Update 00/01 on ICRC activities in response to the violence in Nigeria
14-03-2000 Operational Update
On 21 February 2000, clashes erupted between Muslims and Christians in the northern city of Kaduna, triggered by a march organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria to protest against the proposed introduction of Islamic Sharia law in Kaduna state.
Hundreds of people were killed or wounded and thousands became displaced within the city. Houses, cars, mosques and churches were burned, shops looted, and roadblocks mounted by Christian and Muslim groups. A curfew was imposed by the deputy-governor of Kaduna state. Subsequently, soldiers and the police mounted roadblocks and started to patrol the streets of Kaduna in an effort to restore law and order. By 24 February, relative calm had returned to the city.
In an apparent reprisal for the upheaval in Kaduna, clashes broke out on 28 February between Muslims and Christians in three south-eastern states of Nigeria (Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Imo). The violence, which forced around 20,000 people to take shelter in army camps and police barracks in the three states mentioned above and in Enugu, left scores dead and many more injured. It also resulted in large-scale destruction of property.
The sectarian violence initially forced the displacement of some 16,000 families (80,000 people) in Kaduna state and 4,000 families (20,000 people) in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. The majority of the displaced were sh eltered in 15 locations, including army camps and police barracks. Most of the people have now left the shelters and are struggling to return to normality.
Red Cross response
Based on the clashes that occurred in Nigeria in 1999, the ICRC had anticipated sporadic outbursts of internal violence in the country and its effect, particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. In readiness for such an eventuality, it had therefore made a budget allocation, in its Emergency Appeals 2000, for the stockpiling of relief goods and medical supplies in Lagos for timely dispatch and distribution. The stocks were designated for the Nigerian Red Cross, which boasts both Christians and Muslims among its members, and which has already proved its ability to assist all conflict victims irrespective of religious affiliation. During violent clashes in early 1999, the Red Cross intervention teams were fully respected by both communities in question and the police force and were actively assisted in performing their duties by all involved. Similarly, the public's response to Red Cross efforts to assist clash victims has been encouraging this time around.
In the city of Kaduna , the Kaduna branch of the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) responded by immediately visiting hospitals and IDP sites in order to assess the needs of the displaced. Nigerian Red Cross branches of the neighbouring states of Plateau and Katsina and the Federal Capital Territory sent volunteers and vehicles to support the Kaduna branch. The ICRC provided the following support:
a total of 10 boxes of dressing materials distributed by the NRCS to six clinics and hospitals;
relief material including 400 kitchen sets, 1,000 jerrycans, 20 rolls of plastic sheeting and 1,500 blankets for 1,500 families;
funding for the transportation of relief goods and food/accommodation for 60 volunteers.
The ICRC will continue to monitor the situation closely in order to ease the way for its timely intervention should new needs arise.
The NRCS has distributed, from its own resources, 2,000 blankets, 665 mats and cooking pots, and 60 tonnes of food mobilized by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Likewise, in the south-east , Nigerian Red Cross branches have responded rapidly to the crisis by providing emergency aid such as food, water and basic medical supplies. Red Cross volunteers have cooperated closely with the local authorities in order to monitor the situation of the initially displaced 20,000 people. The NRCS, with the support of the ICRC, has provided further emergency relief items to cater for needs of 1,500 families. The items included cooking pots, cups, mats, jerrycans, soap and clothing for women and children. As in the case of Kaduna, the ICRC will continue to monitor the situation closely in order to able to intervene rapidly in the event that new needs arise.
ICRC presence in the country
The ICRC's presence in Nigeria, primarily for the dissemination of international humanitarian law and the Red Cross mandate to armed and police forces, goes back a long way. Its efforts have paid off by enabling it to establish an extensive network of contacts and to forge solid cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross in a number of programmes including assistance to victims of clashes. Furthermore, the smooth coordination among the components of the Movement has greatly contributed to its image of cohesiveness and to the public acceptance that it enjoys in the country. This, in turn, has paved the way for rapid response to the needs of civilians in the event of an emergency.