An ugly religious riot, Thursday, broke out in Bichi town, a sprawling commercial town in the northern part of Kano State, resulting in the destruction of several homes, shops and business premises as well the torching of an unspecified number of Christian places of worships in the town.
Though the exact figure of casualties could not be verified as at press time. It was, however, feared that one person was killed, while several Christians were wounded following the riot, which saw Muslim protesters took over the streets of the town.
Already, some of the wounded Christians were believed to have been rushed to the Armed Forces Specialist Hospital, Airport Road, Kano, for medical attention just as a detachment of security officers, including police and the soldiers, had been drafted to the troubled town to restore order. The rioters, it was gathered, stormed the streets and took over the town, blocking in particular the traffic flow from Kano to Katsina State in the early hours of the day.
They burnt tyres, chant religious songs and made bonfires at different spots of the town in the moment of rage. As a result of the riot, business activities in the town were grounded for the better part of the day as traders quickly shut their shops and reteated into the safety of their homes. Most Christian workers, who daily travel to Bichi town, were quickly alerted by the relatives and loved ones of the restive development and advised not to venture to their places of work in the light of the uncertainties.
An educational instructor in one of the institutions in Bichi told Daily Sun that as he was driving to work, he almost ran into the Muslim protesters, who were at a distance wreaking havoc on the property of their victims but for some Good Samaritans who kept shouting: ‘Ba hanya’ (meaning: No road), he would have been a victim.
He said some of the shops (majority of which belonged Igbo traders) situated along the highway leading to Katsina State, as well as shops on the road leading to the Federal College of Education, Bichi, were vandalized by the rioters. According to him, some of the women who took refuge at the police station, in Bichi, had similarly complained that their machines and shops were vandalized.
However, There were slightly different accounts of the cause of the early morning sectarian showdown. A version of the incident had it that two Christian brothers were caught dressed in clothes with Arabic inscriptions and writings that were perceived and understood as blasphemous of the Holy Prophet. It was gathered that the brothers were immediately attacked by aggrieved Muslim youths, which later resulted in the death of one of them, while the other ran into a police station for refuge.
Kano State Police Commissioner, Mr. Ibrahim Idris confirmed the incident and held that the police had since deployed reinforcement to the troubled spot. He explained that the disturbance was caused by a communication challenge arising from a joke between a tailor and his neighbour over a particular dress.
He pointed out that somebody, who over heard the comment of the Igbo man felt it was blasphemous of the Holy Prophet and reported it to others in the town, adding that it was this alleged blasphemous comment that triggered off the riot. The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Ransom Bello was not in the office as he was said to have travelled abroad by his aides, but a senior CAN official said at least five churches were affected. He said they were still trying to get the exact picture from the leaders of the churches in the town even as he added that Christians in the town were frightened by the incident. Activities in the state capital were normal as residents went about their businesses.
It was gathered that as at midday, information regarding the turmoil in Bichi was yet unavailable in the state capital. Meanwhile, the Kano State Security Council had placed a restriction order on the movement of motorcycles from 6pm to 6am following the incessant use of motorcycles to attack and kill persons in the state. The fresh ban followed the murder of a member of the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Abba Garko at his shop at Mariri area of the state capital on Sunday by suspects who attacked him on a motorcycle and sped away.
Kano State Police Commissioner said the enforcement of the new restriction would be applied without exception, adding that the new order was necessary considering the fact that criminals were using motorcycles to wreak havoc in the state. He recalled that the recent incidents of robberies and killings in the state which were executed by motorcyclists and called on motorcycle users to abide by the new curfew. He said checkpoints had been put in place across the state to check and arrest the violators.