Daily Trust (Abuja)

24 November 2012

Nigeria: How Alleged Blasphemy Sparked Riot in Bichi

About a hundred non-Muslims were taking refuge at the premises of the police division in Bichi Local Government Area of Kano State yesterday following a deadly religious violence that broke out Thursday in the town located about 30 kilometres from Kano city.

Among the people seeking shelter at the police division were women and children. Some of them said they have lost all they had to the riot that started on Thursday morning after an Igbo tailor has inadvertently made a pronouncement that 'miscreants' misinterpreted to mean a deliberate blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

The tailor, whose name was simply given as Chibuke - now rumoured to have been killed - was said to have wrongly pronounced the name for a popular outfit (Na Annabi ya zo kasuwa), while chatting with a business associate.

Weekly Trust gathered that some youths who were present at the place, went into town alerting people that the tailor has blasphemed the Prophet of Islam, which instantly resulted in a violent protest.

Demonstrators, who were armed with cutlasses, knives and other dangerous weapons, went round the town in groups, attacking non-Hausas and destroying their property.

Witnesses claimed that about four persons were killed, including the Chibuke, who was said to be the first to have been macheted to death.

Hospital sources disclosed that two burnt bodies were deposited at the General Hospital, Bichi, while residents said another person was also killed on the road leading to the Federal College Education (FCE) Bichi.

Also affected by the riots were several shops, churches and valuables belonging to non-Muslims.

The crisis was brought under control with the deployment of dozens of police and military personnel, Weekly Trust learnt.

One of the victims taking refuge at the police station, said he has spent 35 years in Bichi, adding that he has neither heard nor experienced attack on non-Hausas, until the one of Thursday morning.

Samuel, who was addressing the district head of Bichi and other members of the local government security committee who paid them a visit, said even when religious riots broke out in other parts of the state or the country, the people of Bichi had never targeted non-Muslims in their midst.

Describing the situation as an act of God, Samuel assured that the violence would not send them packing from the town, as they have understood that it was the undoing of few elements in the society.

He, therefore, called on government at all levels to provide adequate security for the non-indigenes.

Another victim disclosed that all his belongings were set ablaze by the rioters. "I have only this clothe I'm wearing left," he stated. "I only managed to bring myself to the station unhurt, but I later found out that all my property, at home and in my shop have been razed," he complained.

Other victims also explained that the protestors went about bringing their property out of their houses before setting them on fire. Others, it was gathered, hid themselves in roofs to avoid being killed.

Addressing the victims, district head of Bichi Alhaji Idris Bayero, urged them to regard the attack as an act by some hoodlums for their own selfish interest and not representing the position of the people of the town or the ones in Kano.

While condemning the act, the traditional ruler pointed that the perpetrators did not act in the name of Islam or Muslims, stressing that what they did was unIslamic, barbaric and reprehensible.

According to him, the generality of the people in the town were happy with their presence and that nobody was happy with the crisis which targeted them.

Also, the district head described as erroneous some news reports which he said were carried by international media purporting that the tailor was wearing an outfit with blasphemous inscription on it. "That was not what happened," he said, explaining that the problem started with misrepresentation of his name of the outfit.

Similarly, both the Interim Management Officer of the council, Alhaji Abdulhadi Aliyu Kachako and the state assembly member representing Bichi constituency, Alhaji Hamza Sule Maifata, promised to ensure that no such attack happens again in the town.

They also advised them to return to their homes, as adequate security has been put in place to safeguard their lives and property.

Our correspondent, who went round parts of the town, reported that riot policemen were stationed at various places in the area.

However, burnt items dotted facades of many shops in the area, while the main road traversing the town also had tyre burns at various points.

Meanwhile, the Kano State Police Command yesterday in a statement said two persons were killed, while 22 suspects were arrested.

The statement, which was issued by its spokesperson, ASP Musa Magaji Majiya, said the crisis was ignited by "disgruntled elements who do not wish the state well."

Majiya said seven Churches, eight shops and one house were set on fire in the crisis, noting, however ,that two people were injured.

"Normalcy has already been restored at Bichi, people are going about their normal business without any hindrance as Patrol has been intensified," he said.

"Furthermore, the Command will not relent in its effort to investigate the root of the inferno and whoever is involved would be arrested to face the wrath of the law accordingly. People should continue to live in peace and pay due respect to each other's way of life without any form of provocation, please."

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