LAGOS: At least 46 people were killed and almost 100 others wounded in clashes between rival ethnic groups in southwest Nigeria earlier this month, police said on Wednesday.
Special forces were deployed to the city of Ile-Ife in Osun state following two days of violence that broke out between local Yoruba and Hausa people on March 7, Nigeria's national police spokesman Moshood Jimoh told AFP.
"The casualty figures are 46 dead and 96 wounded in the violence in Ile-Ife. Of those injured, 81 had been treated while 15 are still in the hospital," Jimoh said.
Police arrested 20 suspects following the violence, Jimoh said, adding that they would be prosecuted after thorough investigations.
"Our appeal to people is to learn to tolerate one another. We should encourage peaceful co-existence among the different tribes in Nigeria," Jimoh said.
"We should stop seeing ourselves as Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba," he said, referring to the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Bisi Adisa, a retired Yoruba driver in Ile-Ife, told AFP that the uproar started when a Hausa trader in the Sabo area of the city was accused of assaulting a Yoruba woman.
"Instead of showing remorse, other Hausa traders mobilised and killed a Yoruba man and paraded his corpse around the area which angered the Yoruba," he said.
Adisa said that the town was still gripped by terror despite the arrest of some suspects.
Nigeria, an economic giant of 180 million people, is home to some 250 ethnic groups.
Ethnic tensions have long divided the oil-rich west African country, which is almost equally divided between a Muslim north and Christian south.
Mutual suspicion between the groups continues to simmer and often erupts in bloody clashes.