Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nigeria News Update: Death Toll Rises in Jos, Security Alert in Abuja

Death toll rises in Jos, security alert in Abuja

Monday, 27 December 2010 00:00
From Isa Abdulsalami (Jos), Francis Obinor, and Alex Olise (Lagos) News
Nigeria Guardian

Sambo cancels visit

Pope, AU, Sultan condemn attacks

Police experts comb Plateau for bombs

PEACE is yet to return to Jos, the Plateau State capital as clashes among armed youths from different ethnic and religious groups occurred in various parts of the metropolis yesterday.

Dead bodies of persons shot in the fresh violence, which broke out last Friday when bomb explosions rocked the state, littered the streets. The initial casualty figure from the Christmas’ eve blasts was put at six, which rose to 32 on Saturday as the combatants intensified their attacks. The police have confirmed that several others were injured in the renewed violence.

Also yesterday, sporadic shootings were heard in various parts of the metropolis as residents stayed indoor while those, who earlier came out for Sunday worship hurried home for safety.

There was confusion in Nasarawa Gwong and environs as residents ran into different directions. Security agencies were compelled to embark on a stop-and-search of people and vehicles.

The new dimension, which the violence took yesterday led to the last minute cancellation of the much-advertised visit of Vice President Namadi Sambo for on the on-the-spot assessment of the affected areas. Sambo allegedly sent a message that he was no longer coming to the state because of the “dangerous security reports” reaching him in Abuja.

The blasts that rocked Jos have forced the Federal Government to strengthen security in Abuja, the seat of power.

The spiritual head of Moslems in Nigeria and Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has condemned the Jos blasts, saying it spoke of leadership deficiency.

The FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, said the step was to forestall a spill over effect of the ugly incident to the nation’s capital.

He told reporters in Abuja that while the FCT had never taken the issue of security for granted, “an additional 1,000 informants have been deployed in different parts of the FCT while the Police and other security outfits have stepped up their surveillance over the territory.”

In a statement yesterday, Special Adviser to the Minister on Media, Nosike Ogbuenyi, said his boss, who described “FCT residents as very peaceful and accommodating,” warned troublemakers to steer clear Abuja.

The minister warned that nothing would be spared to ensure that “FCT preserves its enviable status as the safest spot in the country.” He listed some of the places where security had been strengthened as churches, mosques, markets, social spots and other public places. The Catholic Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, who denounced the Christmas Eve attacks on faithful in Nigeria, Pakistan and Philippines, condoled with the families of those who were killed by the attackers.

Similarly, the African Union Commission’s Chairman, Jean Ping, yesterday expressed shock and sadness at the explosions in Jos and church attacks in Maiduguri.

A group, the Movement for the Survival of Plateau People (MOSPP), which condemned the explosions in Jos, said the attack had again added “more pains to our sorrows in the hands of faceless murderers who have found a new job destroying the Plateau.

“For us, it is another tragedy and a terror on a nation. While we commend the efforts of the security agencies in the past few years in trying to contend with these terrorists, it is however evidently clear that not much successes have been recorded in averting these attacks. Security operatives at Nasarawa Gwong and Rikkos, which are regarded as flash points in Jos, ordered residents to keep off the road.”

It was learnt that there was a clash between the Christians and Muslim youths, which resulted in casualties. The number of victims was yet to be confirmed by the police but witnesses said they saw many dead on the streets.

When The Guardian visited some relatively calm communities, some houses were still up in flames, especially in Dogon Karfe. In fact, gunshots were heard from different directions possibly by security agents in their attempt to disperse the irate youths.

The fresh attacks, believed to be reprisals, continued unabated early yesterday in the metropolis with several people allegedly killed in Angwan Rukuba, Tina junction and Dutse Uku areas of Jos North Local Council.

The injured from last Friday’s blasts are receiving treatment at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) and Plateau Specialists Hospital.

Some youths, who defied the presence of members of the Special Task Force (STF), blocked the Bauchi Ring Road and attacked motorists on the highway.

Some buildings in Jos and environs, which were deserted by residents, were torched by the angry youths. The occupants had fled the areas for fear that the blasts that shook Angwan Rukuba and Gada Biyu on Christmas’ Eve might be extended to their communities.

Meanwhile, Governor Jonah Jang has reiterated his call on the Federal Government to ensure that those fomenting trouble in the state are arrested and prosecuted to bring succour to the residents who lost their loved ones.

The state Police Commissioner, Abdulrahman Akano, has insisted that the crises in the state are not religious but political.

According to him, unless the ownership of Jos North is addressed, the issue of peace would continue to elude the state.

Akano advised Christians to go about their religious activities without fear of being attacked as security had been beefed up around churches.

