4 December 2008

Nigeria: Catholic Archdiocese Report on Jos Conflict


On November 27, elections were held at the local government level across Plateau State. The day of the election was generally quiet and calm. Elections were held without any story of civil disturbances particularly in Jos North Local Government Area.

In the early hours of November 28, as the election results were being brought to the collation centre at RCM Primary School Kabong, it was said that some youths started mounting road blocks at Bauchi Road Area of Jos, alleging that the election into the Chairmanship seat of Jos North Local Government had been rigged.

The priest in charge of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Kabong, where the Primary School which served as the collation centre is located, said that there was commotion all through the night as residents did not sleep. Meanwhile, some supporters of the opposition political parties were roaming around the venue threatening that they would not accept the result of the election. Shortly after, there were reports of a confrontation between the youths of Kabong and the supporters of the opposition parties. The supporters of the opposition parties were said to have been chased away.

The Assistant Cathedral Administrator of Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral, Jos, said that while the Cathedral Administrator was celebrating morning mass, a group of youths started stoning the cathedral rectory and burning surrounding houses. The violence soon spread to Osumenyi Street and Angwan Dalyop where residents were sacked or killed and houses burnt. It was then that we saw smoke rising simultaneously from different parts of the city. It is important to note that this violence started even before the results of the elections were announced.

As the violence spread, security agents were not forthcoming. A lot of our parishes kept calling for help as they were under serious threat. By noon, however, security agents started coming into the city. Unfortunately, they were not enough to contain the conflagration as it spread rapidly to different parts of the city.

In the afternoon, the State Governor, Jonah Jang, made a state-wide broadcast in which he called for calm and also gave the security agents orders to shoot on sight anybody found perpetrating the violence. He also imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on Jos and its environs.

The situation remained tensed on November 29, even though the violence had reduced because of the presence of security agents. On Sunday, November 30, some parishes in Christian-dominated areas held Masses for the faithful amidst fear. A lot of Protestant churches and property were destroyed; some Protestant clergy were killed. We, in the Archdiocese of Jos, recorded losses in terms of the killing of some of our parishioners, the destruction of homes and property and the destruction of some our churches.

We cannot say exactly the cause of the conflict because it was very surprising to us. But judging from the way it was executed, we believe it was pre-meditated.

Losses incurred by archdiocese

1. St. Kevin Parish Angwan Rogo: (a) St John Catholic Church Ubiel (outstation) was burnt and 3 Catholic youth killed. Most of the Church members are displaced and now in the university quarters; (b) The main church in Angwan Rogo was vandalized; (c) Catechist John Musa was shot and is now hospitalized; (d) St. John Bosco Church, Rigiza, 4 people were murdered; (e) There are so many displaced people from the different part of the parish.

2. St. Gabriel Catholic Church, Rikkos: (a) The Church Council Chairman and one other member have been confirmed killed; (b) There are so many Christian houses burnt and the people displaced to Lamingo and the NDLEA Barracks for refuge, thus the need for urgent response in food supply.

3. St. Michael's Parish Nassarawa Gwong: (a) 3 Catholics killed; (b) Many houses burnt and more than 2,500 people displaced, now in the parish compound.

4. Augustinian Monastery, Laranto Jos: (a) Two domestic staff quarters destroyed; (b) Two residential quarters for priests looted; (c) Poultry project with 700 birds looted; (d) Workshop looted; (e) Five round huts (cells) vandalized; (f) An office, a bookshop and 3 other separate rooms smashed and vandalized; (g) Protective walls pulled down in 3 different places.

5. Church of Immaculate Conception Zaramaganda: While it is difficult to assess human and material losses now, the situation has greatly affected the number of worshippers at the Masses. However, the presbytery, the premises and the immediate surrounding are relatively safe. Our local scouts and cadets are on patrol.

6. Good Shepherd Chaplaincy, University of Jos: (a.) A lot of students' residences outside the campus attacked. We cannot be sure how many were killed, since many of them live in Muslims dominated areas; (b) The major problem is the number of displaced students, almost a thousand, majority of whom are still taking refuge in the campus. There is a serious food problem and how to get transport fare for these students to get out of Jos North with the necessary security.

7. Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral, Jos: (a) The glasses of the windows of the fathers' house and Cathedral were broken; (b.) About 450 displaced persons, 30 injured people in hospitals and homes, 4 deaths and 58 burnt houses.

8. St. Augustine's Major Seminary: (a) Over 60 displaced people in the school compound; (b) Part of the fence pulled down and there is still a menacing presence of Muslim youths. Many shops, houses and property belonging to Christians in the neighbourhood were burnt and unidentified persons killed or burnt.

9. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Gada Biu, Kabong: (a) There are more than 200 displaced persons scattered all over the houses of our parishioners, thus, the need for relief material like food and water.

Internally Displaced Persons

The Justice Development and Peace commission of the Archdiocese of Jos and the Nigerian Red Cross did emergency assessments from Friday, November 28 to December 1 and found 20 camps with 28,063 displaced persons.

Injured persons

A trip round some hospitals such as Juth, Plateau Hospital and others in Jos indicate that over 148 people are currently receiving treatment. There are many others in various camps that need urgent medical attention.

Immediate needs

From the assessment carried out, the immediate needs of these displaced persons include: medical attention, sanitary/hygiene facilities, food and non-food items, water and clothing/beddings.

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