At least 80,000 people have been displaced over the past three months in central Nigeria, the scene of bloody intercommunal violence to which the army has sent reinforcements, a local official has said.
Since May, Plateau State has been plagued by serious violence between farmers and herdsmen. According to the local authorities, more than 300 people have been killed in the attacks.
North-western and central Nigeria are regularly the scene of tensions and deadly conflicts over the exploitation of land and water resources.
“There are around 80,000 displaced people in eleven camps” in Mangu, the epicentre of the violence in the Plateau, Markus Artus, a senior local official, told AFP.
Nearly 18,000 of them are being housed in a primary school that is being used as a makeshift camp in Mangu, added Mr Artus.
One of the camp coordinators, Yamput Daniel, gave AFP a similar estimate.
The Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army, General Taoreed Lagbaja, visited Mangu on Saturday to mark the start of special operations aimed at “eradicating” the crisis.
At the school, thousands of people are sleeping in classrooms, surviving on meagre provisions and donations of maize from local churches.
“The crisis has made us homeless, our farmland has been destroyed and we have to manage to live in this primary school,” lamented Grace Emmanuel, 70, one of the displaced people.
“It’s not easy, we don’t have anything to eat, we go and fetch water from the well, sometimes the water is not enough for thousands of us”, she added.
The army has temporarily moved the headquarters of its “Safe Haven” regional military campaign to Mangu. Nearly 300 soldiers and armoured vehicles have been sent as reinforcements.
The string of murders followed by reprisals and the absence of effective justice have encouraged the emergence of a wider criminal element in the region, with gangs carrying out raids on villages, killing dozens of residents and kidnapping for ransom.