Nigeria imposes curfew as 70 die in escalating communal clashes

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BAUCHI, Nigeria, June 24 (Reuters) – Nigeria imposed a dusk
to dawn curfew on Sunday in central Plateau state after least 70
people died in communal clashes between farmers and semi-nomadic
herders over the weekend.

Strife in the decades-old conflict has escalated sharply
this year, particularly in the ethnically and religiously
diverse hinterland states known as the Middle Belt, causing more
deaths than the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast.

“The government has enforced a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
in order to bring normalcy, (and) police and other security
operatives have been put on alert at the moment,” Plateau
State’s Commissioner of Information Yakubu Dati told Reuters.

Communal violence between herders and farmers, which
originated partly over dwindling fertile land, has spiralled
into a cycle of violence and reprisal attacks that has killed
hundreds of people this year in the Middle Belt.

Insecurity has become a major electoral problem for
President Muhammadu Buhari, who plans to seek re-election in
February and who won power on pledges to deliver peace and
stability.

“This further strengthens my constant call for an overhaul
of the entire security apparatus of this country,” Yakubu
Dogara, the leader of Nigeria’s lower house of parliament, said
in a statement on Sunday.

“It just isn’t working,” he said, adding that the violence
posed a serious threat to Nigeria’s democracy.

Buhari’s party rejects criticism that his administration is
soft-peddling justice for the herders, who belong to the same
Fulani ethnic group as the president.
(Reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi
Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Jon Boyle)