Medics in northern Nigeria treated hundreds of victims of rioting against President Goodluck Jonathan’s election victory, some of them children with gunshot and machete wounds.
The Red Cross said many people were killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced in protests across northern Nigeria on Monday by supporters of Jonathan’s northern rival, former army ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who say the election result was rigged.
Churches, mosques, homes and shops were razed. Hospitals in the cities of Kano and Kaduna in the predominantly Muslim north were overflowing with wounded, Reuters reports.
“We’re full. We’ve got injuries ranging from battering, machete wounds and around five gunshot victims,” said Ibrahim Gwarze, a doctor in the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.
“We had a young boy, 7 years old, with a gunshot wound to the stomach,” he said.
Soldiers patrolled near empty streets. There were still pockets of violence, including in rural areas of Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states, where there was less of a military presence.
The Red Cross said eight people had been confirmed dead in Katsina and rescue workers gave similar figures for other cities, but the overall toll was feared to be much higher.
The risk of renewed violence prevented aid workers from getting to the worst-hit neighbourhoods.
Two charred bodies lay in the street in the Tudun Wada area of Kaduna, one with “no more PDP” written in chalk beside it. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is Jonathan’s ruling party.
Burned tyres lay in side streets for block after block. Soldiers manned checkpoints every few hundred metres. The injured spilled onto the street outside an army hospital, several with bloodied bandages around their heads.
Christian residents who fled to military and police barracks in Kano to shelter during the unrest blamed Buhari, whose Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) party has refused to accept results which say Jonathan won Saturday’s election.
“How can he allege rigging. Jonathan won across the nation. They should accept the results rather than killing and destroying people and property,” said Olaoye Ade, who fled with his wife and children to a police barracks in Kano.
“I am here with my family in the barracks instead of celebrating the nation’s new-found democracy.”
NO CALL FOR CALM
Buhari described the violence perpetrated in his name as sad and unfortunate, but stopped short of a clear call for calm.
“This dastardly act is not initiated by any of our supporters and therefore can not be supported by our party,” he said in a statement.
Observers have called the poll the fairest in decades in Africa’s most populous nation, which has a long history of votes marred by fraud and intimidation.
But the results show how polarised the country of 150 million is, with Buhari, 68, sweeping the north and Jonathan, 53, winning the largely Christian south.
“They burned my house and I was running from the rioters when I fell and broke my leg and they got me,” said Joseph Agula, 25, a petrol station worker being treated in the Kano hospital with a machete wound to the head.
“They said are you Christian or Muslim? I lied and said I was Muslim but they didn’t believe me and they beat me and cut me … I heard them ask people PDP or CPC? If they saw a PDP poster they burned the building,” he said.
At least 150 people fled over the border into Niger where they were being given food and police protection.
Some in the south feared reprisal attacks. Dozens of members of the northern Hausa ethnic group took refuge in barracks in the southern cities of Enugu and Onitsha.
Security analysts said they believed the curfews and a show of military force in the north should contain the violence for now but feared that governorship elections in the 36 states in a week’s time could become another flashpoint.
“No way will I vote and other people here won’t because these next elections will be very cruel,” said Femi Eseyin, a football coach whose brother died in the violence.
“We’ve had enough elections now.”