Christians and Muslims in responding to the violence."Before this most recent violence, the ICC Prosecutor, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, announced that his office would consider SERAP's request. Depending on the revelations that are sure to unfold regarding this newest Jos incident, the ICC might investigate the matter and that could lead to a case against certain Nigerian leaders and other individuals contributing to the repetitive fighting. Given that a Judicial Commission panel investigating Jos violence from as far back as 1994 and 2001 found that 2 high ranking police officials (one retired and one in service) were complicit in those incidents, it is possible that the ICC might not have to look to far to find those responsible for inciting violence.
The recurring violence in Jos is an example of how poverty, politics, tribalism and religious tensions can intersect to create a combustible environment. This most recent rash of fighting will also determine whether calls for the resignation of Plateau State's governor will increase and whether the ICC will take a closer look at Nigeria and some of its problems. Regardless of what happens, the violence in Jos is one more issue that Acting President Jonathan must focus on and hopefully play a role in dousing the flames before they erupt again and result in even more death and destruction.
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