Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to protect all religious and ethnic groups in the country after deadly clashes between communities at a market in the southwest over the weekend.
Long-standing rivalry over access to land and resources between northern Fulani herders and southern Yoruba farmers are fuelling renewed ethnic tensions across the south.
Police have not confirmed the death toll and rival communities gave different casualty figures after the dispute erupted on Friday at Shasha market in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state.
Buhari in a statement late on Sunday “condemned such violence and gave assurance that his government will act decisively to stop the spread of any such violence.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also condemned the “unfortunate mayhem and the tragic loss of lives at the Shasha market”.
Witnesses said violence erupted after a dispute between an ethnic Hausa load-carrier and a pregnant Yoruba trader.
Local trader Ibrahim Adelabu said two Yoruba youth had been killed.
Haruna Yaro, an assistant to the leader of the Hausa community in the market, told AFP 23 Hausa traders and labourers had been killed.
“There was mass burial of 18 people at our cemetary at Akinyele on Saturday. Most of them were men,” he said.
Hausa are mostly from northern Nigeria.
Amnesty International’s spokesman in Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, told AFP that “northerners living in Shasha were attacked on Friday.
“Several people were killed but we do not yet know how many.”
The governor of Oyo state has closed the market and imposed a curfew in the area.
“The situation in Shasha is now calm but we are still monitoring to prevent a fresh breakout of violence,” a security source said.
Ethnic clashes are not uncommon in Nigeria, a country with more than 250 ethnic and linguistic groups.
But tensions have grown recently in the mostly Yoruba-speaking southwest, with some local leaders blaming northern Fulani herders for an increase in crimes in their regions.
Several attacks have been carried out on Fulani settlements in Yoruba areas and the Igbo-speaking southeast by mobs from local communities.
Several thousand Fulani herders have fled southern Nigeria following deadly attacks, local northern officials said last week.
Northern governors have cautioned against reprisals against southerners in the north.
They appealed to southern leaders to halt attacks against Fulani to prevent Nigeria sliding into civil strife.