Nigeria is to deploy troops and police to reduce violence in the northern state of Kaduna, the acting president’s spokesman said on Wednesday, as ethnically charged violence pressures a government already fighting Boko Haram in the northeast.
Clashes between Muslim herders and Christian farmers have killed hundreds in the region over the last few years. The violence is partly over land use in Nigeria’s middle belt region and some northern areas, but also has religious overtones in a country almost evenly split between the two faiths.
Police said 32 people were killed on Tuesday in clashes between herdsmen and villagers in Kajuru local government area of southern Kaduna state. Troops were deployed to southern Kaduna in April amid an eruption of inter-communal violence.
“Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has ordered further security reinforcements in Kaduna state following reports of communal clashes,” presidency spokesman Laolu Akande said.
He said the strengthened security would comprise of troops and police special forces, adding that “the number of the personnel will be determined by the military and the police authorities.”
The heightened tensions in Kaduna come as security forces in the northeast are contending with a series of attacks by suspected members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram that have killed at least 62 people since June 7.
Osinbajo is acting president in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed to restore order in Nigeria when he came to power in May 2015.
Buhari handed over power to his deputy, Osinbajo, when he traveled to Britain on May 7 on medical leave for treatment of an unspecified ailment.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with around 180 million people and around 250 different ethnic groups who mostly live peacefully side-by-side.