Photo : Daily Independent’s photo journalist, Nath Jibrin, who was attacked on Sunday, lying critically ill at St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Kaduna. , Another victim at the emergency ward of the hospital … on Sunday.
By Baba Negedu (Kaduna), Rotimi Akinwunmi and Shola Shittu (Abuja)
Three separate bomb blasts in Kaduna State on Sunday and the reprisal attacks that followed in the mainly Christian dominated southern part of the state left dozens of people dead and others seriously wounded.
The violence led to the imposition of a 24-hour curfew in the whole state by the government.
Two of the blasts happened in the precinct of churches in the ancient city of Zaria – ECWA Goodnews Church Wusasa and Christ The King Catholic (CKC) Church.
According to an eyewitness who gave his name as Audu Brown, three suspected suicide bombers drove to the gate of CKC Church along Yoruba Street in the Sabon Gari area of Zaria at about 8.45 a.m. but they were stopped by a security man attached to the church.
Sensing that the security man had discovered their mission, the eyewitness added, two of the bombers attempted to escape, but they were intercepted and set ablaze by the people while the third bomber blew himself up, killing the security man in the process.
The third attack took place at the Shalom Church along Nnamdi Azikiwe By-pass, Trikania in the Chikun Local Government Area. Three people died instantly. A soldier, police officer and another guard were seriously injured, while several cars were burnt.
The blast in the Kaduna metropolis immediately triggered reprisal attacks, as angry youths began to make bonfires in the Sabon Tasha, Television, Romi, Gonin Gora and other Christian dominated southern part of the metropolis.
The angry youths immediately barricaded major roads, as they chased Hausa traders and motorcyclists who they suspected to be Moslems out of the vicinity.
The attack left many dead with several commercial motorcycles set ablaze in areas like High Cost, Ungwan Pama, Narayi, Ungwan Muazu and Romi.
Daily Independent leant that a mosque was also set ablaze in Sabo.
Okada operators and commercial vehicles immediately went off the streets, as churches hurriedly closed their services to allow members hurry home since there were no means of transport.
A photo journalist with Daily Independent, Nathaniel Jibrin, was also matcheted severally on the head by hoodlums who attacked and asked him what religion he professed while on his way to the scene of the blast.
Jibrin has been admitted at the intensive care unit of the Saint Gerald Catholic Hospital, Kaduna.
He was rushed to the hospital by Good Samaritans who found unconscious.
In Romi, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis, angry youths came out of churches and their homes on hearing the news of the blasts, hunting down any Muslim in sight.
Most affected were commercial motorcyclists.
The situation turned bloody when many of them ran to the police station within the vicinity for protection and the youths stormed the area demanding their release.
The refusal of the police to accede to their request annoyed the youths who re-grouped and sacked the police station, leaving some cars, motorcycles and a power bike belonging to the Kaduna State security outfit, ‘Operation Yaki’, burnt.
When Daily Independent visited the station, one victim was found dead while others were said to have sustained various degrees of burns.
Miffed by the deteriorating state of security, Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, immediately declared a 24-hour curfew.
“In view of the incidents and the need to have complete normalcy and to forestall further breakdown of law and order, the state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew in the whole state,” Yakowa said.
A statement by the Governor’s spokesman, Reuben Buhari, further stated that, “Governor Yakowa condemns in its entirety the unfortunate bombing of three churches in Wusasa in Zaria Local Government, Sabon Gari LG and Trikania, Chikun Local Government, Kaduna State.
“His Excellency, while regretting the unfortunate incident, conveys his deepest condolence and sympathy to all those affected in the bombings.
“Government regrets the inconveniences this drastic measure (curfew) will cause to all and sundry. But the state government considers this to be necessary in order to avert further loss of lives and properties in the state and has directed the security agencies to enforce compliance.”
The apex northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), said the blast and violence that followed it were a “big surprise because this is coming in the wake of an offer of constructive engagement or dialogue by the Federal Government at the instance of well meaning Nigerians, including elders of North East geopolitical zone, which held a meeting in Bauchi last week.
“It is still the position of ACF that whatever may be the perceived grievances, it cannot be the justification for taking the lives of innocent people who are totally unaware of the nature of the grouse.
“More so, there is no religion which allows its adherents to kill innocent fellow human beings. In fact, all religions preach peace and love of neighbour.
“Therefore, ACF would not be tired of repeated calls on those who kill themselves and other people to stop such killings, and embrace the offer of dialogue by government as the only way of addressing any perceived grievance, however deep and wide, towards sustaining peace and national security.”
The statement was signed by ACF National Publicity Secretary, Anthony Sani.
It added: “The Forum also wishes to appeal to people not to take laws into their hands by way of reprisal attacks, precisely because any such reprisals would be misdirected at yet another set of innocent Nigerians who may have no links with the bombers.”
President Goodluck Jonathan expressed sadness over the bombings, describing the development as unfortunate. “I was particularly thrilled by what was going on in the church when I got the information that while we were there, there were explosions in Kaduna and since I don’t even know the casualty rate and what is happening I have been quite sad and I didn’t even want to say something,” he remarked in statement last night.
The President, however, said his consolation was in God, “The omnipotent, who is capable of handling every situation and healing the nation.” He solicited the support and prayers of every Nigerian for the peace of the nation and for the success of his administration.
Senate President, David Mark, described incessant bombings of churches as “a threat to the unity of our nation.”
He, therefore, pleaded that all necessary measures be put in place to halt the carnage.
Mark appealed to victims of the attacks not to engage in reprisals.
According to him, “Resorting to vengeance will demean your faith as the Lord has said vengeance is His. More so, reprisal attacks can only help the course of your attackers. I believe they want to ignite a religious war and threaten our national unity.
“Those who have turned places of worship as targets of bombings should know that they are fighting God and the Lord will surely at an appropriate time give His own judgement,” Mark said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, called for calm.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Imam Imam, Tambuwal noted that the reprisal attacks were unfortunate, as “attacking innocent people who know nothing about the blasts, in the name of reprisals, will worsen an already complicated situation.”
He emphasised “the need to disappoint the powers behind the crisis whose ultimate agenda was to see Nigeria thrown into war and anarchy.”
Tambuwal reiterated his calls on all groups to denounce violence, respect the sanctity of human life and address all perceived grievances through dialogue.
He also charged security operatives to be more alert and stay alive to their duty of protecting the lives of the citizenry.
“The security agencies must ensure that these targeted attacks are brought to an end henceforth, and at the same time apprehend those found culpable in past attacks.
“I wish to extend my condolence to the families of those who lost their lives. May the almighty God give them the fortitude to bear the loss,” the Speaker added.