Thursday, June 21, 2012
NIGERIA: Curfew pains hit Kaduna, Yobe residents hard
Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, was groaning yesterday under the weight of a huge humanitarian crisis sparked by Monday’s violence and the 24-hour curfew that followed.
Gone are the explosions and the killings. Now the city is struggling to return to normal life amid pangs of hunger and pains of losing relations.
As it is in Damaturu, so it is in Kaduna, the North’s political capital where two churches were attacked last Sunday.
Security operatives and suspected members of the Jama’atu Ahlul Sunna Lid Da’awati wal Jihad (aka Boko Haram) were locked in a bloody test of supremacy in Damaturu on Monday.
Many residents were either trapped in their offices, market places, hotels, relatives’ home or areas considered to be safe when the fighting erupted at about 5.30pm on Monday.
Members of “Operation Restore Order 111”, otherwise known as JTF, are escorting trapped people to their homes and destinations because of the restriction of movement.
The Damaturu JTF Commander, Col. Abdulsalam said: “We had earlier distributed our hotlines all across the state for the people to report any suspicious activities. The JTF numbers came in handy as a lot of people were trapped, either in their shops, offices or other places of their endeavours.
“Since the curfew was not meant to punish anybody, we had to do our best to alleviate the sufferings of all those trapped in various locations.”
Beneficiaries of the operation praised the JTF for their foresight. Many of them, who do not want their names in print recounted ugly details of the “unfortunate” night.
Some of the workers especially paramedical and medical staff, were trapped at their working places as no one came to relieve them of their duties.
It was also gathered that top government officials who normally work late, turned their offices into guest houses until Wednesday morning when the JTF came to their rescue.
Civil servants and others, including bankers, have gone on a forced break due to the curfew.
Businesses are grounded. Many families are stuck at home without food.
Police Commissioner Patrick Egbuniwe confirmed that five policemen, 34 sect members and two soldiers were killed in the Monday attack.
He said: “What I can tell you now is that the number of dead policemen has increased to five, 34 sect members were killed and two army personnel also died. But we are yet to know the number of civilians who died in the attack.”
Four primary schools and a market at Kandahar were burnt. The primary schools are Bindigary Primary School, Pompomari Primary School, Njiwaji Primary School and Bukar Ammi Primary School - all in Damaturu metropolis.
There were unconfirmed report that the COCCIN Church in Shagari Low-cost and the home of the pastor of Unity Chapel and his church were also torched.
But the CP said those churches claimed to have been burnt were not from fresh attacks but attacks that took place in the past.
“I have gone round all those bad areas, including the churches. From the DPO’s briefing, the said churches were not affected by the fresh attacks that took place on Monday. They are actually old attacks,” Egbuniwe said.
Commenting on when the 24hour curfew will be lifted, the CP said: “It is the governor that will decide whether the curfew will be relaxed or not. It is not the decision of the CP. I am not the one who imposed the curfew but all of us will have to come together and sit at the table - the SSS, Police, JTF and the governor before a decision will be taken”.
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam yesterday urged members of the public to disregard some text messages circulating in town that Yobe is boiling and that churches are being burnt.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Press and Information Affairs, Abdullahi Bego, the governor said:
“Our attention has been drawn to a text message being circulated by some mischievous elements wanting to cause disaffection between followers of different religions in our state that members of the Christian Community were being ‘attacked’, that Churches were set ablaze in Damaturu and that Yobe was ‘boiling’ following the incident between security agents and members of the Boko Haram in the State capital on Monday.
“We wish to state categorically that the entire content of the text being circulated is false, misleading, mischievous and unfounded.
“There were no churches in Damaturu that were attacked. The unfortunate incident in the town last Monday affected all residents, regardless of religious inclination but, as everyone knows, members of the security forces were able to repel the attack and restore law and order.
“People who circulate false text messages were apparently doing so to stir up religious tension but they will not succeed.
“The Yobe State Government, therefore, calls on people to discountenance the said text message and any similar false messages and to continue to live peacefully with one another.
“His Excellency Governor Ibrahim Gaidam also urges both Muslims and Christians to continue to pray the Almighty God to restore peace and security in Yobe State and the nation in general.”
Yobe State University Vice Chancellor Prof. Musa Alabe visited the school yesterday to donate food items and a ram to the students.
“I looked at the situation and decided to go and see my students. As you know, some of them were caught up by the 24-hour curfew and they have nothing to eat, So, we have to at least intervene, to cushion the effect. I called JTF to escort me to the school and they obliged.
“We gave some food stuff and a ram to be cooked and shared to the students. Even though I know that it will not be enough, but we hope that the 24-hour curfew will not last forever,” Alabe said.
Reports said the situation at the Federal Polytechnic, Damaturu is deplorable, with students buying up all the food stuff, such as biscuits, bread and beverages in the kiosks.