More than 55 people have been killed in a new eruption of communal violence in central Nigeria, officials said on Sunday.
Security has become a key campaign issue ahead of the election next February, in which President Muhammadu Buhari will seek a second term.
The presidency condemned the latest violence in a statement issued on Saturday.
“The frequent resort to bloodshed by Nigerians over misunderstandings that can be resolved peacefully, is worrisome,” said the statement, issued by Mr. Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu.
A local police commissioner said that 22 people were arrested in the clashes last week between two communities in the Kasuwan Magani area of Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria.
“Anybody that has a hand in this crisis must face the full wrath of law,” the commissioner, Ahmad Abdur-Rahman, told Reuters, without giving details on the clashes. He said a curfew in Kasuwan Magani imposed by the state government on Thursday had helped to calm the situation.
Deadly communal violence has flared repeatedly in central Nigeria in recent years, fueled by ethnic and religious differences and tensions over increasingly scarce resources in Africa’s most populous nation. More than 1,300 people have been killed in vicious land disputes between cattle herders and farmers who are settling on traditional grazing routes.
Nigeria, with a population of about 190 million people, is divided between a largely Christian south and a Muslim north.
More than 80 people were killed in one of the deadliest recent episodes, in June, when armed Fulani Muslim herders opened fire on Christian villages in Plateau State, burning homes and shooting people to death as they slept. The killings set off a series of reprisals as young people from the villages set up road blocks and killed those thought to be Muslim and Fulani.
The violence is not limited to central Nigeria. Islamist extremists from Boko Haram and splinter groups have been attacking military forces and civilians in the northeast. To the south, violence has spiked in the Biafra region, where separatists are pushing to secede. And kidnappings of prominent figures and regular Nigerians alike have become common in parts of the country.