Religious riots broke out in Pandogari, a town in Rafi Local government area in Niger State over a Facebook post by an Igbo trader, 24-year-old Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Emmanuel was lynched on Sunday, May 29, 2016 and killed by a Muslim crowd and the religious riots spread to other parts of the town. Nigerian soldiers and other security agencies moved in quell the violence and imposed a curfew on the town.
A search on Facebook reveals the existence of only one Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel and the account is dormant, however. Its last visible comment was in June 2015. Nobody has presented the alleged offending Facebook comment or revealed its contents.
Monday morning, renewed violence broke out and three more people were killed by an angry Muslim mob, including a security personnel. Also, a church, one house and a shop were burnt while 25 other shops were looted.
Initial reports on social media say that Nigerian soldiers joined in the rioting and were aiding the Muslim mob in attacking Igbos and Christians. But the army spokesman, Colonel Usman Sani told The Trent that the reports are not true.
The Nigerian Army has issued a press statement on the incident which says that the some persons have been arrested in connection with the religious riots. The statement, signed by Major N. C. Agwu, army spokesperson for Division 1 of the Nigerian Army was issued on Monday, May 30, 2016 following enquiries from The Trent to the army spokesman, Colonel Sani.
Monday, May 30 is a sad day for peace in Nigeria. This sad news comes as an unravelling deliberate genocide by the Nigerian Army is taking place in several towns in South East Nigeria.
Troops invaded the Catholic Church in Nkpor near Onitsha where some Igbos were sleeping in the early hours of Monday and shot and killed 10 persons, according to a human rights activist in Onitsha, Anambra State.
Scored of pro-Biafra protesters have been reportedly killed by Nigerian troops in Onitsha, the planned venue for a Biafra Heroes remembrance day prayer procession.
You may read the army statement in its entirety below:
PRESS RELEASE BY 31 ARTILLERY BRIGADE OF 1 DIVISION NIGERIAN ARMY ON THE RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE IN PANDOGARI NIGER STATE
At about 6pm yesterday, 29 May 2016, one Mr Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel, a 24-year-old trader based in Pandogari, Rafi LGA of Niger State was attacked and killed by a mob in the town on allegation of posting a blasphemous statement about Prophet Muhammad on the social media.
Troops of 31 Artillery Brigade of 1 Division, Nigerian Army on operation MESA quickly intervened and restored law and order while a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed in the town.
Early this morning, May 30, 2016, however, the rioters embarked on further violence, looting shops and blocking the Lagos – Kaduna Road, a major artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the country. Again, troops in conjunction with the personnel of Nigeria Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC) took control of the situation to forestall escalation of violence and any threat to the peace in the town.
Regrettably, one church, one house and a shop were burnt while 25 other shops were looted following the violence. Three other persons including a personnel of the NSCDC also lost their lives. Some arrests have been made in connection with the violence and the suspects handed over to the the police. The military and other security agencies are currently embarking on confidence building patrols in all nooks and crannies of the town.
As part of the measures to de-escalate tensions and ensure a lasting peace in the town, the military is working with the Local Government Council authorities and community leaders, including the Kagara Emirate Council to pacify all aggrieved parties and build on the peace so far established.
However, while the military will continue with its current non-violent approach to maintaining peace in Pandogari town, it will not take kindly to any unscrupulous element who would attempt to visit violence on innocent and law abiding Nigerians.
The general public is therefore warned to abide by the conditions of the curfew so far emplaced. All law abiding citizens are enjoined to go about their legitimate businesses without any fear of intimidation. They are to be rest assured that the security forces will remain fully present to guarantee their safety and security across the length and breadth of the town, within their rules of engagement.
Major NC Agwu
Assistant Director Army Public Relations