By Bala Ajiya
Exactly one week after the Boko Haram attacks on Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, the town is still without police protection and thousands of residents are fleeing their homes.
Despite the assurance of the Police Commissioner of Yobe State, Suleiman Lawal, that the force has the matter under control, residents are fleeing the area out of fear of more attacks.
Christians, non natives flee
Many of the fleeing residents are Christians and non-natives. A fleeing resident told our reporter that he had to flee because he feared another attack.
“Many residents resolved to leave because they feared the Islamic sect members could strike again despite the show of force by soldiers and mobile policemen. I’m at the Damaturu Mass Transit Park with my family and many other people who are leaving the town. I have lived here for about 20 years but I can’t afford to stay here longer than today,” he said.
According to him, “ there were hundreds of people at the Central Motor Park located at the heart of the state capital who were waiting for Jos, Kano and Abuja bound vehicles to connect other parts of the country, ” adding that the people were unmindful of the high transport fare. “Some of them are heading for the Eastern States”.
Shops, businesses shut down
“ As you can see, many shops are still closed .Many of the Igbo traders are yet to open their shops and businesses following the killing of some of their kinsmen during the attacks. A spare parts dealer, was reportedly shot in his shop minutes after the anti-terrorism squad office was bombed,” he continued.
Saturday Vanguard reporter observed that most of the people fleeing Damaturu were in various motor parks, especially the Young Shall Grow buses, heading to the East. Almost all shops and business premises belonging to non indigenes in Damaturu have remained shut since the day of the incident and normalcy is yet to return to the state.
Jerusalem worst hit
Prominent among the areas worst hit was Jerusalem where over seven high churches were destroyed and several lives lost. Also affected in the dastardly act which is believed to have been masterminded by the dreaded Boko Haram (Yusufiyya) sects are the new complexes of the Yobe state Police command Headquarters, First Bank buildings, all along Gashua Road in the Damaturu Metropolis.
Our correspondent went around some of the affected areas especially Jerusalem which was a Christian dominated area and which had the largest number of casualties. While in Jerusalem, in an interview with a victim, Joseph Paul, narrated how his residence was badly damaged by the bomb blasts as walls of his house developed cracks and the roof was left hanging in suspension. According to him, since their security is no longer guaranteed by the government, they are left with the only option of leaving the state.
In New Jerusalem area of the city, no fewer than six churches were torched by suspected Boko Haram members in a bombing that also affected a police station.
Several people were killed by co-ordinated Fedayeen attacks; one at a college in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, while Mujahideen gunmen attacked a church in Kaduna, shooting two female worshippers to death.
Jerusalem, which is a predominantly Christian dominated area, was the worst hit by the bomb blast. Residents of the area said that since their security is no longer guaranteed by the government, they are only left with the option of leaving the state with their families.
A resident of Jerusalem, Mr. Ezekiel Solomon, said that the attack carried out by the Boko Haram in Jerusalem led to the loss of lives and properties which they suffered to gathered over the years. The residents also complained about the lack- luster attitude of the government for not providing adequate security for the residents of Jerusalem.
This makes most of the residents avail themselves with the opportunity provided by the government of their various states to travel to their various home towns in the South-East and for the past five days, there have been exodus of people from the Jerusalem area of the state.
Residents pursued, killed in bushes
Mr. Ezekiel further confirmed to our reporter that many of the residents that fled to the bush were pursued and killed by the insurgents and for the past five days, it has been an herculean task to retrieve the dead bodies of the victims from the bush.
Jerusalem is now a ghost of itself because of the fear of being attacked by the unscrupulous elements that will take advantage of the laxity in security to unleash more terror.
Why Boko Haram hit Damaturu
Damaturu has been a peace haven for years as most of the indigenes of Maiduguri that ran away because of the same problem in Maiduguri found peace on Damaturu over the past one year. The governor, Alh. Ibrahim Gaidam has been diplomatic in order to avoid a spill-over of Maiduguri problem in Damaturu.
He went to the extent of admonishing the commissioner of police, Mal. Sulaiman Lawal, to treat the issue softly to avoid blood shed in Damaturu but the commissioner of police refused to heed to the advice of the governor.
