29 November 2008

Nigeria: Dozens Killed in Jos LG Election Riot

Jos And Chinwe Ochu in Abuja — Dozens of people were feared dead yesterday owing to skirmishes in the Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State over the result of the council polls widely believed to have been won by the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Barrister Timothy Gyang Buba.

Unconfirmed reports said the clashes between rival political gangs started late on Thursday leading to the death of several people in the city.

To stem violence and rising death toll, the state government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew starting at 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the city, with the federal government expressing concern and condemning the incident in totality.

Two serving generals in the Nigerian Army, Major General Nick Agbogun and Brigadier General U.J. Uwurgbe, who arrived the city from the Chief of Army Staff conference in Bauchi State were shot at in a cross fire between political thugs who took over the streets of the city.

Eight students of the University of Jos, a policeman and a government house driver from Bauchi State were also feared killed in the riot.

Eyewitnesses said supporters of the All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP) allegedly became violent following speculations that their candidate, whom they said was leading the PDP candidate, was about to be "declared the loser."

The ANPP protesters said they were not fighting people but fighting government "because of their action." The results of the elections were still being collated when the crisis broke out.

Agency reports said youths with machetes hacked to death a policeman and burned tyres in one part of the city. Several mosques and churches were also reported to have been set ablaze.

Plumes of thick black smoke rose up over the Akpata neighbourhood. Some residents said several homes and shops were also set ablaze.

Declaring a dusk to dawn curfew, the state governor, Mr. Jonah David Jang, in a state wide broadcast said the problem was restricted to Jos city only

He said, "A few hours after the close of the election, a group of thugs took the law into their hands by attacking residents and destroying houses and property in some parts of Jos.

"The state's Security Council met to the early hours of this morning (yesterday) and directed the police to respond accordingly. I wish to warn that any further disruption of the peace will be met with drastic sanctions. The security details are under instruction to return fire-for-fire from any person or group disrupting the peace".

As at the time of this report, police patrol vehicles were seen evacuating some dead bodies from the streets, raising fears that many more bodies were yet to be recovered.

The Plateau State Police public relations officer, Mr. Bala Kassim confirmed that one police officer was killed in the violence.

Bodies of people killed during the violence were deposited at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH. About 50 injured people were also seen at JUTH.

Hundreds of residents of Jos North Local Government Area were said to have taken refuge at the MaxWell Khobe Cantonment, Rukuba Barracks in Bassa Local Government Area.

Reacting to the incident, the federal government assured residents of Jos North of "prompt intervention."

Minister of Information and Communication, Mr. John Odey, while receiving members of the House of Representatives Committee on Information in his office, said the government regarded the Jos violence as a ploy to undermine its reform programmes.

He said: "The federal government is sad and concerned about the violence in Jos Plateau State which has led to the loss of lives and property over the conduct of the on-going local government elections.

"The government views the violence trailing the election as unfortunate and a ploy to undermine the reform programme of the administration. The president is sad; the federal government is concerned about lives and property in the state as well as in other states of the federation.

"It is necessary for politicians as well as the electorate to appreciate the importance of working together and ensuring absolute peace, without which there can be no development. We urge security agencies in the state to bring the situation under control as quickly as possible."

Also, the president's Special Adviser on Communications, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi gave assurances that "The president is on top of the situation having been fully briefed on the phone by the governor."

He added that the president has met with relevant security chiefs after which he directed that the military be deployed to the affected areas to curb the crisis.

"The president feels very sad about the violence and all the relevant government agencies have been placed on alert to take care of the injured and displaced people."

Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum has appealled to the warring parties to sheathe their swords and allow peace to rein in the interest of peaceful coexistence and core values of humanity that are sine qua non for the pursuit of liberty, justice, worship and prosperity.

The ACF through an e-mail forwarded by it national publicity secretary, Mr. Anthony N. Z. Sani said Nigeria has in place enough judicial mechanisms for peaceful resolutions of perceived injustices, to which all aggrieved citizens are expected to address their grievances, rather than resort to taking the law into their hands.

"Differences in ethnicity, of faiths and in party platforms or ideology are facts of this nation's reality. What is required of every law-abiding citizen is for him/her to accept the reality of one united Nigeria in diversity: love it and make the most of the diversity's possible good," the forum stated.

ACF sent out it condolences to all the families who lost their loved ones and properties, or got wounded, in the course of the skirmishes.

It appealed to the people of Jos to allow the spirit of forgiveness to prevail, as enjoined by God/Allah "who has the capacity to replace the losses many fold."

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