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SULTAN, ORITSEJAFOR CONDEMN CARNAGE IN NORTHERN STATES

By NBF News
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Mayhem continues in Kaduna, Bauchi, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa

THE Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) has expressed shock over the on-going violence in some northern states following the outcome of the presidential elections.

A statement yesterday in Sokoto by the two co-chairmen of the council, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, and President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, asked all those involved to immediately halt the carnage as both 'Islam and Christianity abhor violence and consider the killing of innocent souls a monstrous sin.'

Also, the Bishop of the Egba Diocese of the Anglican Communion, the Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Oludaisi Adekunle yesterday appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to justify the confidence Nigerians reposed in him through his victory at the presidential polls by meeting the aspirations of the people in the next four years.

The Bishop who spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State, appealed to those engaged in violent protest against the result of the Presidential Election to keep the peace 'because there is no justification for it.'

He suggested that instead of violence, those who felt cheated should use legal means to seek redress.

However, the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President has released some telephone numbers, which it asked anyone caught in the crisis to call for help. The numbers are: 096303520, 096303521, 096303525, 08132222105 to 109.

Meanwhile, rampaging youths yesterday attacked and destroyed five Catholic churches in Katsina and Zamfara states, which are under the Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church.

The youths went on the rampage after President Jonathan was officially declared winner of the presidential polls.

In Tsafe, Zamfara State, they attacked and burnt down St. Jude's Catholic Church. Also attacked was St. Vincent Ferrer's Church, Gusau where many windows and louvers were broken. The Dominican reverend sisters working in the church fled and have taken refuge in a village there.

In Katsina, two parishes, St. Gabriel's Church, Daura and St. Theresa's Parish Funtua, were burnt down.

The residence of the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Eugene Nwachukwu, was also razed with the personal belongings inside the house and his car.

The Parish Clinic at Malumfashi was also destroyed and the beds in the general ward burnt.

Briefing reporters yesterday at the Zamfara Police Command headquarters, the state Police Commissioner, Muhammad Abubakar, disclosed that 47 suspects have been arrested in Tsafe town over the development.

A 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. curfew that would last for two weeks has also been imposed on Zamfara State, the police said.

Abubakar denied speculations that three people were killed in the mayhem, saying only one person was injured in the attacks.

In a related development, four members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), 10 clerics, a female Police Corporal and the Divisional Crime Officer in charge of Jama'are Police Division were feared killed in the violence that trailed the presidential polls' results in Bauchi State.

Police stations in Itas, Jama'are, Giade, Dambam and Misau were also torched by protesting youths, according to the Bauchi State Police Commissioner, Amama John Abakasanga, who briefed the media yesterday in Jos.

Also, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices in Bauchi, Misau, Katagum, Giade, Jama'are have been looted and burnt, according to the INEC head in Bauchi, Iliya Audu.

Audu said 500 laptops, 13 generator sets, cabinets and other valuables were looted from the commission's offices.

Of the 51 youth corps members sent to conduct election at Giade, Misau, Katagum, Jama'are, Dambam and Itas Gadau councils, Abakasanga said 20 were rescued by his men, four were killed, while the remaining 26 were still missing.

However, Abakasanga, said over 200 suspects have been arrested across the state over the mayhem, adding that normalcy was gradually returning to the state.

According to the Catholic Bishop of Kano Diocese, Rev. John Namanza Niyiring who also oversees the Dutse Deanery, many churches were burnt in the wake of the violence in Jigawa and Kano.

Bishop Niyiring also disclosed that St. Theresa's Parish with its Reverend Father's residence and the Catholic School all in Hadejia as well as the Catholic Church in Jahun have been burnt.

The Bishop also enumerated that St. Mary's Catholic Parish in Bashirawa and the Church in Badawa all in Kano were not spared by the rioters.

Witnesses in Hadejia indicated that some shops were also burnt in the town. But Dutse, the Jigawa State capital, was peaceful yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Military High Command has issued a shot-on-sight order to soldiers deplored to Kaduna State to quell on-going protests in the state capital and other areas.

The violence was blown full scale in some parts of the Kaduna metropolis on Monday night, particularly in Narayi and Sabo areas where the residents formed vigilance groups to protect their communities.

Yesterday morning, the crisis spread to Kafanchan, Zonkwa and Samaru in Zaria where several people where reportedly killed.

In a telephone interview with The Guardian, one of the community heads who craved anonymity said: 'The crisis which broke out here in Kafanchan started this morning (yesterday) when some Fulani started attacking our people and burning places of worship.

'So, our people too started to retaliate and the trouble then spread. But right now, the police and army have taken over security and there is calm.'

However, religious leaders in Kaduna State, including those from the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and CAN have met to condemn the carnage and urged their followers to shield swords.

They stressed that the current unrest in some parts of the state was politically motivated and had nothing to do with religions.

Secretary-General of JNI, Jafa'aru Makarfi and Kaduna CAN Chairman, Rev. Samuel Kujiat, stated this at a joint media briefing.

Governor Patrick Yakowa has expressed worry over the spillover and reiterated that the 24-hour curfew imposed on the state remained in force till further notice.

Reports had it that a bloody crisis ensued yesterday between Muslims and Christians in Kafanchan and Zonkwa of southern Kaduna, leaving many dead and several property destroyed.

In a phone interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service yesterday, the Emir of Jema'a, Alhaji Isa Muhammadu, said security personnel in the area were overwhelmed and could not do much to restore order.

Special Adviser to the Kaduna Governor on Religious matters, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, however, told the BBC that the state government was not informed about the security agents' dilemma in the southern part of the state.

Hayab claimed that order was restored in Zonkwa before the Kafanchan crisis erupted and blamed the situation on those who spread rumours unnecessarily.

In another phone interview with the BBC, a resident of Zonkwa, Malam Hamza Gambo who was at the Zonkwa Police Station with hundreds of other displaced persons, said they were in dire straits and needed help urgently.

He said there was heavy fighting between adherents of the two major religions from 9.00 p.m. on Monday until about 11.00 a.m. yesterday, which put the town in disarray.

The NIREC statement pointed out that disagreement was natural and one of the ingredients of democracy but that 'resorting to violence is a travesty of our religious teachings and a betrayal to our claim to faith.'

It, therefore, appealed to 'all Nigerians to explore the constitutional means of seeking redress whenever we feel aggrieved rather than take the laws into our hands.'

The council added: 'For how long do we want to kill and destroy ourselves? How far has violence taken us as a nation?

'As the whole world is watching us, let us be mindful of our actions and reactions. At a point that many observers are commending a general improvement largely in the conduct of our elections, even if still not 100 per cent perfect, it is unfortunate that a sad commentary is being scripted through the eruption of violence and carnage among our fellow citizens. We should not allow our political differences to divide us along ethnic and religious lines. They are simply political and should be so treated.'

The council urged Nigerians to 'play democracy according to the rules so that we do not bring the building down upon ourselves.'