•As post election violence erupts in Kano, Bauchi, Nassarawa
Authorities in Kaduna State have imposed a 24-hour curfew after protesters set fire to the residence of Vice President Namadi Sambo in the town of Zaria and forced their way into the central prison, releasing inmates. Violent protests erupted across many states in the north including Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Gombe, and Adamawa.
The riot in these places reverberated in other northern states, creating panic as traders and offices hurriedly closed on Monday as miscreants angered at President Goodluck Jonathan’s election victory torched worship centres, especially churches and homes and set up burning barricades.
The votes declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated Jonathan had defeated Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, in the presidential poll.
Observers have called the poll the fairest in decades, but Buhari’s supporters accuse the ruling party of rigging.
Following reports of the skirmishes, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, appealed to political leaders, especially contestants in last Saturday’s presidential election to prevail on their supporters to refrain from further violence and destruction of lives and property.
In a statement personally signed by him, the president said: “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 well being of this great country,” noting that, “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.”
In the four-paragraph statement, the president said he received the news of the sporadic unrest with great sadness and therefore appealed to “those involved to stop this unnecessary and avoidable conduct, more so, at this point in time when a lot of sacrifice has been made by all the citizens of this great country in ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.”
He said Nigerians were “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.”
While appealing to all Nigerians to remain “calm, law abiding and patriotic at this very crucial moment of our history,” President Jonathan said “Nigeria cannot afford to degenerate into a state of anarchy, especially at this very critical stage in the democratic progress of the country.”
David Mark, senate president, also asked security not to spare perpetrators but urged them to stem the spread of the violence.
Mark who condemned the violence said “Nigerians are genuinely making their decisions on who should lead them at all levels of government through the ballot and must not be stampeded to do otherwise.”
Urging security operatives not to treat the sponsors and perpetrators with kid gloves, Mark said: “The process of the on-going elections have been adjudged locally and internationally as free and fair. Even the losers have admitted and accepted the results as the true reflection of the votes cast. I do not understand the reason for this outburst and violence. We must put an end to this.”
Tony Momoh, the chairman of CPC, while commenting on the orgy of violence, urged the party’s supporters to stay calm and eschew any form of violence Worst hit by the violence are the commercial cities of Kano and Kaduna - the defunct administrative capital of the region and which incidentally are the two states where the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate got his highest votes in the election.
As early as 8am yesterday morning, youths suspected to be supporters of CPC in the two states, began the “wild demonstration” by burning vehicle tyres and later proceeded to attacking moving cars.
The attack was more pronounced in Kano, where the demonstrators blocked highways such as: Kofar-Ruwa, Zoo Road, Murtala Mohammed Way, and Hotoro area. The attack appears to be targeted at the property of the minority, non-natives- residences of the commercial city, most of whom were accused of voting for President Goodluck Jonathan.
Other affected places include: Mararaba (Nasarawa), Wuse (Abuja), Suleja (Niger) and Jos (Plateau) states.
Magaji Gambo, Kano State Command Police spokesperson, has issued a statement warning the demonstrators to desist from their acts, as those arrested will be prosecuted.
Joshua, a civil servant based in Kaduna said they heard a thunderous sound which exploded like a bomb at midnight.
Another source who spoke with BusinessDay on phone from Plateau State noted that there was tension across the Jos metropolis.
At Suleja, women and traders at the popular Babangida market hurriedly closed their shops in the bid to ensure safety of their lives and property.
Several people who spoke with our correspondent, expressed grave concern over the development, and called for immediate intervention of the Federal Government as well as deployment of armed soldiers to the crises prone cities.
There was fear yesterday that there is the likelihood of the spillover of the crises across major Northern cities.
Aside places of worship which were torched, other affected properties included the houses of the Galadima of Kano which was burnt, the palace of the Emir of Kano, as well as homes belonging to the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba. Two of the former speaker’s aides were said to have been killed in the violent protests.
Dora Ogbebor, a resident of Zaria said: “They have destroyed our cars and our houses. I had to run for my life and I am now in my neighbour’s house.”
Plumes of smoke rose into the air in parts of Kaduna as protesters set fire to barricades of tyres. Security forces fired into the air and used teargas to disperse groups of youths shouting, “We want Buhari, we want Buhari.”
Soldiers used whips to disperse the crowd on the streets of Kano as protesters hurled stones in the backstreets.
An armoured personnel carrier (APC), armed police and soldiers formed a barricade around the electoral commission office. “We will have the situation under control soon,” Agbo Omaji, a police inspector securing the electoral office assured.
Soldiers fired into the air and helicopters flew overhead in the central city of Jos, where thousands had been killed in sectarian violence in the past.
While it is believed that the country has a history of rigged and violent elections, last Saturday’s vote was however deemed by many Nigerians, and foreign observers, to have been a vast improvement on the past, with the voting process orderly and little unrest on the day itself.
“Election day showed a generally peaceful and orderly process,” said chief European Union election observer, Alojz Peterle.
In the Niger Delta region, a group in a statement has said it is inviting ex-combatants to an emergency meeting to discuss a response to the escalating crises in the north. Those listed as conveners of the meeting include Tompolo, Annikio Briggs, George Kelly, Joseph Evah, and Tony Uranta.