8 June 2010

Nigeria: Fresh Riot Erupts in Jos

Jos — Another pandemonium broke out in Jos, Plateau State, yesterday when parts of the palace of Gbong Gwom Jos was razed by fire.

Two persons suspected to be policemen were feared dead and a number of people injured following an attempt by the state government to enforce the ban on commercial motorbikes, popularly known as Okada.

But the state Commissioner of Police Mr. Ikechukwu Adoba said he could not confirm the number of casualties as at press time.

Vehicles and other valuables including a church building were vandalized by protesters as the Okada riders engaged policemen and Vehicle Inspection Officers(VIOs) drafted to enforce the ban in a battle.

Following the riot, the policemen and VIOs beat a retreat when they were called back to the Government House for a meeting on how best to handle the situation.

THISDAY learnt the riot would have degenerated further but for the intervention of the military Special Task Force (STF).

Commercial activities came to a halt while people hurried from all directions towards their homes. There was heavy traffic congestion on the roads within the city.

Trouble began in the afternoon when the police and VIOs charged with implementing the ban began to arrest the okada riders. The riders had accused the government of deliberately trying to put them out of business. They resisted the ban, a development that degenerated into a riot.

The rioters protested along the 'C' Division Police station near the monarch's palace and set it on fire before the arrival of soldiers.

This will be the second time that the operators of commercial motorbikes are protesting the implementation of the ban. A combined team of mobile and regular policemen, VIOs, men of the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Civil Defense Corps had been drafted to enforce the ban.

The President of the Okada Riders Association Mallam Babangida Shehu who spoke with THISDAY said government did not call them for consultation and dialogue before taking action.

But it was gathered that his claim may not be true. The state government and the state House of Assembly it was learnt, had severally warned against breaking the ban.

Temporary peace has been restored. However, residents disappeared from the streets for fear of another crisis. Military men are patrolling the streets.

Residents of Jos have suffered disruption in their lives following the outbreak of ethnic and religious crisis in the past. Peace continues to elude the city for one reason or the other.

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