Nigeria’s military has sent reinforcements to calm tensions in a troubled northern central state, where local officials say at least 300 people have been killed in three months of inter-communal violence.
Plateau State has been struggling since May with a surge in clashes and raids between communities of Muslim nomadic herders and mostly Christian pastoral farmers in one of the country’s hotspots.
Violence often flares in Plateau, which straddles the line between Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and its predominantly Christian south.
“It is sad that more than 300 people have been killed,” Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting with army commanders.
“The state government has started seeing positive moves by the military to arrest the ugly situation.”
The military has temporarily moved the headquarters of its local Operation Safe Haven campaign from the state capital Jos to the Mangu district, one of the local government areas worst hit by the violence.
The attacks have also left thousands of people displaced and villages and properties destroyed.
“Troops have been beefed up to partake in the ongoing operations to flush out the criminal elements causing havoc in the troubled local government areas,” Operation Safe Haven commander Major-General Abdussalami Abubakar told reporters.
“Be assured of the commitment of the Nigerian army to quickly restore normalcy to all troubled regions in the Plateau.”
In one of the most recently reported clashes last month, 16 people were killed in two attacks, including half a dozen members of a local farming self-defense vigilante force in the Riyom area, and another ten people in Mangu.
Some locals in the Mangu district told AFP that they were relieved by the troop reinforcement, which along with a strict curfew appears to have eased the situation.
“We are calm, the presence of the security men within and around Mangu is making us feel safe,” local resident Paul Thomson said.
“The curfew is still on, but it was relaxed from 24 hours to 7:00 am to 6:00 pm, we can move to look for some food to eat.”
Another local, Malam Usman Adamu, also welcomed the heavy presence of troops and police in the area.
“No attacks from both sides, Mangu, and environs are now very calm,” he said.
It was unclear what triggered the flareup of attacks in Plateau. Tensions between herders and farmers over land and resources often spiral into tit-for-tat village raids by armed gangs who kidnap, loot and kill.
The Plateau crisis is one of the many security challenges facing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who took the helm of Africa’s most populous nation at the end of May after a highly contested election in February.