Christian-Muslim election riots kill 400 in Nigeria and reports surface of hundreds of mass burial.


Plateau: December 1, 2008. Three hundred and seventy-six bodies said to be victims of Jos violence at the weekend were given a mass burial.

The burial held on the same day the Federal Government deployed more troops in the trouble spot, and fears were expressed over the starvation being faced by about 4,000 persons that have been displaced by the crisis. But the Plateau State government allayed fears that a state of emergency could be declared to restore peace to the state. The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Nuhu Gagara, said yesterday at a press conference, that some people were asking the Presidency to declare a state of emergency but the Presidency would not yield to the pressure, especially as the state governor was not folding his arms and in fact was on top of the situation. The commissioner also allayed fears that the crisis might spread to other states of the federation. "People feel that because the crisis in the past spread to other states, so this crisis must follow suit. It is not. The situation is already being contained. The Presidency has sent the Chief of Army Staff. Lt.-Gen. Abdulraham Bello Danbazau and also an Assistant Inspector -General of Police to help quell the crisis. If there is any intention by the Presidency, it would not have deployed such men,'' Gagara stated. He said already, a search and rescue committee has swung into action to locate victims as well as provide relief to displaced persons. The Chief of Army Staff's representative, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Said, yesterday visited the Jos Central Mosque and provided an undisclosed amount of money, for the burial of the deceased persons brought to the mosque as a result of the crisis that engulfed Jos and environs on Friday following local government election. On hand was the member, House of Representatives representing Bassa/Jos North Federal Constituency, Samaila Mohammed, who disclosed that over 376 victims of the crisis brought to the mosque were evacuated to the Zaria Road, Jos cemetery for mass burial. Mohammed spoke on behalf of the Chief Imam of the mosque, Shiekh Said Hamajan. At the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) yesterday, 25 bodies were found lying on the floor of the hospital while at the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), 4,000 were said to be displaced by the Friday crisis. According to the NDLEA source, most of the displaced people are ravaged by hunger as they do not have food, water, and shelter, adding that people were in dire need of relief materials and medication. Mohammed alleged that most of the killings were done by the police who he alleged shot at random at people they did not like their faces, adding that the police should be replaced by the soldiers for the purpose of neutrality. No less than 140 fully armed troops were airlifted from the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna to the city in a Nigerian Air Force Charlie jet marked "NAF 913" at about 7.32 a.m. Earlier on Saturday, the same number of officers and soldiers were flown to Jos. All the deployed officers and soldiers were drawn from the One Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna. Besides, the Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, had earlier issued a shoot-on-sight order to security agents containing the crisis in the state capital. While addressing the departing soldiers at the NAF Base, Kaduna yesterday, the General Officer Commanding 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Moses Obi warned them to avoid any act that could put them in trouble, adding that they should refrain from brutalising civilians while maintaining peace in the city. Obi stated that the soldiers were deployed in Jos to carry out their normal internal security operations. He therefore urged them to strive to protect lives and property of the people of the city. "You are going for your normal internal security duty. I don't want to hear you brutalise any civilian. You are performing your constitutional duty. You must realise that you must protect lives and property. You are going there for the normal internal security operations. Above all, discipline must be your watchword. I will not want to get complaints about any of you. And I will tell you that as soon as you finish performing your duty there, you will come back home soon. "While there, you are under the control of the Three Division. So, you take orders from there. Listen to your officers and know how you relate with them and I can guarantee you that in a very short time, you'll be back. I wish you the best of luck and remember, discipline should be your watchword," he said. The Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Lt. Colonel Mohammed Yerima added that the deployed troops in Jos would assist the police to contain the violence. "As you are all aware of the current situation in Jos, we in the 1 Division are just supporting with two companies of soldiers, to aid the civil authorities in Jos. People should not panic. It's a normal exercise, most of our troops in Jos have gone on foreign operations. "So, we have to complement and support the operations in Jos. The situation is under control. The GOC there is in full control. This is just to take care of any unforeseen occurrence. We have to be prepared as we are called in to support the police. "The police are there but they are not sufficient in number and the government felt the military should come in and assist, which is a normal thing. We don't just come in and take over operations; it is when there is the need for assistance and we are only there to complement and the situation is now severely under control. It is only when they (troops) are needed that they can come in. But the situation there, as we are all aware, has returned to normalcy," Yerima said. Senate President David Mark and Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, yesterday called for serious sanctions against the perpetrators of the recent violence in Plateau State in which hundreds of lives were reported to have been lost already. Speaking to journalists after the thanksgiving church service held for Mark, the two leaders said those who killed under the guise of religion should be punished. They both condemned the crisis and stated that the violence in Jos was not a religious one, but some people, because of their selfish interests, decided to give it religious coloration. Mark stated that the National Assembly believed in what the Nigerian Constitution provided for in relations to religion, but regretted that people just took cover under religion to kill. "Whoever kills under the guise of religion should really be punished. There should be no room for that at all," Mark said. The Action Congress (AC) called for the cancellation of the polls, considering that the perceived rigging of the elections was the main cause of the violence in the Jos North local government area. In a statement yesterday in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also condemned the government's gross insensitivity in going ahead to release the results of the elections, especially that of the Jos North that precipitated the crisis, even as the smoke was yet to clear from the ruins of the violence. The President, Pentecostal Fellowship Of Nigeria (PFN) Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has dismissed the insinuation that the crisis was masterminded by Christians. In a statement to The Guardian, the cleric expressed shock over a news statement from the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which stated that the crisis in Jos was caused by Christians. The Chairman, Kwara State chapter of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Senator Suleiman Salawu, has canvassed a permanent end to ethno-religious crisis in some parts of the country. According to Salawu, a Second Republic senator from Offa, Kwara State, the development if not curtailed, could snowball into a bigger crisis that could threaten the peaceful existence of Nigeria. Also, the Coalition of Civil Societies in the North, led by Malam Shehu Sani, has blamed politicians, religious leaders, security agents and the Plateau State government for the violence that erupted in Jos. Besides, members of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have called on the Federal Government to institute a thorough investigation to unravel those behind the upheaval in order to mete out adequate punitive measures to them. Malam Sani who is also the Chairman of the Socialists Front (SF) led other representatives of Northern Civil Society to condemn the crisis in Jos, saying that it was time the President, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua descended heavily on those behind the mayhem in order to prevent future occurrences in any part of the country. He spoke at a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, saying that "the coalition of civil rights society in the North condemns the violence and killings that trailed the election in Jos North Local Government of Plateau State."

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