Nigerian Muslims Lock University Poll Workers in Hostel & Torch It
An unidentified man walks past the destroyed Zonkwa market in Zonkwa, Nigeria, Thursday, April 21, 2011. Nigerian officials on Thursday delayed next week’s gubernatorial elections in two predominantly Muslim northern states that have been wracked by deadly riots and retaliatory violence since the presidential election was won by a Christian from the country’s south. (AP/Sunday Alamba)
A group of university students were among the dead last week after the presidential elections in Nigeria. The young poll workers were locked in their hostel and it was set ablaze after the Muslim candidate lost in a landslide.
Officials tasked the four young college graduates with monitoring election stations during Nigeria’s presidential vote. Then when the poll results unleashed sectarian violence, an angry mob killed them by locking them inside their youth hostel and setting it ablaze.
Dozens of their colleagues in a nearby state narrowly escaped death after rioters torched their hostel too, leaving many with serious burns and few options to go home.
Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps is a mandatory yearlong assignment for all Nigerians who graduate from university before the age of 30. Most serve as teachers during their stint, but the April national elections have brought extra responsibilities – and danger – to their work.
Now federal officials are vowing to step up protection for young volunteers in the areas wracked by violence, while worried parents are wondering whether their children can be reassigned away from towns marked by charred bodies and torched buildings.
Attahiru Jega, chief of Nigeria’s Independent Election Commission, said the young Nigerians had been targeted “to scare them away from continuing the honorable and excellent work they have been doing during these elections.”
“I call on them, their parents and guardians not to allow the perpetrators of violence to scare them away from the noble job they are doing for this country,” Jega said. “I commiserate with all those who have been affected in one way or the other by the violence. Some have paid the ultimate price for democracy and I am sure that I speak the minds of all Nigerians if I say that the nation will be eternally grateful to them.”
11 youth corps members were killed after the election last week.