Thursday, 26 March 2015

Nigeria Election: Christians Flee Kano

Nigeria Election: Christians Flee Kano
An exodus from the mainly Christian quarter of Kano, the commercial centre of northern Nigeria, is taking place ahead of elections this weekend, because of fears of violence.
The main bus station in the Sabon Gari suburb is chaotic as thousands of people cram onto coaches heading to the east or west of the country.

 "Kano is now closing for business because of the fear of the unknown," says the chairman of the bus station.

They are anxious to avoid a repeat of the communal violence that followed the vote in 2011 when those from different ethnic or religious groups were singled out for attack.

This year most residents of the mainly Muslim city are supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim northerner; the people of Sabon Gari are regarded as supporters of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner.

The Igbo community, who make up the majority in the Kano suburb set aside for non-Muslim residents, has already shrunk considerably in the last few years because of an Islamist insurgency in the north-east.

Originally from the east of Nigeria, they are an important part of the city's economic success, dominating sectors such as the trade in spare vehicle parts.

"Before, we had up to 50 bus companies working here but due to this insecurity some have decided to withdraw - there are less than 10 now," says Chairman Rufus at the Sabon Gari Motor Park, which has been targeted three times by Boko Haram militants.

He says the same is true in the suburb's market as people have left fearing further attacks.


"Business is not flourishing; many have sold their sheds and gone down to areas in the east to do their business."

But some feel it is not necessarily the fear that has driven traders away, rather the lack of custom.
For Odum Onuigbu, who trades in iron and steel and will be staying in Kano to vote, this has been the biggest problem.

"Igbos are hustlers, we go to many states and countries to invest," he says.

"Now businessmen from other countries, like Niger, Chad, Sudan and Cameroon, are no longer coming to Kano, this is why trade is down - because of the insurgency."

Telecoms engineer Ike Adiba says the security situation has also made life more expensive.

"A lot of 'strangers' have left Kano," he says, using the widely used word for people whose origins do not lie in Kano.

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