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22 February 2024

Football dispute sets off sectarian riot in Nigeria


A disagreement over a football pitch set off sectarian riots in a central Nigerian town that killed at least one person and left homes, mosques and churches burnt, officials said on Sunday.

Authorities have slapped a round-the-clock curfew on the town of Wukari, located in Taraba state, following Saturday's rioting, which was said to have started after a disagreement over ownership of a football pitch.

"The government has placed a 24-hour curfew on Wukari following security advice from relevant security agencies with a view to bringing normalcy in the town which has been enmeshed in violence," Taraba information commissioner Emmanuel Bello said.

Violence erupted when Muslim and Christian football teams argued over which team had the right to a football pitch, Taraba state police spokesman Amos Olaoye said.

"While the two sides were arguing, a local hunter returning from the bush was passing and the two sides made for his gun, which resulted in a struggle. The gun went off, killing one person, and fighting broke off between the two sides.

"Several buildings were burnt in the violence including places of worship but it is too early to give a figure because our focus now is on restoring normalcy as well as law and order," Olaoye said.

Wukari lies in Nigeria's middle belt region dividing the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south of Africa's most populous nation. The region is regularly hit by outbreaks of violence between Christian and Muslim ethnic groups.