By Kingsley Omonobi, Ben Agande, Luka Binniyat & Victoria Ojeme
KADUNA —THEDeath toll from last Sunday’s three coordinated bomb attacks in Kaduna and Zaria has risen to 68 even as indications emerged, yesterday, that President Goodluck Jonathan was considering imposing a state of emergency on Kaduna if reprisal attacks continue.
Sources, however, said the casualty could be higher as some of the victims caught in the Christian dominated areas of Kaduna town were killed and their bodies burnt beyond recognition.
At least 51 corpses were deposited at two Kaduna Hospitals, after Christian youths launched reprisal attacks against Muslims following the bombing of one Church in Kaduna, and two more in Zaria.
Findings by Vanguard show that 39 corpses have been deposited at the St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Kakuri, Kaduna and 12 at Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, Kaduna.
In Zaria, the death toll was put at 17, with about 45 others injured. All the victims were members of Christ the King Catholic Cathedral, Zaria and ECWA Church, Wusasa, where the suicide bomber attacked the Children wing. The death toll from the bombing of Shalom Church, Trikania, Kaduna was put at 3, with 17 injured.
But Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mallam Mohammed Abubakar Jinjiri in a telephone chat with Vanguard yesterday evening said he could not release any figure yet.
“As I am talking with you, we are in a meeting with the Military, Security agencies, National Emergency Agency, State Emergency Agency and the State government. We are meeting to collate and put a final figure to both those that were killed and those injured”, he said.
The following telephone conversation ensued between Vanguard and the police commissioner:
Vanguard: Sir, can you just attempt an estimate on the casualty figure from the Police side?
Jinjiri: Sorry, I can’t tell you anything now. I don’t want any confusing figures. I
Vanguard: So, when is the Press going to be briefed about the figures?
Jinjiri: “That will be tomorrow (today). It has been very hectic and we are still meeting”.
The Public Relations Officer PRO, of St Gerald Hospital, Mr. Sunday John Ali however confirmed to Vanguard that the number of corpses brought to the hospital had risen from 33 on Sunday evening to 39 last night. He said that 75 others are taking treatment for various degrees of injury.
At the Barua Dikko Specialist Hospital, Vanguard findings showed that 12 corpses had been taken there with two receiving treatment for various wounds, largely from reprisal attacks.
Meanwhile, tension was brewing at the Barnawa part of Kaduna as at last night.
Barnawa, located in Southern part of Christian dominated area has been unaffected by virtually all the violence that has engulfed the state, as the minority Muslims population has managed to stay in peace with the large Christian population that encircle them.
But, at around the time of going to Press around 6:45 pm yesterday, reports reaching Vanguard said that some Muslim youths had grouped to attack Christian interests in the area, prompting Christian youths to come out ready for them.
A Phone call to Kaduna State Police Spokesman ASP Aminu Lawan on the matter revealed a rather unclear picture.
Said Aminu: “We were told that some Muslim youths in Barnawa were angry after a said corpse was brought there. It was said that they took arms, and the Christian youths had also taken arms ready for one another. But when we went there, we only saw soldiers and policemen. We asked about the corpse, no one said anything. So as far as I am concerned, nothing is wrong with Barnawa”, he said.
Nigeria heading for religious war — Bishop Kukah
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, yesterday, warned of impending religious war between Christians and Muslims unless President Goodluck Jonathan acts fast to reverse the trend of attacks against Churches in the country by the Boko Haram Islamist sect.
Bishop Kukah, who spoke during the National Summit on the Freedom of Information Act, organized by Media Rights Agenda, said even though President Jonathan may not be blamed for the rising level of insecurity in the country, he has the duty to arrest the situation.
Warning of the dire implications of the continued bombing of churches in the north, he said: “I warn him (Jonathan) about the future of Nigeria, I am convinced that Nigeria is running out of time, there is an impending war between Muslims and Christians in the country.”
He described the attacks on Christian places of worship as a deliberate attempt to push them out of the North.
“This country is ours to build and construct, nobody owns this country, the country belongs to all of us as citizens of this country and has the right to reside in any part of the country, if the president does not take decisive steps, we may be pushed to the wall,” he added.
Speaking on Freedom of Information Act 2011, Bishop Kukah said that the task of ensuring the effective implementation of the Act is a critical one that must involve all stakeholders and all sectors of the society.
He said the media was instrumental to the passage of the Act and must continue to play its roles to make sure the Act works effectively.
Also speaking, the Minister of Information Labaran Maku said that the security challenges in the country have effected economic development, adding that if there was no crisis after the 2011 general elections, the country would have witnessed a lot of foreign and local investments.
He reiterated his willingness to work on public enlightenment project in collaboration with all the civil society organizations and other stakeholders committed to the implementation of the FOI Act.
IG orders 24-hr surveillance patrols
Meanwhile, following intelligence reports that the violence that erupted in Kaduna State on Sunday as a result of the bombing attacks on three churches in Zaria and Kaduna towns, is threatening to spread to other neighbouring states with possible reprisal attacks, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar has ordered a 24-hour strategic surveillance patrol of Kaduna and neighbouring states of Katsina, Kano, Plateau, Nasarawa and Niger States.
Aside the patrols, Vanguard can report authoritatively that against the backdrop of the “Sunday-Sunday” attacks and bombing of Christians in churches in parts of the country, the Police have developed a new ‘Standard Operational Order’, not only for Sunday worship but other days of worship.
Confirming the development, Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba said the 24 hour patrol directive by the IGP was to prevent further spread of the crises that erupted in Kaduna and other states.
“While the patrols in Kaduna will be to consolidate on the calm and peace that has returned to the State, it is also designed to ensure that the gains made so far are not lost and the patrols of other states is to ensure no spill over or breach of security of any kind”, CSP Mba said.
On the Operational Order, Mba said: “The operational Oder spells out the standard operational procedure that officers should adopt in ensuring prevention and management of crises situations.