From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
•Death, blood, anguish as security guards, community clash
By Romanus Ugwu
It was a day of anguish comparable only to the Kuje bomb blast of October 2, 2015. It was a day many would fervently pray would never come again. Shops, offices and businesses in Kuje were under lock and key. Parents hurriedly withdrew their children and wards from school.
Major roads were blocked with bonfires, vehicular movement was grounded, commercial activities were paralysed as residents stayed indoors for dear life. There were heavy presence of law enforcement agents, comprising the military, police, the DSS and the Civil Defence Corps at the scene.
While the Igbos resident in Kuje misinterpreted the situation as an ethnic clash, and a dress rehearsal over the quit notice from the Arewa youths, the Christians misconstrued the fracas as a religious conflict, believing that Muslims were attacking them.
When the dust of the 13-hour face-off between the community and vigilance groups, on one hand, and the security agents and the community youths, on the other hand, finally settled, it left in its trail a death toll of one person, several hospitalised casualties, and rivers of blood, tears, pains, sorrow and anguish for victims and their families.
Among the biggest casualties at the theatre of war was the All Progressives Congress (APC) Ward Secretary, Mohammed Sani Adamu, who died seven hours after the vigilante clubbed him severally on the head, and many other victims now on admission in hospitals within the area council.
But for the (belated) intervention of the security agencies, the clash, which started around 11.00pm on Sunday, June 18, 2017, between two warring private security guards, the mayhem would have claimed more lives, especially in Kayarda community, the main battlefield.
As the clash spilled over into the early hours of Monday, shops and offices remained closed; parents who took their children to school soon after withdrew them snd whisked them home, just as many residents of Kuje remained indoors fearing for their lives despite the heavy presence of security agents.
Even when normalcy was restored later that day after many hours of tension between the youths and law enforcement officers, many residents would rather remain safe infoors than risk being out on the streets or going about their business, thus paralyzing commercial activities in the council until repeated assurances came from the security agents that calm had been restored.
Kuje residents of Igbo extraction that spoke to Daily Sun in confidence confessed that they mistook the clash as a test run of the forceful eviction that Arewa youths recently promised would happen if they did not leave the North by October 1, 2017, adding that many had even started packing their belongings to escape for their lives.
“It would have been a dangerous gamble for any Igbo person to go close to the scene of the battlefield,” Chukwuma, a butcher, said. “There was palpable fear and tension in Kuje that day such that even the traders among the Igbos stayed away from the market. Honestly, many of them that misinterpreted the fracas as a Hausa-Igbo affair started packing and planning their escape from the Arewa youths. It was a tension-soaked day,” he added.
Community chief describes vigilante members are terrorists
For the chief of Kayarda community, Nuhu Gomna Ibrahim, police should take the bigger chunk of blame for not being proactive. Accusing police of complicity, he told Daily Sun that while both the DPO and DCO of the only police station in Kuje were incommunicado, some of the vigilance group members that the youths handed over to the police were freed immediately.
“What happened on the night of June 18 and morning of June 19 was better imagined than experienced,” Nuhu said, in an attempt to narrate what transpired that day.
“My youth leader had called to inform me that my community was under heavy attack by the vigilante group. He told me that they were unleashing mayhem on anybody within sight in the community, hitting them with sticks and other weapons.
“I then put a call across to the DPO of Kuje Police Station, but his number was switched off, it was the same response when I called the DCO. I called the admin officer who told me he was not in town then.
“I appealed to him to deploy policemen to quell the crisis in my community; when police finally came, they brought back and released the few vigilante members the youths handed over to them. The vigilante had wounded more than five persons including the late Sani and others who were hospitalised.
“I received another distress call from my youth leader in the early hours of the next day, informing me that the situation had deteriorated because the vigilante members attacked the mosque while the faithful were observing prayers. He added that they beat up many and broke the windows of the mosque.