He said bomb experts would be sent to churches to comb the areas while STF operatives would complement the efforts of the police by providing security around the churches.

The Pope in a statement at a post-Christmas lunch for about 250 poor, denounced as “absurd” the new attacks on the faithful around the globe and underlined his rejection of gay marriage and abortion, stressing that every child deserves a mother and a father, who will love and welcome him or her as a gift.

“I express my heartfelt condolences to the victims of this absurd violence and once again repeat my appeal to abandon ways of hatred and find peaceful solutions to conflicts” so that people can live in peace and security, he said.

In a statement, MOSPP President-General, Hussein Adamu and Secretary, Mrs. Edna Yelwa, said: “We also share in the belief that the police, State Security Services (SSS), STF and other security agencies could have done better to avert these acts of terrorists including these latest bomb blasts in the state given the incessant interceptions of arms and explosives intended for Jos and the Plateau, at different parts of the country and outside.”

The Sultan of Sokoto described the bomb blasts as a national calamity.

He said the country must find a way to put a stop to the wanton destruction of lives, stressing that Jos, Plateau State has for sometimes now been in the news for the destruction of lives.

Speaking to reporters yesterday at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Alhaji Abubakar said: “ When the whole world is coming together and then we are busy getting innocent lives being lost, it a very unfortunate circumstance.

“We have spoken about this. All the political leaders have spoken and I think we must find a way to put an end to this. Let me call it national calamity. It is only in Jos where you have such incidence happening, but why are they happening? We must find out.

“So, I think we blame the political class for getting us to this stage because it was not like this before, but this has gotten bad”.

Asked why blame political leaders, the Sultan said: “It was because they are the leaders; if a leadership is good, the followership will be good. The leader should find related problems plaguing the society where we live. We, the religious leaders, we are doing our best, in fact we are addressing a press conference on Tuesday”.

He continued: “That is why I say the fault still revolves around leadership; a leader has so many opportunities for him to get to know whatever he wants to know, because he is not working alone; he has the men, he has the government under him, he has security agencies, he has the common man working with him. So, the whole thing revolves around very bad leadership”.

He however said that Friday’s incident was not religious, noting that when anything happens where Christians and Moslems are involved, people say it is religious.

“No. It is not religious, why is it not happening in Sokoto, why is it not happening in other places it is not religious? What happened in Port Harcourt, and among the Ogonis, if is not religious; whenever a Christian is involved in any fracas they will say it is religious. I think the earlier the journalists stop painting such issues as religious, I think the better for us”.

Adamu said in August 2010, a cache of 53 pieces of AK-47 rifles heading for Jos and the Plateau were intercepted by security in Maiduguri, Borno State. That was a few days to another huge arms import into the country from Iran by a faceless group, which was also cornered by security at the ports. He claimed that reports had indicated that the Iran arms import was indeed targeted for Jos.

“In the past one year, clandestine killings have been going on at different parts of the state resulting in several losses of lives while the security authorities in the state, the police and STF, lament that the locations the killers were carrying out their dastardly acts were always impenetrable ‘owing to the difficult terrains.’

“For us, it is highly condemnable for security agencies to bemoan their incapability in the face of threats like we have witnessed in Plateau State in the past one year. It is also amusing to learn that terrains, which are hitherto impenetrable to security agencies are made penetrable by the attackers.”

Adamu, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to take matters of security in Jos very seriously. “We call on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to take the security of life and property in Jos and the Plateau very close to his heart. “We only need a strong political will, as has been demonstrated by President Jonathan, to get to the roots of this Jos crisis and fish out the conspirators in this mayhem. It is not a coincidence that the terror against Jos and Plateau is rearing up at this season of political campaigns,” he said.

The Berom Youth Movement at a press conference on the development in the state, accused politicians of failing to address needs of the people and making the state ungovernable.

Its National President, Rev. Francis Dalyop Jamang, said the utterances of some political aspirants made them likely suspects “in the evil machinations unfolding in our dear state.”

He urged Nigerians to condemn these terrorists’ attacks and asked the Presidency to investigate the incident, and bring the suspects to book.

Already, operatives of the anti-bomb unit of the Nigeria Police and SSS have started investigations into the incident.

The probe was allegedly at the instance of the Presidency, which ordered the two agencies to do a thorough job.

A top police source told The Guardian that more anti-bomb experts had been sent from Lagos to join their counterparts in Jos to comb the state for more explosives.

Force Public Relations Officer (FPPRO) Olusola Amore told The Guardian that the Police High Command was on top of the situation and would do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to book.

More Casualties Recorded In Jos Bomb Blasts .

