Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nigerian Election Update: Violence Erupts As INEC Declares Jonathan Winner

Violence Erupts As INEC Declares Jonathan Winner

Tuesday, 19 April 2011 02:37
Our Correspondents
Nigerian Leadership

• CPC, ACN reject results
• 80 feared dead in clashes
• Sambo, Yakowa, Na’Abba’s houses burnt
• Palaces of Sultan, Emirs of Kano, Zaria hit
• Buhari’s convoy attacked, as he condemns attack on churches; says problem not ethnic or religious
• My victory belongs to Nigerians – Jonathan
• Curfew in Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe

Violence erupted yesterday in at least six states in the northern part of the country as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, formally declared President Goodluck Jonathan winner of last Saturday’s presidential election. According to Jega, Jonathan won the election by scoring a total of 22,495,187 votes and 25 per cent of the votes cast in 31 states.

Jonathan, in his “no victor, no vanquished” broadcast to the country, said his success at the polls was a victory for the Nigerian people. He said his government would be committed to justice, equity and fairness.

Reacting to the pocket of violence recorded in some states in the lead-up to the result announcement, Jonathan described the violence as “unnecessary”. He extended a hand of fellowship to the three frontline candidates - CPC’s General Muhammadu Buhari, ACN’s Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and ANPP’s Ibrahim Shekarau.

With the conduct of the elections so far, Jonathan said Nigeria has showed the world that she was capable of holding free and fair elections. He urged Nigerians to embrace the remaining elections with the same enthusiasm with which they met the two concluded polls.

He thanked foreign countries and their election observers for the goodwill extended to Nigeria during the elections.

The violence that greeted the announcement saw irate youths burning the houses of Vice-president Namadi Sambo, Kaduna State governor Patrick Yakowa, and the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Ábba. The palace of the emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, was attacked and a number of cars damaged. In Sokoto, some youths also threatened to burn down the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar III.

Unconfirmed reports said about 30 people lost their lives to the protest in Kano alone. As the spate of violence spread yesterday, the convoy of three cars belonging to the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, was attacked at Jaji, Kaduna State. Buhari was not in the convoy as he had returned to Abuja by air. His security details who were in the cars were returning to Kaduna from Daura with a view to joining him in Abuja. His wife who was in a different car was also attacked at Jaji. She returned to Daura unharmed.

Buhari has condemned the attack on churches, stressing that the crisis was not ethnic, religious or regional.

Defence Headquarters and the Nigeria Police Force responded to the violence by warning those protesting the outcome of the presidential poll to retrace their steps or face strong action from the nation’s security agencies.

The palace of the Sultan of Sokoto nearly came under attack as irate youths stormed the palace, threatening to raze it down.

Deployment of troops to the palace saved the day.

Speaking at the Defence Headquarters yesterday, the director, defence information (DDI), Col. Mohammed Yerima, said the military would not fold its hands and watch those he referred to as misguided individuals cause public disturbance and unrest in the country.

While restating the military’s stand to assist the police to maintain law and order, Col. Yerima reaffirmed the military’s loyalty to democratic governance. He warned parents and guardians to caution their children and wards.

“We wish to state that it is the responsibility of the Nigerian armed forces to assist the civil police to restore law and order in the face of any threat to our national security and we do not wish to shirk this responsibility.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday implored General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and other presidential candidates who contested in last Saturday’s presidential election to call their supporters to order in the ongoing violence resulting from the poll.

Jonathan plea followed violence said to be fuelled by suspected supporters of the CPC in Nasarawa State yesterday afternoon, bringing all economic activities in areas like Massaka, Ado, Mararaba and some parts of Nyanya, an FCT satellite town, to a halt for over three hours.

In a statement signed by him, the president said those involved should stop what he described as “unnecessary and avoidable conduct” at a time when a lot of sacrifice had been made by Nigerians in ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday reads: “My dear countrymen and women, I have received with great sadness the news of sporadic unrest in some parts of the country which are not unconnected with last Saturday’s elections.

“All of us are further encouraged by the comments of the independent election monitors and observers both domestic and international on how transparent and credible the elections have been so far.

“Therefore, it is with the deepest sense of responsibility that I call on all our political leaders especially the contestants to appeal to their supporters to stop further violence in the interest of stability, peace and wellbeing of this great country.

