Christians and Muslims alike-community leaders as well as ordinary residents of Jos-all deplored the conspicuous absence of the security forces in the early days of the crisis. On the basis of information collected in Jos, Human Rights Watch shares their belief that some of the violence could have been prevented or at least contained had the police intervened earlier. Quite apart from the question of whether the violence could have been foreseen and therefore preempted by security force action on the basis of the warning signs described above, many questions are raised by the absence and apparent ineffectiveness of the police to restore law and order once the violence started on September 7, as well as by the fact that it was only the intervention of the military from September 8 which eventually put a stop to the fighting. Ironically, in a country that has suffered so long at the hands of the Nigerian army under successive military dictatorships, many residents of Jos seemed to welcome the arrival of soldiers in their town as the only hope of restoring peace. A 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. curfew, which the government imposed from the evening of 7 September, was largely ignored and had little impact on halting the spread of violence. The police appeared unable to enforce it; it was only toward the end of the crisis that the military began patrolling at night.
The commissioner of police of Plateau State, Mohammed Abubakar, was strongly criticized for his failure to prevent or stop the crisis, by nongovernmental organizations and others.41 Some Christian groups alleged that he had selectively protected certain sectors of the population and not others. Human Rights Watch was not able to substantiate these allegations, which the commissioner of police has denied. Nevertheless, the commissioner of police clearly had a responsibility firstly to take seriously and respond to signs of increasing tension in the weeks leading up to September 7, and secondly to instruct the police force to intervene to the best of its ability to ensure the security and protection of the population once the fighting had begun. A local human rights activist told Human Rights Watch: "The police commissioner kept saying everything was under control while the whole town was on fire."42
Despite numerous attempts to contact the commissioner of police, he was unavailable to meet Human Rights Watch researchers during their visit to Jos, and we were told by a staff member in his office that no one else could talk to us in his place. However, on the basis of information available from local human rights organizations and other sources, we can conclude that the police did not deploy sufficient efforts to either prevent or limit the violence. For example, it is not clear why police based at a station less than one kilometer away from the mosque at Congo Junction where the violence began failed to come to the scene once they were alerted; they reportedly stated that they had not received instructions to intervene. The absence of the police was also noticeable at the university of Jos, where the fighting was particularly fierce. One student said: "The police never came to the university at all. Only the military came. They appeared on Friday at about 11 p.m. They were just patrolling. At one point the military even left during an attack." Another student said: "We lost total confidence in the police. They were not here. Until today, they are not here."43 The vice-chancellor of the university first called the police for help on the afternoon of September 7; he could not get a reply for more than half an hour. He then called the Central Intelligence Bureau and asked to speak urgently with the commissioner of police. He was told the commissioner was not there and there was nobody in the office. He resorted to calling the military who eventually arrived at the university at about 11:00 p.m. that night.44
Witnesses also commented that in the few cases where police were present, they were ineffective, inadequately equipped, unarmed or outnumbered by rioters. In Pankshin, on the outskirts of Jos, some residents fleeing the violence took refuge in the police station, but there were no police there. In another case, near Angwan Rogo, on September 7, a Hausa man tried to save a Christian indigene by taking him to the police for protection. The police said they could not do anything and told him to go to the university. On the way there, they reached a roadblock, where a group of armed Muslims killed the Christian, despite the Hausa man's efforts to save him.45
Members of the security forces-particularly the police-were also responsible for human rights violations themselves during the crisis, including shootings and ill-treatment, even though they are not known to have participated in widespread killings and destruction alongside armed civilians. However, there were numerous reports of "fake soldiers" among the mobs, civilians dressed in army uniform, making it difficult at times to make a clear distinction.
Arrests, Ill-treatment, and Extrajudicial Executions
When Human Rights Watch researchers visited Jos Prison on October 2, there were 171 detainees arrested in connection with the crisis being held there: 151 Muslims and twenty Christians. At least twenty-six of them were under eighteen; some were children as young as ten or eleven years old. The deputy controller of Jos Prison explained that when the minors were first brought to the prison, he refused to accept them, but they were brought back again the following day. His request that they be moved to a remand center was not met. The children were facing various charges, including unlawful assembly, inciting disturbance, rioting, and culpable homicide.
Human Rights Watch interviewed several of the children, who seemed not to know or understand why they had been arrested. One of them, aged about ten, told us: "On the Friday, I went to prayer. The police caught me as I was coming back from the mosque on my way home. They didn't say anything to me. I don't know why I am here."46
A thirteen-year-old boy was arrested on Wednesday September 12:47
I was inside the mosque at Yanshanu. There was a peaceful atmosphere. After the 4 p.m. prayer, the congregation had just finished, when soldiers came into the mosque. There were about seven soldiers carrying guns. They arrested us. They lifted the mats to check for weapons but there was nothing there. They made us lie down outside. Seventeen of us were taken outside, including me and my younger brother, and some adults. They beat us and kicked us with their boots. I was kicked on my face, above the eye, and on my shoulder. My brother was also beaten very hard. We stayed there less than an hour then we were taken to the police office. They didn't ask us any questions and didn't give us any information. We spent about fifteen days in the police cell. All seventeen of us were held together. Many other people were also held there. Then we were taken to Kabong Upper Area Court. In the court our names were called and they announced that we had been burning houses. We were not directly asked any questions. We are all accused of burning houses but there weren't any houses being burnt around the mosque. We had no chance to say anything. Then we were brought here to the prison. I don't know how long I will stay here.
