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Orgy of violence: Deadly bolts from Boko Haram

By Adekunle Adekoya

VERY few Nigerians, except those who were planning it, contemplated that the nation would have to grapple with another orgy of violence, so soon after the mayhem that rocked Plateau and Bauchi States as year 2008 ended. Indeed, the commissions of enquiry unravelling the circumstances behind the Jos mayhem is yet to complete its assignment.

A building that allegedly housed Islamic extremists is reportedly burnt by the military
A building that allegedly housed Islamic extremists is reportedly burnt by the military

So, Monday July 27, most of the rest of Nigeria, and the world at large would learn that a sect that goes by the name, Boko Haram which means “education is illegal,” had staged attacks in Bauchi on Sunday after the arrest of some of its members. More than 50 people were killed and over 100 arrested, prompting the state governor, Alhaji Isa Yuguda to impose a curfew on the state. The BBC reported that its correspondent saw 42 bodies at the Bauchi Specialist Hospital, while the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported 32 bodies. Boko Haram seeks imposition of sharia law and is opposed to western education.

However, if many thought the Bauchi incident was isolated, they were soon disappointed as the violence spread like wild bush fire. On Monday, the violence had spread to Kano, Borno, and Yobe states. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua ordered a clampdown, and indeed clarified that the violence was not inter-religious.

Acting inspector-general of police, Ogbonnaya Onovo confirmed the death of five policemen and 60 others. He also confirmed the burning down of a Police station in Potiskum, and as the violence spread to Maiduguri in Borno State, a bloodbath ensued.

Abandoned containers allegedly used by members of the Islamic sect to mix components for bombs
Abandoned containers allegedly used by members of the Islamic sect to mix components for bombs

The BBC again reported that its correspondent counted at least 100 bodies near Police headquarters on Monday in Maiduguri.  In Kano, at Wudil, three policemen were injured while several guns, especially AK-47s were recovered from members of the sect.

As the situation worsened, soldiers were deployed while airlines suspended flights to the affected cities until normalcy returned. Among those wre Arik Air and IRS Airlines. On Wednesday, 1.000 troops were deployed to tackle Boko Haram. In an encounter, 43 were killed in Hawan Malka in Yobe State, but by then, Bauchi had been calmed down, with only sporadic incidents here and there.

By Thursday, it was reported that Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, has been killed in custody. The announcement came just hours after police said they had captured Mohammed Yusuf in the city of Maiduguri. His followers have been blamed for violence in the north that has left more than 300 people dead, a situation that the nation is still coming to terms with.

However, religious uprisings and ethnic clashes have been recurring in the nation, each one seemingly more ferocious and bloodier than the last. In year 2000, thousands were killed in northern Nigeria as non-Muslims opposed to the  introduction of Islamic sharia law fought Muslims who demanded its implementation in Kaduna.

Vehicles are seen in flames at the Islamic extremists quarters
Vehicles are seen in flames at the Islamic extremists quarters

In September 2001, Christian-Muslim violence flared after Muslim prayers in Jos, with churches and mosques set on fire. According to a September 2002 report by a panel set up by Plateau State government, at least 915 people were killed in days of rioting. A little over a year after, in November 2002, Nigeria was forced to abandon t
he Miss World contest in Abuja, while the pageant relocated to London. At least 215 people died in riots in Kaduna.

In May 2004, hundreds of people, mostly Muslim Fulanis, were killed by the militia in Yelwa. Survivors say they buried 630 corpses. Police said hundreds were killed. Muslim and Christian militants fought bloody street battles later the same month in Kano. Christian community leaders said between 500-600 people, mostly Christians, were killed in the two days of rioting by Muslims.

In February 2006, a week of rioting by Muslim and Christian mobs claims at least 157 lives. The violence began in Maiduguri, when a Muslim protest against the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad ran out of control.

Weapons discovered at the sect's hide-out during the clampdown
Weapons discovered at the sect's hide-out during the clampdown

In November 2008, clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs triggered by a disputed local government chairmanship election killed at least 400 people in the central city of Jos. In February 2009, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State was forced, like now, to impose a curfew on Bauchi city on February 22, a day after clashes that led to the death of at least 11 people. At least 28 people were seriously wounded and several houses, churches and mosques burned down.

What they said on the sectarian violence

Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF)
“The recent skirmishes and attacks on the police in Maiduguri and Bauchi caused by some religious militants who claimed western education is a taboo are regrettable and, thus, condemnable by ACF and peace loving Nigerians”.

Minister of Police Affairs, Ibrahim Yakubu Lame
“Government is committed to freedom of religion, but will not condone any fundamentalist who would bring about breakdown of law and order”.

Wreckage of two police motorcycles next to a burnt-out police station in Potiskum, Yobe State
Wreckage of two police motorcycles next to a burnt-out police station in Potiskum, Yobe State

Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) Reverend Joseph Hayab
“The attacks were pre-meditated and I blame the security agencies for not averting them. The militants were true enemies of government hence they should be fished out, prosecuted along their sponsors”.

House of Representatives minority leader, Ali Ndume
“What we have now is a situation in Borno State where the leaders of the so called Taliban group is residing and where most of them migrated from all the northern states go, prepare and declare holy war. We are going to launch an operation, the main operation with immediate effect”.

Niger state governor, Muazu Aliyu Babangida

“It is the most unfortunate that such acts are being carried out at this time when our national resources, general financial capabilities are low occasioned by the global economic recession which consequently diminishing the country’s resources”.

Methodist prelate, Dr Sunday Ola Makinde
“This is as an act of madness and government must not pay lip service to the crisis like it had done with the past occurrences”.

Governor Isa Yuguda – Bauchi State
“Until the situation improves, we do not know what they have planned. So the security will use the curfew period to check for them particularly those who may want to come from other states”.

President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, (PFN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor
“The umbrella body of PFN in Nigeria had written a letter to all the southern governors on the need for them to engage their 19 northern counterparts to forestall these incessant violent sectarian crises in the North.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.