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4 killed as unrest rocks Niger community

*Worship centres, houses razed; 25 shops looted

*32 suspects arrested, Army imposes curfew

*Joint military, Police, NSCDC team patrolling community

By Kingsley Omonobi & Wole Mosadomi

Minna—NO fewer than four lives were lost and several others injured following an outbreak of violence in Pandogari, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.

The crisis, said to have started weekend, equally led to burning of several worship centres and houses, with about 25 shops reportedly looted.

While about 32 suspects have been arrested and a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the town, a joint military, Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, team is patrolling the community to ensure no further breach of peace.

Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State
Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State

Most residents of the community have fled their homes to neighbouring villages for safety.

Some worship centres in the town, some houses and shops were razed.

Trouble was said to have started when one Methodus Emmanuel, a 24-year-old trader was alleged to have posted material considered offensive on social media, which did not go down well with some youths in the area.

They were said to have traced the author to his residence on Sunday and beat him to death.

Three others, including an NSCDC operative and a woman were among those who lost their lives during the disturbance.

The woman was said to have been hit by a stray bullet in her room.

Some of the residents still trapped in the village told Vanguard that life had become unbearable as they could not have access to food, water and other essential needs.

Chairman of Rafi Local Government Area, Alhaji Gambo Tanko, when contacted, refused to speak in details, but simply said, “we thank God that all is now calm but we have imposed a curfew to bring nolmalcy to the area.

Confirming the incident in a statement by Major N.C. Agwu, Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, military authorities said the curfew came into effect as rioters embarked on violence, looting shops and blocking the Lagos – Kaduna Road, a major artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the country.

“Regrettably, one worship centre, one house and a shop were burnt while 25 other shops were looted following the violence. Three other persons including personnel of the NSCDC also lost their lives. Some arrests have been made in connection with the violence and the suspects handed over to the police. The military and other security agencies are currently embarking on confidence-building patrols in all nooks and crannies of the town.

Giving further details on the violence, Major Ugwu said, “At about  6pm  on Sunday, May 29, 2016, one Mr. Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel, a trader based in Pandogari, Rafi LGA of Niger State was attacked and killed by a mob in the town on allegation of posting an offensive material on the social media. Troops of 31 Artillery Brigade of 1 Division, Nigerian Army on operation MESA quickly intervened and restored law and order while a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed in the town.

“As part of the measures to de-escalate tensions and ensure a lasting peace in the town, the military is working with the Local Government Council authorities and community leaders, including the Kagara Emirate Council to pacify all aggrieved parties and build on the peace so far established.”

“The general public is therefore warned to abide by the conditions of the curfew so far emplaced. All law abiding citizens are enjoined to go about their legitimate businesses without any fear of intimidation.”

However, while the military will continue with its current non-violent approach to maintaining peace in Pandogari town, it will not take kindly to any unscrupulous element who would attempt to visit violence on innocent and law abiding Nigerians.

“They are to be  rest assured that the security forces will remain fully present to guarantee their safety and security across the length and breadth of the town, within their rules of engagement.”


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