Sunday, 26 December 2010 03:42
Golu Timothy, David Odama, Abuja And Gonji Palang, Jos
Nigeria Leadership

It’s terrorism – Army Chief
We’ll bring culprits to book – Jonathan

The number of casualties from the multiple bomb explosions that rocked Jos, the Plateau State capital on the eve of Christmas has continued to increase following a mob protest by angry youths of Gada biyu community.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the aggrieved youths yesterday engaged in a violent protest and took to major roads. They were said to have barricaded roads, killing, vandalising and burning cars. Gada biyu is one of the communities affected by the blasts.

Given the enormity of the protest which lasted for hours, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika has described the bomb explosions as an act of terrorism. Ihejirika told newsmen in Port Harcourt that the bomb blasts were unfortunate incidents that have cajoled the military to enhance intelligence to prevent further bombings in the country.

To this effect, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said yesterday that the federal government will do its best to ensure that those behind Friday’s fatal bomb blasts in Jos are brought to book.

He expressed dismay at the explosions which killed many innocent Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, just as he sympathised with all families who lost loved ones in the incidents.

At Gada biyu, officials of the Federal Road Safety Corp, members of the Special Taskforce and the Red Cross were seen clearing corpses littered all over the road and in gutters.

Police Public relations officer in the state, Mohammed Lerama who confirmed the explosions however said the number of casualties from the multiple explosions are yet to be confirmed. He added that, the number will be made available to the press and the public as soon as the facts and figures are authenticated.

While reacting to the gory incident at a Christmas day audience with residents of the Federal Capital Territory led by Vice President Namadi Sambo, President Jonathan said, “Government will do everything possible to unearth those behind this unfortunate incident.”

Noting that the Christmas season should be one of peace and forgiveness in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, President Jonathan said that Nigerians must imbibe the spirit of tolerance and forgiveness for progress to be achieved in all parts of the country.

He thanked the delegation which included the Minister of Information and Communication Mr. Labaran Maku, Minister of Water Resources Mr. Obadiah Ando, Minister of FCT Alhaji Bala Mohammed, Minister of State for Power Mr. Nuhu Wya, the Senate Leader Chief Teslim Balogun and Senator Smart Adeyemi for the visit.

Earlier, Vice President Sambo prayed God to grant President Jonathan even greater strength and wisdom in the discharge of his responsibilities. He also prayed for a peaceful and successful election in 2011, as well as good health for the president and his family.

While reacting to yesterday’s incident in Jos, the Chief of Army Staff, Ihejirika said: “The series of bomb blasts which occurred yesterday night is very unfortunate. Nobody is taking it lightly and I believe by now Governor Jonah Jang and the Special Task Force commander and the GOC would have made some broadcasts to reassure the people that they are not alone.”

“I sympathise with all the victims and like I said sometime ago, all these challenges put us to task and what it means is that we have to enhance intelligence to be able to nip these problems before they occur,” he added

Meanwhile, Plateau state Governor, Jonah Jang said yesterday that the multiple bomb blasts was solely political, calling on the federal government to look into the crisis and bring the masterminds of the gruesome act to book, irrespective of their positions in society.

Addressing the two target communities, while visiting the scene of explosions, Governor Jang stated that at an emergency Security Council meeting he summoned following the attacks, the security chiefs reviewed the situation and noted that the attacks were carried out simultaneously with an aim to pitch Christians against Muslims and spark off another round of violence, to scuttle on-going electioneering activities.

According to Jang, victims of the attacks consist of Christians, Muslims and even pagans. “This sad and ugly development is most condemnable as its masterminds are merchants of violence who trade in human pain, anguish and shedding of blood; and have remained undeterred in the quest of reducing our dear state to one of anarchy”.

Jang who termed this year’s Christmas a black one, called on the people of the state to remain calm, peaceful and law abiding while security operatives are working to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators of the gory act.

“We should not despair as Plateau has an enviable heritage and a sure destiny; one in which we all have a stake. Thus we must remain committed to peace building and the peace process,” the governor said.

Reacting in a telephone interview, the force Public Relations Officer, Olusola Amore confirmed the incident and said the police was on top of the situation.

According to him, investigation into the incident has commenced, while those injured were being treated at some hospitals in Jos metropolis.

Amore, disclosed that a team of anti-riot and bomb disposal policemen have been dispatched to comb the state capital. He however said no arrest has been made.

Amore who assured indigenes of Plateau state and its environs of the protection of lives and property, however, warned that the police will employ all machineries at its disposal to avoid a repeat of the incident .

Unconfirmed reports yesterday revealed that over forty persons have so far lost their lives while several others are receiving treatment at various hospitals in Jos as a result of injuries sustained from the blasts.

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