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Muslim youths batter pastor over comments in Abuja

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Sectarian violence almost erupted at Gwarimpa Estate, Abuja on Sunday when one Pastor Ernest Onyems of the Shore House Church narrowly escaped being lynched by Muslim youths who were offended by his comments over the use of a road as praying ground for the Sallah celebration.

Before policemen deployed in the area to provide security intervened, the cleric was thoroughly beaten before he managed to jump a fence into a house in the area.

Our correspondent, who was at the scene, observed the youths, who were chanting Allahu Akbar (God is great), forced their way into the compound where Onyems took refuge and attempted to drag him out.

The policemen prevented the mob from dragging him out and vandalising his car.

Trouble began when the pastor, who was on his way to church in his Mercedes Benz 190, was trapped by the gridlock caused by the blockade of the road.

Angered by his inability to find his way out of the logjam, Onyems described their action as unreasonable.

"I don't know why these Muslims would just abandon their cars on the road because they want to pray; this kind of thing cannot happen in Lagos, there would have been a riot," he was heard shouting at the top of his voice.

The cleric had hardly made another comment when some youths abandoned their prayers and accosted him. He was not given a chance to speak as they pounced on him, dragging him by his tie.

Onyems struggled to break free from the youths and jumped over the fence into a compound. But the angry youths went after him and continued the beating injuring him in the face and other parts of the body.

The police officers came to his rescue and pacified the angry youths who threatened to go on the rampage to attack whoever dared to insult Islam.

The cleric was so frightened that he refused to leave the building long after the youths had left.

He told our correspondent that he lost his two GSM phones and N6,000 during the attack.

"I didn't know that these people could just attack me because I criticised them for blocking a public road; they really wanted to kill me but for providence," Onyems lamented.

The pastor who was too weak to drive was subsequently escorted by the police officers to the Gwarimpa Police Station where he lodged a complaint on the incident.

One of the policemen (name withheld) said many of the youths had earlier bought knives from knife hawkers that came to the prayer ground, adding that he and his colleagues were powerless to arrest the youths because they were armed and dangerous.