Sunday, 24 April 2011


A burnt building is seen at the main city entrance, a day after election riots, in the Kaduna metropolis in northern Nigeria April 19, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

Unless there are people who believe that guns are used to create lawns, the April 18 sectarian riot in the ancient city of Kano cannot, by any measure, pass off as an accident. It was one crisis whose signs was everywhere.
Before the ill-fated day, a number of inciting text messages was making the rounds. Also, there was this false sense of victory already imparted on the members of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which suggested danger in the event that Buhari fails.

But the worst of them all was the philosophy of the CPC as a party. Some of the statements linked to the party at some of its rallies in the last few months lacked nobility, especially the ones that urged their supporters to make sure they monitor their votes, to follow officials until their votes are counted and to defend their votes against any attempt to rig them out by any means.

The spreading wildfire revolution raging across the Arab world has become a reference point for many a Muslim community in the state, with its attending ugly influence on the rioters. Many of them saw their unguarded exploit over the years in this light, especially given that the same protest had already began in a number of states in Northern Nigeria – Gombe, Katsina, Bauchi, Sokoto, and Kaduna states.
But it was the existing lack of love between Christians and Muslims, between the host community and their visitors, in their various small group interactions and social competitions that fuelled the conflict the more. It was, therefore, not surprising, that Kano became a hotbed as soon as the fire was ignited.

The day broke like any other
In more ways than one, the sectarian tsunami that rocked the ancient city of Kano this time was a clear departure from the tradition of riots in the state. It started off as a political protest, but soon became a religious and ethnic uprising, thus creating a rational disconnect between its cause(s) and the nature of its implementation.
By 9:30 a.m. on that Monday morning (April 18), virtually the entire city was on fire. About 15 to 20 different locations were simultaneously under siege.

Suddenly, the skyline was coloured with roaring smokes. Hundreds of angry youths, aged between 18 and 27, poured into the streets, chanting war and religious songs, wielding dangerous weapons such as axes, clubs, knives and guns, attacking innocent persons and vandalizing targeted vehicles.

Nowhere was sacred, and that included the revered palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. By the time the angry youths were done, cars in the royal compound were in flames. They moved on to the house of the Galadiman Kano, who is a perceived godfather of the Vice President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, and set it on fire. His sins? He worked for the victory of the Dr. GoodLuck Jonathan and Nnmadi Sambo ticket against the interest of General  Mohammadu Buhari. The palatial home of the former Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba, was not spared too. So is the home of the Head of Media, Jonathan /Sambo Presidential Campaign Council, Alhaji Abba Dabo.

Others who saw the ugly tide of the youths were the governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, as they wreaked havoc on Bamaila Aluminum in Sharada Industrial Area. The company is believed to belong to the governor. A former presidential aspirant of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa, was not spared. His two houses, including several cars parked inside the compounds, were torched by the rioters. The same goes for the Director-General of the Presidential Campaign Council, Kano State, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, whose company on Hadejia road was vandalized.

The rioters then moved to the Government House and attempted to replicate their mischief, but were repelled by the security arrangement they met on ground. They moved back into the streets, harming anybody that may not have voted for General Mohammadu Buhari or who is not a Muslim.
Rioters high on drugs

Nobody can say precisely how many died in the riot, but there is an agreement that the killings were premeditated, swift, and cold. Many persons, some of whom had spent the night waiting for the results of the presidential poll, woke up to the sight of rioters gushing through the streets like a broken dam. The scenario was the same in Badawa, Hotoro, Kurna, Dakata, Zango, Shuwashi, Kawo, Sharada, Panshekara, among others. The army of arsonists chanted:  “Sai Buhari” (We want Buhari to rule Nigeria ) and Sai Mai Sallah (We want a Muslim to rule Nigeria ).
The irate youths, according to some eye-witnesses, killed and injured as many people as they could. Many were left with broken heads and knife cuts.

Not that the marauders suffered no loss; some of them suffered gunshot wounds from security agencies. A number of gunshot injuries were reported at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital and Mallam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in the state. A security agent told Sunday Sun that it was like the rioters were high on marijuana or narcotics.
Several churches located in the troubled areas were equally burnt to ashes by the rioters in places like Zaria Road area /Urgwan Ugwu, Badawa, Dakata and Zango, Badawa, among others. In fact, there is hardly a denomination that did not suffer the loss of one of their churches.
For Instance, the Kano Area Superintendent of the Apostolic Church, Pastor Felix Okunnola Olotu, disclosed that eight of their churches sited in Naibawa, Zango Dakata, Dambatta, Jogana, Jahun in Jigawa State, Azare in Bauchi State were completely burnt down by the rioters.

