Taraba state government on Sunday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Taraba town of Ibbi following reported clashes between Christian and Muslim groups that killed at least one person.
A state spokesman said that security forces are under orders to shoot anyone who disregards the ban on movements.
Religiously divided Taraba is one of several Nigerian states previously hit by sectarian violence, although the town of Ibbi, where the unrest broke out Sunday, has historically been peaceful.
“The state government has declared a 6:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew in Ibbi starting from today,” Information Commissioner Emmanuel Bello said.
“Security personnel deployed in the town have been directed to shoot anybody that defies the curfew especially those bent on breaching the peace. This security measure is necessary in the government’s effort to restore normalcy in the area,” he added.
Police spokesman Amos Olaoye told AFP that one person was killed, but residents of different faiths offered conflicting death tolls which could not be immediately verified.
Resident Baffayo Ahmad said the violence began after Christian community members set up a barricade on the road leading into the Muslim neighbourhood of Malam Gambo.
According to Ahmad, they rejected requests to dismantle the roadblock.
“This led to arguments between Muslim residents and the Christians in the area which degenerated into clashes,” Ahmad said.
“Many Muslim and Christian homes and shops were burnt. Three Muslim dead bodies were brought to the mosque,” Ahmad said.
David Shamaki, a Christian resident, said the roadblock was set up following rumours that a church “was going to be attacked”.
He reported 10 people killed in the ensuing unrest, describing all the victims as Christian.
Radical Islamist group Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked churches during Sunday worship as part of an insurgency that has killed hundreds on northern and central Nigeria since 2009.
Churches have beefed up security as a result. Boko Haram has been blamed for previous violence in Taraba, but there was no evidence that the insurgents were involved in the latest unrest.
The town of Ibbi lies 200 kilometres from the state capital Jalingo.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is roughly split between a mostly Christian south and mainly Muslim north, although several states, including Taraba, have a divided population. [AFP]