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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Nigeria Police Plan to Target Communities That Helped Fight Islamic State Spurs Protests

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A day after Nigeria’s police commander was fired and several of his top officers suspended as a result of rioting by Boko Haram militants in the country’s east, protests broke out over a new government plan to implement violence-reduction programs across the country, targeting communities that had cooperated with the militants.

The protest of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, led by leaders who have a deep antipathy toward President Muhammadu Buhari, centered on the number of prisons that the government plans to shutter, and how it is to be decided what crime the centers will house. Another leader told demonstrators outside a government authority that one of the suspects in a drug bust at his home in the southern city of Port Harcourt was indeed not the man who had run out the back door.

Now some fear that several decades of fatal injustice will be resurrected if the government goes ahead with the plan to target suspicious communities and that the resulting mayhem could threaten to plunge Africa’s most populous nation into a situation like that which sparked the rebellion and tragedy in the Nigerian town of Baga. More than 300 people were reportedly killed in that battle last month.

One more thing: the government is cracking down on armed herdsmen, too.

In Abagana, in the southeastern state of Rivers state, hundreds of youths rioted Saturday for more than four hours over accusations that the militant group Boko Haram was involved in the fracas in Baga that left hundreds dead in late September.

The gang wielding stones set a fire early on in Saturday’s melee, which flared up at about 4:30 a.m. at a makeshift market just off the Onitsha-Owerri expressway. They traded punches, fought wildly in the street and destroyed several vehicles.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state had last week blamed the violence in Baga on Boko Haram, even though that was not at all clear. Local people had told reporters that the militants were usually light-skinned fighters from southeastern Nigeria who are armed with AK-47s and killed indiscriminately.

Neither of those conclusions had been backed up by any witnesses.

Then on Sunday, in his weekly state broadcast, Mr. Wike suggested there had been a deal.

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