This Day (Lagos)

18 June 2012

Nigeria: Another Black Sunday

For a while, it looked like the dreaded Armageddon had come. The unusual cool morning of Kaduna city soon erupted in chaos and violence. In no time, the city with a history of ethno-religious violence had turned wild and dangerous again. The combatants were delineated along ethno-religious camps. The rage was spontaneous, an involuntary reaction to the coordinated bomb attacks on three churches in the state.

Two of the attacks - Christ the King Catholic Church, and Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) - took place in Sabon-Gari and Wusasa areas respectively in Zaria, a major city in the southern part of the state. The third church attacked was Sharon International Pentecostal Church located at Trikaniya area of Kaduna, the state capital. It was a commotion that blighted the resplendent atmosphere, as the city almost tipped over in what would have turned into a major crisis in the state, but for the timely intervention of law enforcement agencies.

The attacks yesterday would be the third in two months directed at churches in Kaduna. Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) as well as All Nations Christian Assembly had been attacked earlier. The latter was attacked on Easter Sunday killing over 20 persons, even though the bombers could not quite penetrate the church premises.

The attacks again Sunday, sparked protests among Christian youths from the southern part of the Kaduna metropolis, mainly dominated by Christians who felt their quietude had been taken for granted and perceived as a sign of weakness by members of the Islamic Boko Haram sect, which has been launching all the attacks on Christian places of worship in many parts of the North.

In one united force and resolve, they rose yesterday, ditching the Christian injunction that "our weapons are not carnal." They picked sticks and cudgels, marched on the city, brimming with ire, blocked major road arteries, set bonfires, and in no time, the skyline of the city had been darkened by the thick billowing smoke of burning tyres.

Chanting war songs, the youths from Trikaniya, Sabon-Tasha, Television, Narayi, Gonin-Gora and other suburbs, mounted road blocks on the roads leading to their areas, as they visited their anger on Hausa Muslims caught up in the unfortunate incident.

Several Hausa Muslim commercial motorcycle operators, otherwise called Okada riders, were attacked by the angry mob while some vehicles were vandalised. The news of the mayhem soon spread across the city, forcing many churches, which were conducting second services, to abruptly bring their services to a close, to enable worshippers to hurry home by every means possible.

Worshippers ran out of the churches only to find that the city had been deserted. Commercial vehicles plying the southern part of the city had parked their vehicles and fled. Many were stranded amidst the anxiety for their safety. Some were lucky to get a ride from sympathetic private car owners who were also scurrying back home while several others, including women and children, were seen running to their destinations.

Those who had cars drove back to their homes at neck break speed. The pandemonium was overwhelming.

THISDAY correspondent who attempted to visit the scene of the incident in Trikaniya was swiftly turned back by the irate youths in the area even after identifying himself. An air force helicopter hovered over the city as armed police and military patrol vans sped through major streets of the town, warning trouble makers to stay off the streets.

"Enough is enough of the bombing of our churches. We will no longer tolerate these murderers. We have been pushed to the wall and we have no choice than to defend ourselves and our faith. Every Friday, they go to their mosques and even block roads to pray without anyone attacking them.

"The Federal Government and the security agencies have failed us. No responsible government will tolerate this rubbish. Please go and write in your newspaper and tell the government and these (expletive) who take delight in attacking us in our churches that we are equal to the task.

"What is going on is pure madness and we must stop it. From now on, we will no longer tolerate the bombing of our churches and the killing of Christians.

"If those who are in authority want this country to remain one, then they must stand up against Boko Haram. We are tired of cheap talk without action. From now on we are ready for them," declared the spokesman of the protesting youths in Sabon-Tasha area who refused to disclose his name.

An emergency security meeting presided by the Kaduna State government was summoned and a 24-hour curfew imposed on the state to save the situation from degenerating further. Governor Patrick Yakowa in a statement signed by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Reuben Buhari, regretted the bombing of the three churches, saying it was unfortunate.

According to the statement, "His Excellency, while regretting the unfortunate incident conveys his deepest condolence and sympathy to all those affected in the bombing. In view of the incidents and the need to have complete normalcy and forestall a further breakdown of law and order, the state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew on the whole state. The curfew hours start with immediate effect until further notice.

"Government regrets the inconveniences this drastic measure will cause to all and sundry. But the state government considers this necessary in order to avert further loss of lives and property in the state. The state government has directed the security agencies to enforce compliance."

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