“I alerted the Gomo of Kuje and pleaded with him to urgently intervene by mobilising security agents to the scene. Before they could arrive, the situation had gotten out of hand, with the community youths storming the market to fish out members of the vigilante.
“While they caught and wounded some, others escaped. I stepped out of my palace and noticed the situation had further degenerated, with roadblocks by the youths, numbering over 600, in a face-off with the security agents, who shot several canisters of tear gas to control the situation.
“The angry youths had insisted on beating up the DPO who they believe was responsible for the anarchy. To them, if police had arrested them at night after unleashing mayhem on the community, they would not have attacked the mosque in the morning.
Further setting the records straight, Chief Nuhu said that the vigilante members, especially the head, Mai Zuma, should be sacked because they were terrorists and touts; he added that he had made repeated appeals to the concerned authorities since last year.
His words: “We appeal to the management of Green House to sack the entire vigilante they employed and hire professional persons from registered private security guard companies. From our observations so far, all these ones in their employment are touts and terrorists. They have been harassing the indigenes of this community.
“We don’t want to see the head of the vigilante, Mai Zuma, near our community again because he is the prime suspect. I had raised concerns about him in 2016 to the relevant authorities after a similar incidence, where he stabbed my subject in the ribs, but no action was taken against him,” he said.
The traditional ruler equally raised the alarm over receiving strange calls from certain persons threatening his life over his petition against the police, saying, “I have forwarded a strong-worded petition to the authorities over the poor handling of the crisis by the Kuje Police Station. For some time, somebody has been calling to harass me and ask why I should write such a petition without getting clearance from them. However, I have told them I am ready to defend my action,” he said.
How vigilante hacked down Sani at tea joint – Family
For Mohammed Awwal Adamu, the elder brother of the deceased, Sani’s family is still battling to come to the reality that Sani could lose his life breaking his Ramadan fast at a tea joint nearby.
Narrating what led to Sani’s death, Awwal said: “On that Sunday night, around 10.30pm, I was woken up by the a noise of people running behind my room. I came out with torchlight and heard many people crying, wailing. I saw some people hitting people with sticks.
“After about 10 minutes, I heard a violent push on the entrance of our compound and saw my brother rush in. He cried for help but before we rushed him to the hospital, he told us he left his handset and shoes at a tea joint, where he was hit repeatedly with big sticks.
“We had wanted to treat him at a nearby pharmacist’s but we met many other injured persons there bleeding profusely, so we rushed him to a hospital. He was admitted and treated before I left around 1.30am. But another brother with him informed me on phone a few minutes to 4am that he had been referred to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital. He told me that Sani could no longer talk.
“He called again at the Gwagwalada Hospital around 6am to tell me that he was not with enough cash for the X-ray they demanded. I got to Gwagwalada after morning prayer to see my brother’s lifeless body at the accident and emergency ward.
“He has been buried but I think he was injured seriously on the head with the sticks because, while heading to the hospital, he kept shouting, ‘my head,’ and he could no longer breathe properly.”
Area Council, police react
Haruna Usman, the Chief Press Secretary to the Area Council Chairman, told Daily Sun on telephone that none of the security guards was registered with the council: “What happened was that there was a pocket of crisis on Sunday night June 18, which lasted into the early hours of Monday. It was caused by yet-to-be identified factional private security guards. During the clash, one of the groups had attacked virtually everybody in sight in Kayarda community, where the other security guards had ran to hide.
“The attack resulted in the death of a young man and injury to some people admitted in the hospital. The good news is that the security agents took charge and brought the situation under control.”
In his reaction, the Acting FCT Police Public Relationship, Assistant Superintendent of Police Usen Oamos, said that the police deplored enough men to the area, adding that the FCT Police Commissioner equally visited the area to ascertain the level of damage.
“We deplored adequate personnel to the area after the commissioner visited that day.
“We cannot confirm the casualty figures because we are still undertaking preliminary investigations,” he said.