We hid in ceilings until soldiers rescued us –Corps members
Two reasons made members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the state one of the prime targets of the rioters. They were generally seen as Christians and non-natives. Besides, they were the ones who conducted the polls and were, therefore, complicit in the returning of Dr. Jonathan Goodluck as the President of Nigeria. Ronke (surname withheld), an indigene of Lagos State, was at the NYSC secretariat to with others perform some official task when the rioters swooped on them. She told the Sunday Sun in the church where she was hiding that, “It was really a frightening experience that left us in shock and dismay. We were about 30 or more corps members as well as the NYSC staffers when they came for us. I was so afraid I almost fainted. I thought I was going to die. We thought they were going to scale the fence and kill us all.

“By this time, the state coordinator, Mallam Lawal Zariya, had ordered the gates of the building shut. He proceeded to call for help from security personnel,” she added.
She went further, “Outside, the demonstrators were shouting and for about an hour they threw stones into the building complex until the solders came and evacuated all of us to their barracks at Jankuza. That was where we stayed until things calmed down a bit and then some of us moved to our churches.”
Apart from this incident, there were other attempts at the corps members. At Hotoro area, a few corps members claimed they had to hide in building ceilings when their homes were attacked. One of them told Sunday Sun how they hid in the ceilings to beat the rioters, holding on to the rafters until the police from Hotoro division came to their rescue.

At present, most of the corps members, who could afford to fly out, are already out of the state. Others who could not afford to pay for their flights are so afraid to go back to the villages and towns of their primary assignments. They would not go outside their churches, no matter the persuasion. This is a new threat to the gubernatorial polls billed for Tuesday in the state, as INEC may have to check for a new line of ad-hoc staffers.

Rioters invaded Federal College of Education female hostel
Several sources told the Sunday Sun that the rioters were hard on Christian female students of the Federal College of Education, Kano. According to eye-witness accounts, the students were about to sit for examination on that Monday morning. Many were already weary from burning the midnight candle when suddenly news of the disturbance flooded the female hostels.

This was quickly followed by a big confusion at the school’s gate. Before long, the gates were pulled down like the walls of Jericho and the rioters plunged into the school compound and went straight to the girls’ hostel. Some of the rioters scaled the fence of the hostel to enter the compound. Sources said one of the victims shut her door and hid herself under her bed while the invasion lasted. The intervention of the matron of the school, who rallied round to plead with the demonstrators fell on deaf, angry ears. It took the arrival of the male students of the college for the rioters to disperse.

Refugees squatted with prostitutes for a fee
As the catastrophe raged, hundreds and thousands of non-indigenes, especially the Christians, fled to nearby security areas for safety. Like in war-torn cities, sights of mothers and young innocent children, with heaps of loads on their heads and backs, scampering for safety became the norm. With pains and despair written all over them, they marched on, trekking long, tortuous and frightful distances to Sabon Gari area in search of safety.

Many of them found refuge at the police and army barracks in the state. They are currently staying at the Bompai Police Barracks, Sabon Gari Division Police Barracks, Hotoro Division Police Barracks, Challawa Police Barrackd, Janguza and Bukavu Military Barracks, among others.
As the night drew nearer, the challenges of their joyous escape earlier in the day began to give way to fear and nightmare. Many had rushed out without a dime or extra clothes. Many were ill. Hunger and despair roared through the night like the devil.

Some of the escapees were accommodated at hotels, but they paid through their noses to get there. Some were accommodated by relatives in the area, but had to sleep six-in-a-room. Yet, there were those who had nowhere to go and no money to pay for a hotel room. As the night crept in, and solders flogged curfew breakers, many victims had no option but to squat with prostitutes for a fee.

Christian Association of Nigeria/leaders of ethnic communities react

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kano State chapter, felt very strongly about the riots and condemned its perpetrators in very strong terms. Chairman of CAN in the state, Bishop Ransom. S. Bello, described the riot as “a totally barbaric act that had a retrogressive intention”. Speaking to the Sunday Sun, Bishop Bello, who said he was yet to get the official figures of the number of Christians killed by the rioters, expressed sadness over the tragedy, adding that the central body of the CAN will come up with a joint position on the riots that ran through the northern parts of the country.

He observed that efforts were on to address the challenges faced by distressed persons seeking refuge at various locations in the state, even as he appealed to those leaving the state on account of the riot to reconsider their moves.

In the same vein, the Kano Area Apostolic Church (Lawan Territory) confirmed the killing of one of the rioters, adding that 15 children whose parents were members of thechurch are currently missing.
The church also said its members lost hundreds of millions of naira to the riot even as they urged the Federal Government to take steps to ensure that those who want to go home are safely returned back to their fatherland. Other interest groups have also reacted to the riot. Leaders of ethnic communities resident in the state claimed that over 30 non-natives in the state were killed in the course of the riot.

They urged President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately set up a panel of enquiry to fish out its sponsors.
The association cautioned that the unpleasant living condition of over 15,000 refugees roaming the streets of Sabon Gari and the military/police barracks demands quick humanitarian relief.

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