A fourteen-year-old boy was also beaten, this time by police:48
I was arrested on Sunday, September 9, at Nasarawa Yanshanu, in the street, near my house. I was sitting there with my two brothers; my younger brother is thirteen and my older brother no more than sixteen. The curfew starts at 4 p.m. At about 4.30 p.m., about five policemen came and arrested all three of us. They were carrying guns. They beat us with their belts and one beat us with the butt of his gun. I was beaten on my back and knee; it is still painful even though I have received treatment in the clinic. The police just said we had exceeded the curfew. They took us to the police station. After eleven days we were taken to the state police, then to Kabong court. They didn't ask us anything there. They brought us to the prison. First the prison rejected us so we were taken back to the police station, then brought back here the next day.
A seventeen-year-old boy was arrested in the area of Anglojos on the morning of Saturday, September 8, with his fifteen-year-old brother as they were returning from visiting their aunt:49
We met some airforce men. They asked us to stop and searched us. They didn't find anything. They beat us with their guns, belts, and boots and made us lie down and crawl in the dirty water. They asked my brother to give them money. I was hit with a belt on my chest and my brother was beaten on the shoulder with a gun butt. They were about to let us go when a police vehicle arrived. The policemen said they wanted to take us away. They said to us: "Are you not aware of what is going on?" They took us to the state CID, me, my brother, and five other boys, some as young as fourteen. We were kept outside then called in to take our statements. The police asked us: "Where were you? Did they catch you with weapons?" We said no. They wrote this down then put us in a cell. We stayed there for eleven days. They brought us out on Monday when the governor came. They separated those who had been caught with weapons. The governor said those without weapons should be released on bail, and for those with weapons, the police knows what to do.
The next day, we were taken to court. They said we had been shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and calling people to follow and fight, that we burned churches and mosques and killed people. There were about twenty-five of us, some Christians, some Muslims. I am a Christian. We tried to deny the charges but we were not allowed to explain. One man tried to talk but was told not to. There was no burning or killing in the area where I was arrested.
There were also reports of police shooting people who were not armed or engaged in any criminal acts. For example, three men who were sitting outside their house on September 9 were shot at by a policeman. Human Rights Watch interviewed two of them who had been injured, one of whom was still in hospital with gunshot wounds. The other, a driver who still bore scars from the shooting, explained how they were taken by surprise:50
We were sitting in front of my house in New Market Street. About six policemen came past in a vehicle, at about 5.30 p.m. The vehicle passed us and we waved to the police. Then a man in the back of the vehicle shot at us as the vehicle went past. The shots hit two of the three of us. One of my friends is still in hospital. He was shot in the lower back and buttocks. I was shot on the side, on the hip and in the chest. The person who shot at us was in police uniform. The car had an official police vehicle number which we noted [...] The man only aimed at the three of us. He didn't shoot anybody else.
Then another police vehicle came by. Some military told the police what had happened but they didn't chase the first vehicle.
One of the most serious human rights violations by the security forces was the likely extrajudicial execution of twenty-two detainees at Jos Prison. During the night of September 9-10, twenty-four detainees broke out of their cell and attempted to escape from the prison; twenty-two of them were shot dead or fatally injured, while the other two managed to escape. All those who died had been arrested on armed robbery charges; they had been detained for various periods-three of them for as long as eight years and one for seven years-awaiting trial.51
Human Rights Watch spoke to several detainees who had shared their cell, as well as with the deputy controller of the prison. It would appear that the detainees were shot outside the prison. At least some of them did not die instantly and were still alive when they were brought back into the prison. From the information gathered, it is likely that some of them could have been saved had emergency medical treatment been made available. Several hours elapsed before they were all pronounced dead the following morning. It has not yet been independently confirmed whether the detainees were shot by police, by prison warders or by a combination of both.52
41 See, for example, press release by the League of Human Rights, "An avoidable battle for the Soul of Jos," September 20, 2001: "The Plateau State Commissioner of Police Alhaji Mohammed D. Abubakar has a lot of questions to answer not only from the thousands of people who have lost their loved ones but from the blood of those who have needlessly lost their lives [...]".
51 The twenty-two detainees who died are Abubakar Musa, Samuel Jemam, Sani Habu, Aliyu Akpada, Okema Chime, Alade Joseph, Michael Uba, Ibrahim Ayo, Lawrence Asaego Udoh, Ikechukwu Omarah, Chukuma Stephen, Christian Obieke, Adamu Abdullahi, Hassan Baya, Lawrence Oyedoku, Ismaila Abdullahi, Nantok Peter, Iliya Bitrus, Nura Ahmed, Pam Moses, Attang Yusu and Emmanuel Nwaogu.