Students flee killings

March 10, 2000

Students and lecturers at Nigerian universities have been caught up in religious riots that have claimed more than 700 lives in the country's central region.

At the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and Bayero University in Kano, Christian students and lecturers of Ibo origin have fled the campuses and sought refuge in military barracks. Some have travelled back to eastern Nigeria in buses accompanied by the bodies of relatives and friends killed by Islamic fanatics. Many Christian students and lecturers of northern origin have also fled to await a return to normality.

In Kaduna, Ibo traders were killed and their shops looted by Muslim fanatics. When their children returned home from university, they found the charred corpses of their parents.

Gbenga Dada, professor of history at the University of Jos, compared the killings with the programme organised by Muslim fanatics in 1966. "I hope the current religious crisis does not lead us to another civil war," he said.

Obi Uche, a law professor at the University of Port Harcourt, has warned that any attempt at implementing Muslim law, or sharia, could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.

"Since October we have seen certain states in the north where the local assemblies and their executives have expanded the scope of sharia to include penal cases," said Professor Uche, adding that the action was unconstitutional. "They want to introduce a theocratic type of government where Islam becomes a state religion."

But Iysa Bello, acting head of the department of public law at Lagos State University, says the states are acting constitutionally.

Universities welcomed vice-president Atiku Abubakar's announcement that the states that have adopted sharia have pledged not to implement its penal aspects.

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