Curfew now dusk to dawn
By Taye Obateru & Emmanuel Ovuakporie
JOSâ€” SECURITY has been beefed up in Jos, the Plateau State capital, following an outbreak of fresh violence in parts of the city which left about 15 people dead, yesterday. Many were reported injured while about four houses were torched in the skirmish which again took ethno-religious dimension reopening hostilities of the 28 November, 2008 crisis.
About eight corpses were seen at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH, while an unspecified number of bodies was sighted being taken into the Plateau Specialist Hospital, though journalists were barred from getting near the vehicle. The charred body of a victim was also seen at the cross-section near the Jos Central Mosque.
Many parts of the city were thrown into confusion as people ran in different directions to avoid getting caught in the mayhem. Ironically, the Presidential panel investigating the last crisis is currently holding public sitting in the state.
The state government has, in a reaction, reviewed the existing curfew in the state capital to 6.00 p.m to 6.00 a.m. from the former period of 12 midnight to 6.00 a.m.
Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gregory Yenlong, said the review became necessary to nip in the bud the prevailing security situation â€œso that hoodlums will not take advantage of the security breach to molest innocent citizens.â€
He urged citizens to adhere strictly to the curfew, noting that â€œall efforts are being intensified to ensure the safety of life and property.â€
The latest violence was said to have been triggered by the alleged refusal to allow a man whose house was burnt in the last crisis to rebuild it as he was told he could no longer live in the Dutse Uku area of the state capital. This was said to have generated tension which pitched the people along ethno-religious divide spreading to other areas as news of the fighting went round.
The police have, however, assured that the situation was under control. A statement by the police public relations officer, Assistant Superintendent Mohammed Lerama said: â€œThe Plateau State Police Command wishes to state that there was a security breach this afternoon at Nasarawa Gwom area of the city. However, the police promptly responded to the challenge and it is presently being contained.
â€œOther residents of the town are, therefore, advised to remain calm. Anyone who takes the law into his hands will be dealt with in accordance with the law. Residents should equally disregard any rumour of crisis in the city.â€ Security has been beefed up all over the city with a combined team of police and military personnel taking positions at strategic locations to contain further violence.
Christian Forum condemns action
The Plateau State Christian Elders Consultative Forum, yesterday, condemned Sundayâ€™s attack on Christian faithful in the state, describing the action as Islamic terrorism on churches. In a statement, signed by Bishop Andersen Bok, national coordinator, and Dr. Musa Pam, secretary general, the forum said â€œwe hereby condemn todayâ€™s attack on Christians in Jos, the capital of Plateau State in which several persons have been reported injured or dead.
“The attack, coming today, after the normal Christian services in churches is premeditated, wicked, deliberate and terrifying. â€œOur fellow brothers and sisters were just coming out of churches in Nasarawa area of Jos when some Islamic youths pounced on them with cutlasses and other dangerous weapons.
Shortly after the attack, we were made to believe that some Islamic fundamentalists were engaging themselves in some fracas after some disagreement which spilled into churches leading to Christian casualties.
â€œWhy must it be churches and Christians who will suffer from an all-muslim affair? In the last Jos crisis, Christians became casualties after some muslims protested an election result that was intended to elect local government chairmen.
Why would Islamic fundamentalists engage themselves on a Sunday morning shortly after the service if the â€˜terrorâ€™ act was not premeditated?â€ While thanking the Plateau State government for its prompt reaction which quickly restored peace to the city, the Forum urged muslims to see this as the last of such provocation on Christians in the state, stressing that enough was enough.â€
Meanwhile, about 35 people have been arrested in connection with yesterdayâ€™s violence and are now helping the police in their investigations. Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Greg Anyating, who disclosed this at a news briefing said five of them were arrested in military uniforms while various arms and other weapons were found with them.
He blamed a group of muslim youths whom he said attacked innocent people going to church, noting: â€œThis morning (yesterday), there was a breach of the peace by a handful of muslim youths who, without any form of provocation whatsoever, started attacking people who were going to church particularly around St. Michael Catholic Church in Nasarawa Gwong area.â€
However, he said he could not give any casualty figure for now assuring that necessary measures had been put in place to restore normalcy. Anyating regretted that the fresh violence came after previous crisis in neighbouring states like Bauchi were successfully contained from spreading to the state.
Although security men have taken strategic positions in troubled parts, there were reports of sporadic burning of houses last night in Nasarawa and Rikkos areas.