Violence erupted yesterday in Kachia town, the headquarters of Kachia local government area of Kaduna State, leading to the burning down of three worship places.
There had been tension in the town since the destruction of a part of the fence of an Eid (Sallah) ground.
A source told LEADERSHIP that trouble started yesterday morning “when we woke up and found out that the fence of the Eid ground had been demolished”.
The source added: “A church and a mosque were burnt. Many houses, shops were also burnt in our area.”
A resident of the area who placed a distress call to LEADERSHIP said that the rioters had targeted and destroyed some houses and shops in the town. “The rioters have also attacked and burnt down Nassara Baptist Church… I can confirm that Nassara Baptist Church was set ablaze by angry Muslim youths and, in retaliation, Christians youths set two mosques ablaze. Two houses and many shops have also been set ablaze. There are reports of killing but that I cannot confirm,” said our source.
It was learnt that the town is now filled with army, navy and police personnel. “Except something concrete is done on the issue of this land, there will be a serious problem in Kachia soon because some people are hell-bent on causing problems here,” he said.
Another eyewitness who preferred anonymity confirmed that trouble started when some youths woke up and discovered that one part of the fence that surrounded the Muslims’ Eid ground that was earlier renovated and fenced had been damaged by unknown persons.
“And upon the discovery that the fence had broken down, we reported the incident to the local government chairman, Mr Peter Agite, who promised to foot the bills of the renovation of the damaged portion but failed to do so until today (yesterday) when we sighted another damage done to the holy ground. Some youths could not tolerate it and then started protesting,” said our source.
The source added that the youth suspected that members of a nearby church were responsible for the continuous damage of the prayer ground and decided to take revenge by descending on the church and demolishing it too.
Following the damage done to the church, it was gathered that Christian youths also embarked on a reprisal and set fire to some mosques in the area.
A top government functionary from Kachia local government recalled that “two weeks ago, some youth went to fence Muslims’ prayer ground known as Eid to prevent encroachment of people into the ground but they couldn’t finish the work that day; and when they went back, they discovered that a portion of the fence was demolished by unknown persons”.
“The youths alerted the local government chairman, Mr Peter Agaite, and he promised to repair the damaged portion but failed to do so.
“Today (yesterday) when the youth went back to continue the work, they saw another portion of the ground damaged again. And out of suspicion they demolished a nearby church.
“The youths of the demolished church did not take it lightly, and they too started demolishing a nearby mosque, and there was tension and panic everywhere in Kachia and environs,” said the government official.
24-hour curfew imposed
A 24-hour curfew was immediately imposed on Kachia local government area to avoid the crisis escalating into other parts of the state.
Although some damage had been done before the imposition of the curfew, the Kaduna State police command, through the police public relations officer, SP Aminu Lawan, told newsmen on telephone that “the situation is under control as our men are fully on ground. No life was lost but we don’t have the number of worship places that were burnt. We will let you know in due course as we don’t want to give wrong figures”.
There were reports of killings as at the time of filing this report.
A top government official, who pleaded anonymity, told LEADERSHIP that there was still exchange of fire despite the curfew imposed by the government: “I cannot tell you how many people are dead now, but I can confirm to you there is a number of casualties in all the warring sides. Places of worship and houses have been razed down. There are gunshots everywhere in the town.”
Yero calls for calm
Reacting to the violence, the state governor, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, called on the people in Kachia town and environs to remain calm and shun any attempt by enemies of peace to escalate misunderstanding in the area as government had brought the situation under control.
The governor, in a statement signed by his spokesman, Ahmed Maiyaki, called on all citizens residing in Kachia to avoid taking laws into their own hands as government was already working with all security agencies to ensure the protection of life and property of the people.
He warned: “Government will not fold its arms and allow ‘enemies of peace’ cause mayhem in our state. I call on all law-abiding citizens to go about their businesses without fear of intimidation as security forces have already been directed to deal decisively with troublemakers.”
Governor Yero assured the people that security agencies had already commenced investigations into the cause of the crisis and would not spare anyone found culpable no matter their status in the society. “We will no longer tolerate these acts of unwarranted violence against innocent citizens. Enough is enough?”
The governor urged people in Kachia as well as the entire Kaduna State to continue to live peacefully with one another irrespective of diversities, adding that difference in tribe or religion does not affect the common aspirations of the people to live in peace and tranquillity.