Nigeria

Peace gradually returns to Nigeria after post-poll violence (updated)

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Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Peace is gradually returning to Nigeria's northern region, wracked by spontaneous violence in protest against Saturday's presidential election in Africa's most populous nation.

The candidate whose defeat triggered the violence, retired army general Muhammadu Buhari, broke his silence and condemned the political unrest Tuesday night.

“I must say that this is a dastardly act not initiated by any of our supporters and therefore cannot be supported by our party,” according to a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.

“To disassociate myself and the Congress for Progressive Change from any such act, I must emphasize that this is purely a political matter, and it should not in any way be turned into an ethnic, religious or regional one,” he said.

Buhari, a northern Muslim whose Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) enjoys wide support in the north, lost to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a minority Christian from the south. Jonathan scored 22.4 million votes to Buhari's 12 million.

But the CPC rejected the result, alleging that figures were tampered with in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones, where Jonathan has strong support.

The violence that greeted the poll result started off in Bauchi and Gombe states on Sunday and quickly spread to other states in the north, including Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Adamawa and Nasarawa, lasting three days.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the police and other agencies are unwilling to release the number of those who were killed or maimed, fearing this could cause reprisals in the south.

But the pro-north Leadership newspapers reported Wednesday that no fewer than 121 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the violence.

Quoting ''reliable sources'', the paper said about 15,000 people have been displaced, many of them seeking shelter in police stations and army barracks.

It said the largest number of casualties are from Kaduna state, where some 50 people are feared dead, and Kano where the figure has been put at 30. Others are Gombe (17), Bauchi (16) and Katsina (8)

The mostly young protesters, carrying sticks and machetes, rampaged through several cities, targeting those suspected to be sympathisers of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In Kaduna, one hospital, St. Gerald's, said 20 bodies were deposited in its mortuary while about 400 were receiving treatment for injuries they suffered from the rampaging youth. The private residence of Vice President Namadi Sambo was among the buildings set ablaze in the state

In Bauchi, the police said four members of the National Youth Service Corps - a compulsory one-year programme for graduates of tertiary institutions in the country - and two police officers were killed.

According to the Bauchi State commissioner of police, John Abakasanga, the Independent National Electoral Office in Bauchi Local Government was burnt down during the protests.

The state resident electoral officer, Iliya Audu, who took journalists around the burnt building, said that over 500 laptops, 16 generators and other valuables in the office were taken by the protesters before the office was set on fire.

In Kano, the residence of the Emir was among the buildings razed, and in Katsina, 45 prison inmates were set free by the rioters.

Most of the states are now under curfew.

President Jonathan has expressed ''great sadness'' at the violence and appealed to those involved to stop ''this unnecessary and avoidable conduct''.

-0- PANA SEG

Pan African News Agency
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