Nigerian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan ordered troops to be sent into the central city of Jos to restore order after nearly 150 people were killed in three days of religious clashes.
The military order was the first time the vice president has used executive powers since President Umaru Yar’Adua left Nigeria for medical treatment nearly two months ago.
Security forces have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Jos to ease tensions between Muslim and Christian gangs to prevent a repetition of clashes in November 2008, in which hundreds of residents died in the country’s worst sectarian fighting in years.
“At the moment the military have moved in, in concert with the police, to normalise the situation,” said National Security Adviser Saraki Murtar.
The vice president has also ordered the government’s top security chiefs to travel to Jos to assess the situation.
It was not clear whether President Umaru Yar’Adua, who is in hospital in Saudi Arabia, was briefed on the clashes.
Jonathan has been representing Yar’Adua at cabinet meetings and official functions but executive powers have not been formally transferred to him, leading to questions over the legality of decisions made by the government in Yar’Adua’s absence.
A federal court ruled today that Jonathan can perform all the executive duties for ailing Yar’Adua without an official transfer of powers.
“The vice president seizes this opportunity to call upon all Nigerians to remain law-abiding and shun subversive tendencies such as we have just witnessed in Jos,” said Ima Niboro, spokesperson for the vice presidency.
“The vice president is confident that our nation can move beyond our current challenges, no matter how daunting they may seem, to build an even greater Nigeria,” he added.
President Yar’Adua made his first public comment last week since being hospitalised, saying he was recovering and hoped to go home soon.
The Nigerian ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Reuters last Thursday the president was expected to be discharged from the hospital “very soon” after showing significant recovery from a heart ailment.
Pic: Nigerian Vice President- Goodluck Jonathan