“We must not allow for the loss of any life and as I have always said, no one’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. Please remain calm, law abiding and patriotic at this very crucial moment of our history. Thank you and God Bless Nigeria”.

The inspector-general of Police, Hafiz Ringim, has warned perpetrators of violence that the police would come down hard on them.

Businesses in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) yesterday came to a standstill as most markets, public and private organisations were deserted following rumours of possible bomb explosion and violent protest by the opposition, even as the police command put its officers on red alert, deploying over 4, 000.

The civil disturbance was said to have infiltrated parts of the FCT from neigbouring Nassarawa and Niger states necessitating a joint patrol of police, military, the State Security Service and other security agencies.

The police commissioner on election duty in the territory had summoned religious, traditional and party leaders to prevail on their supporters and adherents to allow peace reign and be law abiding.

Protesters also stormed the Sultan of Sokoto’s palace attempting to raze the edifice.

LEADERSHIP sources said the irate youths attempted to spark another riot in an attempt to cause commotion in the popular “Emir Yahaya,” the commercial nerve centre of the city which is mostly dominated by Igbo communities in the state.

However, the hoodlums were alleging that it was with the connivance of the Sultan that the ruling PDP was able get 35 per cent of the total votes cast in the state.

As at press time, thousands of irate youth had converged a few meters to the Sultanate Council threatening to set ablaze the palace.

Our correspondent gathered that heavy security personnel were drafted to the scene.

Meanwhile, the Sokoto State commissioner of police, Mr Segun Solomon, yesterday confirmed the arrest of 39 suspected thugs who carried out attacks on strategic locations in an attempt to loot property and shops in the state.

In Bauchi State, at least 10 people were wounded when irate youths yesterday unleashed their anger over the results of last weekend’s presidential election in Bauchi state. Their action paralysed commercial activities, forcing the state government to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The wounded youth were taken to the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital in Bauchi. The youths, believed to be supporters of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), took to the streets setting tyres and other things on fire, with people running helter-skelter for their lives. There were also reports of renewed violence in Azare, Jama’are and Misau while the state governor, Isa Yuguda, has called for peace and caution among the people.

The irate youths had set up bonfire, around Kobi, Nassarawa and Wunti streets while sounds of gunshots were heard sporadically within the metropolis as at dispersing the youths who were advancing towards the INEC office which is heavily guarded by armed security men including stern-looking Soldiers.

Reports have it that a structure around Bakaro Street, within Bauchi metropolis, belonging to the minister of FCT, Bala Mohammed Duguri, was completely burnt down while other houses belonging to PDP stalwarts in the state were targeted for destruction.

Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, also erupted in violence as the results of the presidential election were announced in Jalingo in favour of the PDP. The youth in their thousands trooped to streets of the town, harassing innocent citizens with machetes and cutlasses and heading toward the main market.

Also in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, irate youths yesterday poured onto the streets, protesting the presidential election result in the state.

The youths in their hundreds carried placards chanting songs of redemption as they went round the major streets of Lafia, especially the road linking the Emir’s palace and Makurdi Road, removing posters of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The protest led to the closure of shops and market stalls for fear of hoodlums taking advantage of the situation to loot.

The state security operatives who swung into action tactically ignored the protesters after clearing the major roads leading to the Emir’s palace using tear gas.

When contacted, the state police public telations officer, Richard Akoji, told LEADERSHIP that everything had been brought under control, while calling on citizens to go about their normal businesses.

Following riots that broke out yesterday, Kaduna State government has imposed a 24-hour curfew in the state.

Addressing journalists in Government House, Kaduna State commissioner of information Saidu Adamu said.

“This situation, if left unchecked could lead to total breakdown of law and order. This is generating tension in some parts of the state and, in order to contain these security challenges, and following the advice of the Security Council, I have found it necessary to immediately place a 24-hour curfew restricting all forms of movement across the state. The security agencies have been directed to enforce this decision in order to protect the lives and properties of all law-abiding citizens of our dear state.”

In Jos, Plateau State, the military Special Task Force (STF) has provided military protection around Jos and Bukuru following reported outbreak of violence in some states in the northern part of the country.

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