No fewer than 1,000 shops and several vehicles were torched in the violent clash that occurred between Christian and Muslim youths in Kaduna on Monday over girls, as the death toll rose to 12 yesterday.
When Vanguard visited the scene yesterday, the large-scale destruction that trailed the clash which engulfed Kasuwan Magani town in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state was benumbing.
Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Austin Iwar, who disclosed the new death toll yesterday, said 18 people had also been arrested.
Addressing journalists after a fact-finding and assessment visit to the area, the Police Commissioner vowed that no stone would be left unturned in unravelling the immediate and remote causes of the crisis.
The Police Commissioner, in the company of the General Officer Commanding I Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major-General Mohammed Mohammed and state commandant of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, Modu Goni, expressed shock at the scale of destruction.
He said: “It is unfortunate. As we can see, the level of destruction is very high, some people were killed and properties were destroyed. This is not what we wish for our state, Kaduna.
“Let me say that we will not leave any stone unturned in investigating the remote and immediate causes of this problem. We will talk to the stakeholders here and try to find out what the problem is and through civil problem-solving approach and conflict resolution, we will deal with that.”
Police recover petrol bombs, other items
“We will also look at the criminal aspect of it. So far, we have arrested eighteen people we suspect were involved in the crisis. We are working round the clock to ensure that we get to the root of the matter.
“We have recovered a number of dangerous items, including petrol bombs. We believe this is a planned thing and we will get to the root of the matter. We will do a thorough investigation to ensure that it does not happen again.”
He said the police was aware of “skirmishes” in the area two weeks ago and had made some arrests “but we did not know that there was a grand design to carry out massive destruction as it happened.”
He defended police response to the crisis, saying he mobilized his men and deployed to the area as soon as the Police received reports of the crisis.
“The most important thing to us is, when was it reported to us? Travelling from Kaduna to this place takes about forty minutes. We needed to prepare and mobilize our men. Police officers are not like items sitting on the shelves of supermarkets.
“We needed to bring people from other places. We took necessary steps to check the crisis. We brought in military reinforcement, Civil Defence and Police reinforcement,” he added.
The Police commissioner said 11 victims of the crisis were “buried around12 midnight”, while one person who sustained injuries later died in the hospital yesterday.
The crisis started on Monday when a Christian girl who was allegedly engaged to a Muslim man was about to convert to Islam, a development that angered youths of the predominantly Christian settlement.
Senate warns against hate speech
Meanwhile, the Senate has cautioned religious, political, community leaders against hate speech to avoid hate actions.
It also said any conflict with religious colouration would be the fastest way to liquidate Nigeria as a country.
Speaking yesterday, in Abuja during plenary when Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) raised a point of order on the killings, destruction of property in Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, said if all Nigerians, irrespective of class, religion and status, treat themselves as brothers and sisters, those following them would follow.
Ekweremadu, who urged the leaders to try as hard as they can to avoid escalation of the religious crisis in Nigeria, said:
“This is one incident too many. This is becoming very worrisome. What is even more worrisome is the religious colouration to the killings, based on what Senator Shehu Sani has said. This is something we need to avoid.
“That is any conflict that will have religious colouration, that will be the fastest way to liquidate this country. As leaders, we must understand that leadership comes with responsibilities. It is our job to keep preaching to those who are leading through our actions and words that we belong to one God.
“The fact that somebody is a Christian or Muslim does not mean that he should hate another person. I have not seen any religion that preaches hate killings. It is the way we behave that promotes that.
“We are talking about hate speech. The worst of it is hate action. If we treat ourselves as brothers and sisters, those following us will follow us. We must try as hard as we can, not to have any religious escalation in Nigeria.”
Season of mayhem in Kaduna — Sani
Earlier in the presentation of his point of order, Senator Shehu Sani, who came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as Amended, said: “I stand to bring the attention of the Senate and the nation to an unfortunate violence we had yesterday in Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The violence took the lives of over six to seven people. Houses were burnt and it was a season of mayhem.
“The mayhem was attributed to youths who decided to take laws into their hands. But it had the colouration of religious violence. Every day, we wake up in this country and we are faced with one form of violence or another. We are now accepting the reality that violence is the way of life.
“It is unfortunate that we wake up every day and we see killings, kidnappings and other things that shake the stability and unity of this country in every respect. I use this opportunity to appeal to all parties involved in all forms of violence to know that we cannot achieve any progress without peace.
“The unity of Nigeria is not about the flag or the anthem, but the establishment of a system that ensures justice, harmony and love among one another. I want the Senate to identify with us in our time of crisis.
“We must live together as Christians and as Muslims in this country. We need to live as people, despite the fact that we are from different parts of the country.”