A victim who confided in our correspondent said, ‘’three weeks ago, police operatives arrested a Boko Haram member at Maisandari ward Damaturu who is on transit and even the attention of the governor was drawn to it and he advised that the issue be handled with care. But the Police decided to ignore the governor’s advice and went ahead to detain the member. This infuriated them, hence the attacks on Damaturu and the mass killings’’
Since last Friday, Damaturu has been reduced to a scary town because this is the first time in the history of the state that such a mass killing is recorded.
However, most people, particularly the indigenes, are now returning back to their various local governments in search of safety and to avoid the unnecessary embarrassment posed by the security agents that were deployed to Damaturu after the mayhem. Despite the fact that the governor instructed the security men not to arrest any indigene or non indigene in Damaturu, few of the security men still go about embarrassing innocent people.
The bomb attacks in Damaturu,Yobe State last weekend claimed the lives of over a 100 people, including security operatives and others .The Yobe state capital was on Friday, 4th November 2011, thrown into a mournful mood following the devastating bomb blasts and explosions that ravaged strategic security outfits and government establishments with colossal damages of lives and property where over 100 people were confirmed to have lost their lives.
‘My friends were killed before my eyes’
A businessman in Damaturu said he wants to leave the state because of so many issues which had to do with his faith as a Christian, adding that the crises in Yobe left him with no option but to leave and settle elsewhere. Another resident said he didn’t know how he survived.
“ My friends were killed before my eyes. I was just running and somehow I escaped.”
Victims, CAN accuse govt, emir of lacklustre
Some families of the victims are in still in tears searching for their relations who might have been caught in the web. Some of the victims are still missing. Most of them, it was gathered vented their anger on the government for its lackadaisical attitude in handling security of lives and property of its citizens, especially at the wake of Nigeria’s nascent democracy since May 1999.
A relation of a victim, Mrs Mary John, explained that up till this moment, government has not found it expedient to deploy security operatives to Jerusalem in an attempt to allay their apprehension and fear since the mayhem that engulfed many lives for the first time since the creation of Yobe State in August 1991.
“ I don’t want you to take my pictures so that I don’t fall victim as they warned us they are coming back again to achieved their master plan.”
A man who lost all he had lamented, “We just cannot continue to put our wrong foot forward all the time and expect investors to come and invest their money in an unsafe environment.”
Also at the hospital where many victims were hospitalised , the Chairman Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Garba Idi told journalists that they sought audience with the Emir of Damaturu, Alh. Baba Shehu but their request was turned down.
“ I wondered why, despite the colossal loss and damage incurred by Christians and non indigenes alike, the traditional ruler who is supposed to be father to all will turn deaf ears to their plight even without any sense of sympathy or condolences. Since the crisis began, particularly in Jerusalem ward which is dominated by Christians and non-indigenes, many of them had chosen to leave the state.
Ten churches, 11 vehicles, seven motorcycles and one bicycle were burnt during the attack. So many Christians were killed and some people are still missing. Some people are still calling us to say that they discovered the bodies of some of their missing relatives who were killed in the bush. We are not too comfortable with the security arrangements here.”
CAN, Women condemn attack
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on the Federal Government to demonstrate the political will to deal decisively with the increasing wave of terrorism in the country. The group condemned reports from different parts of the North that showed that several innocent lives were sent to their early graves and properties worth millions of naira have either been torched or vandalised in another orgy of religious violence.
The National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS) also deplored last weekend’s killings in Yobe and Borno states, urging the government to fish out perpetrators of the act.
The group in a statement described as barbaric and unacceptable the killing of innocent Nigerians by some people.
The group lamented that women were being turned into “widows prematurely, losing their children, loved ones and valuable property due to the violent activities of some unpatriotic Nigerians and their collaborators.”
Also in a recent interview, CAN President, Ayo Oritsejafor, said the group recorded a lot of losses in Damaturu. CAN said that six of its churches were burnt by the extremists. The churches, according to CAN President, were the Assemblies of God Church, St. Mary Catholic Church, Living Faith Church, EYN Church, Cherubim and Seraphim Church, and two churches belonging to the ECWA.
“ At least four of our members were killed by co-ordinated Fedayeen attacks, one at a college in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital while Mujahideen gunmen attacked a church in Kaduna, shooting two female worshipers to death.”
CAN lamented that Islamic sects in the north had constantly launched assault on Christians, saying the situation was becoming worrisome and needed to be nipped in the bud.
The group called on the federal government to demonstrate the political will to deal decisively with the increasing wave of terrorism in the country, arguing that the much needed investment-friendly environment might be a pipe dream if there is no peace in the nation.