By Nathan Johnson
09/19/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Jos, the capital of Plateau State, is located in central Nigeria, between the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south. While Jos is known for its economic opportunities that attract people from across Nigeria to relocate there, this central location and diverse population has been racked with division and violence.
The latest series of violent attacks occurred on September 15, 2017, between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. A Muslim mob attacked a vehicle with four Christians who were leaving a weekly prayer meeting at the University of Jos chapel. The mob stopped the vehicle and smashed the van’s windows with clubs, stones and other weapons.
Professor Timothy Oyetunde, Dean of the Post-Graduate School and van driver, told International Christian Concern (ICC) about the attack, “Just as I pulled out of the main gate and [was] about to make a left turn, the mob, from the Muslim-dominated neighborhood opposite the campus, ran across the street, surrounded us and started smashing the van [with weapons].”
Two of the passengers, including one who is also a professor at the university, were stabbed and had to flee while bleeding. Professor Oyetunde and his passengers retreated back to the campus for safety. They took the injured men to a nurse who resided on campus for first aid. The injured Christians were later brought to a hospital in town.
After the Christians fled the van, the mob burned it. A commercial truck drove past the van and was also attacked and set on fire by the mob.
In a separate attack, two university students were attacked in a different Muslim-dominated area of downtown Jos and stabbed. One student died in the hospital while receiving treatment.
Reports suggest that the Muslim mob, mostly of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group, acted in response to rumors that some of their relatives had been killed in southern Nigeria by agitators from the Independent State of Biafra (IPOB). None of the rumors of such an attack have been confirmed, but the Muslim attackers chose to believe them.
“[It is] really sad and unfortunate that some events in faraway Port-Harcourt (which [have not been] confirmed or verified) became a rider for these people to unleash mayhem on completely innocent [people],” stated Reverend Ogboru, the chaplain of the Chapel of Faith on the University of Jos campus. “This attack is nothing but cruelty which was premeditated, as these hoodlums were armed with knives, daggers, machetes, sticks, fire or lighters/matches etc, with which they set vehicles ablaze after attacking the occupants. A 400-level student of the Department of Computer Science of the University of Jos was stabbed and bled to death at Zololo area of Jos too.”
Following the bus and mob attacks, government security forces are now actively patrolling main streets outside of the campus area, even though the university has not been in session and most students are off-campus. The governor of the Plateau State has imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew on Jos and the surrounding areas in hopes of forestalling continued escalation of violence.
Pastor Joseph Rims, the chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Jos North Local Council Area branch, also commented, “It’s quite unfortunate and too bad. This has happened before in Jos and it is repeating itself. And whenever it happens, the Church is on the receiving end. The government should live up to its responsibility of securing the lives of its citizens. We just have to keep praying.”
Pastor Rims is correct. Such mob violence has occurred multiple times, including three major riots in the last 20 years that have devastated the city. In 2001, more than 1,000 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians. The federal government appointed a Hausa Muslim politician, Alhaji Muktar Mohammed, as local coordinator of the federal poverty alleviation program, leading indigenous Christians to protest his appointment. Tensions turned violent on September 7, 2001, when a Christian woman attempted to cross a barricaded street outside of a mosque during Friday prayers.
In 2008, more than 700 were killed in clashes when Muslims protested the election of Timothy Gyang Buba, who was largely supported by Christians. Finally, in 2010, riots racked the streets of Jos, leaving hundreds dead over several months. The motivation for the protests varies depending on the source.
Jos may offer attractive job opportunities to Nigerian citizens, but it is racked with violence and division. Healing and reconciliation are needed in this unsettled city. The government and people need to find a way to live peacefully together. There needs to be an end to the reprisal attacks and riots that have led Jos to be a hotbed for violence.
Our prayer is the same as Pastor Ogboru’s: May Jos’ leaders “be properly guided as they address the tension this has generated to avoid future occurrence.”