Call for protection of non-Muslim Nigerians after election violence

Dozens were killed in separate attacks last Friday. At least 25 people were killed and more than 200 seriously injured in an explosion at the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Suleja, Niger State.

Another eight people were killed and 56 injured when suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed a police station in Shani, Borno State, as election materials were being sorted out for onward delivery to voting centres. Victims of the shooting reportedly included Alhaji Idrisa, Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party in Shani.

On Saturday, one person died and six others were seriously injured when a bomb went off at a polling station in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The bombings followed a warning issued by a group called the “Federation of Islamic Council from the 36 states of the Federation”. The group warned it would bomb polling booths, political party offices and vehicles unless “Christian commoners, ordinary people resident in the North East, North West, and North Central” left immediately.

There were also more attacks by armed Fulani men on non-Muslim areas. At least 10 people died in Bar Arewa, Bogoro Local Government Area, in Bauchi State, when around 1,000 men armed with guns and machetes stormed the village last Thursday night.

According to CSW, almost every house in the village was destroyed and some elderly people were reportedly burnt to death in their homes.

Five people were killed in similar attacks on the villages of Yola and Goska Bong in Bogoro Local Government Area the previous week. The attackers are believed to belong to a group of around 2,000 militants from northern states that have been attacking non-Muslim villages in the last week.

One survivor told a Nigerian newspaper that the militants had burnt houses in order to destroy people’s voter cards and prevent them from casting their votes in the elections.

Despite the violence, observers have declared the elections fair and one of the most successful to be held by the country, which is split between a predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south.

CSW welcomed the election success but expressed concerns over violence against non-Muslims.

The organisation’s National Director Stuart Windsor said: “Although we remain concerned by reports of violence in some states, it is nevertheless encouraging that the first round of elections is being hailed as the best in Nigeria since 1999.

"However, the attacks on non-Muslim villages in Bauchi are part of a worrying trend that has gained momentum in the run-up to the elections, and appears to be part of an effort to disenfranchise the non-Muslim community.

“Given the absence of intervention by the Bauchi State Government, we once again urge the Nigerian Federal Government to step up security arrangements in areas where the violence is taking place in order to protect innocent civilians.”