Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- As calm returned to Nigeria's central Kaduna state Monday following a weekend of violence in Gwantu, Sanja local government area, the state government has dismissed press claims that the bloody troubles were sectarian.
The violence, in which 10 people were killed and property worth millions of naira destroyed, broke out over alleged plans by council chairman Frank Bala Baba to relocate the headquarters.
Reports from Kaduna said trouble started when supporters of the chairman stormed a meeting called to reconcile him and a traditional ruler in the area, Ibrahim Yakubu, who opposed the relocation.
Mukhtar Sirajo, Press and Information Officer at the office of the State Governor said the violence had been brought under control.
The state police command corroborated the statement, saying it had arrested some key personalities involved in the crisis, including the local government chairman and the "Royal Father".
Media reports had insinuated that the crisis, the latest in a string of violence to have hit Africa's most populous nation, was connected to Friday's introduction of Islamic law, the Sharia, in the state.
Although the introduction of what has been termed "compromise Sharia" aimed at pacifying both Christians and Moslems in the state had led to tension, it has not erupted into violence.
Gwantu is about three hours' drive from the state capital city of Kaduna.
More than 2,000 people died in the state, which is almost equally divided between adherents of both religions, in two clashes between them in February and May 2000 over plans to introduce full Sharia to the state.
Sectarian and ethnic disturbances have rocked Nigeria since its return to democratic rule 1999, after 15 straight years of military rule.
In the past two months alone, at least four states, Plateau, Kano, Benue and Taraba, all in the northern part of the country, have witnessed such crises, resulting in the death of hundreds.
The crises come amid reports that a body set up to foster religious tolerance in the country was on the verge of disintegration.
The national Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) was set up by military President Ibrahim Babangida, during his 1985-1993 tenure, as a forum for religious leaders to discuss issues and events that are likely to cause religious crisis in the country.
A member of the body, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese John Onaiyekan, said some Moslem and Christian leaders had left the council due to irreconcilable differences over the Sharia, which has been introduced in at least 10 states in the predominantly Moslem north.
"On both the Islamic and Christian sides, there are a few members who have in disgust left the group for different reasons," Onaiyekan said in an interview published Monday.
Christians oppose the Sharia, which they argue is against the country's secular constitution.
But Moslems say it is a tenet of their Islamic religion.