JOS, Nigeria (AFP) — Thousands of Nigerians who fled a wave of deadly sectarian violence remained in a makeshift camp on Wednesday as more funerals were held and shell-shocked residents began sifting through wreckage.
The refugees were said to be too scared to go back to their homes in the central city of Jos and fearful of what they might find when they did return.
Eze Udemegue, area coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said: “We still have more than 3,000 still in the camp. They live on materials provided by NEMA, the state government and NGOs (non-governmental organisations).”
The state government has said about 200 people died in the clashes, in which machetes, guns and even bows and arrows were used, although other sources have put the toll at twice that figure.
More bodies, meanwhile, were still being recovered across the city. “Twenty bodies have been picked up from different places within the city on Tuesday and are now on their way to the cemetery for burial,” said Murtana Sani Hashim, an official responsible for recording the number of corpses.
Two days of violence erupted on Friday after a rumour that the majority-Muslim All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) had lost a local election to the mainly Christian Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In neighbourhoods worst hit by the clashes, locals said they were staggered by the scale of the death and destruction.
“I did not realise the extent of the damage wrought in the city until today when I went around affected areas,” Yohanna Buba, a 36-year-old civil servant told AFP.
“It is unbelievable. I wonder how long it will take the city to recover,” he said.
A grain market had been completely destroyed with some 3,000 stalls reduced to ashes.
“All that we had has been burnt… We don’t even have enough to eat now. We have been ruined,” said trader Mohammed Sani, picking his way through the debris.
“Fifteen years of work gone in a few minutes…” added a car spare parts trader.
Muslims and Christians for the most part cohabit peacefully in Nigeria but Jos, in the “middle belt” between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south, saw violent clashes in which hundreds died in 2001.
Hundreds more died in other central areas in 2000 and 2004.
Elsewhere, car dealer Hamidi Idris said he had returned to his garage to find that over 200 cars had been destroyed.
“We have lost nothing less three million dollars… The loss is too colossal for us to recover from in 10 years. It’s just too much,” he said.
A heavy military presence remained in the city Wednesday and a dusk-to-morning curfew was still in force.
Roadblocks had been set up and soldiers were searching cars and checking identity papers.
Banks, offices and markets, however had started to re-open and more residents were venturing out onto the streets.
Army spokesman Sani Usman said the military presence would remain as long as necessary.
“We have a mandate from the president to restore lasting peace in Jos and our men will remain as long as it takes to achieve this mandate,” he said.