Nigeria attack the first during state of emergency

Gunmen have attacked a police station in northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state, killing a teenage girl and wounding an officer in the first such incident since a state of emergency was declared.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on Tuesday, though Islamist group Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of such incidents in northern Nigeria.

“The gunmen shot indiscriminately into the police station and engaged our men in a shootout, killing a teenage girl trying to flee and wounding an [officer],” Jigawa state police commissioner Hashimu Argungu said.

He said an explosive thrown into the police station failed to detonate.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency last weekend in parts of four states hard hit by attacks blamed on Boko Haram.

The decree included parts of Yobe state, which neighbours Jigawa, as well as areas of Borno, Niger and Plateau states.

Intense fear
Some have expressed fears that Boko Haram would shift its attacks to areas not affected by the state of emergency. Tuesday night’s attack targeted a divisional police station in the town of Birniwa on the border with Yobe.

Jigawa is also the home state of Nigeria’s police chief.

Jonathan’s declaration came in response to a wave of attacks attributed to the group, particularly bombings on Christmas Day that killed 49 people, most of them in a gruesome blast at a Catholic church as services were ending.

While Boko Haram has been carrying out increasingly deadly attacks for months, including an August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that left 25 dead, the Christmas violence sparked intense fear and outrage.

Muslims have frequently been victims of Boko Haram attacks, most of which have occurred in north-eastern Nigeria, but the Christmas Day bombings particularly targeting churches set off fears of retaliation from Christians.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and most populous nation with 160-million people, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

State of emergency
Followers of the two faiths co-exist with millions of Muslims based in the south and millions of Christians in the north.

On Sunday, a purported spokesperson for Boko Haram warned that the group would confront soldiers and threatened Christians living in the country’s north.

He gave southerners living in the north three days to leave the region in the wake of Jonathan’s state of emergency decree.

Nigerian authorities said they did not believe militants would follow through on the ultimatum but added that they were taking no chances.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Okogie, also dismissed the threat.

“Nothing will happen, I can assure you of that,” Okogie said. “They are pushing us to the wall, and what they are looking for, they will never get.”

While the purported spokesperson, Abul Qaqa, has claimed to speak on behalf of Boko Haram numerous times in the past, the group is believed to have a number of factions with varying aims and others have also claimed to speak for it.

The spiralling violence blamed on Boko Haram is among a list of major concerns facing Nigeria in coming days.

Protests have also broken out in various cities since the government announced an end to fuel subsidies on Sunday, causing petrol prices to more than double in a country where most people live on less than $2 per day.

The protests turned violent on Tuesday with crowds setting bonfires and police firing tear gas. One of the country’s main unions claimed police shot dead a protester but police denied it and said he was killed by a mob.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters shut down petrol stations in Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city, and a mob threatened to burn a newspaper office before police stopped them.

Unions met on Wednesday and threatened to shut down the country — including oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets and banks — unless the government reversed its decision. — AFP

Aminu Abubakar
Aminu Abubakar
Aminu Abubakar is a journalist based in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, where he grew up. He worked for local newspapers before joining Agence France-Presse (AFP) in 2000 as a freelance correspondent covering northern Nigeria.

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