A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in the Nigerian state of Kaduna, where police said at least 55 people were killed in communal clashes.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said special security forces have been deployed to hotspots in the state’s capital to restore calm.
Buhari said he found the frequent outbreaks of bloodshed in the country “worrisome.”
“The disregard for the sanctity of human life is unacceptable. Violence is an ill-wind that blows nobody any good,” Buhari said in a statement as he called on various communities to shun violence and live peacefully.
Police said 22 people were arrested in connection to the crisis, which occurred after riots broke out among youths in a local market in the town of Kasuwan Magani last Thursday.
Locals say the number of deaths is higher than the official figures reported by police and that the attacks were still ongoing despite the curfew yesterday.
One resident of Kazah Bulus told CNN “When we closed from church yesterday (Sunday) on my way home, I saw people running everywhere, they heard that people were being attacked. On my way home, I saw dead bodies. Shops and houses were burnt down.”
The all-day restriction in the Kaduna capital is to prevent further clashes and panic among residents, state governor Nasir El-Rufai said.
El-Rufai who visited affected the areas following the attacks vowed the state would prosecute those responsible for the killings.
“We must live in peace and never use violence to solve a problem. We are not happy with this and government will pursue and punish those responsible for this devilish act,” El-Rufai said.
Buhari, who campaigned in the 2015 elections on being tough on insecurity and insurgency from Boko Haram in the northeast of the country, has battled with the perception in the country that he has not been decisive on stamping out the violence in the Middle Belt of the country.
Insecurity in the country is certain to be a defining issue in the upcoming 2019 presidential elections, and President Buhari faces a fierce re-election battle.
Earlier this year, he spoke out saying it was unfair to blame him for the herdsmen killings.
Ethnic tensions have led to a spate of attacks in Nigeria’s volatile central and northern states this year.
In May, 45 people, including women and children, were killed in retaliatory attacks by armed bandits on farming settlements in the Kaduna.
At least 86 people died following attacks carried out by armed herdsmen in farming settlements in Plateau, a state in the north central region of the country.