& Godwin Oghre
06 January 2012, Sweetcrude, SAPELE – ENRAGED youths, numbering over 2,000, armed with battleaxes, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons went on rampage, Friday, sacking and inflicting injuries on over 50 Muslims at the Hausa quarters, Sapele in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State.
A security guard of northern ethnic origin was shot dead in a separate incident by a gang of armed robbers that attacked a school in Sapele on Thursday.
It was gathered that the youths were incensed by the uninhibited attacks on churches and killing of Christians in the northern part of the country by the Islamic Boko Haram sect.
Two of the persons suspected to have carried out the onslaught were, however, arrested by the police in Sapele.
There was pandemonium following the attack on Muslims, who were ordered to vacate the town in their own interest since Boko Haram members had also issued ultimatum to Christians to leave the north.
Secretary of a Muslim Media group in Sapele, Sadiq Oniyesaneyene Musa who spoke on the attacks by Sapele youths said, “We are disturbed by this attack on Muslims in Sapele and the order that all Muslims in Sapele should return to the north. I am a Muslim and an Itsekiri from Delta state, where do they want me to go to, this is my homeland”.
Musa said the youths besieged Muslims in the town very close to the mosque that was bombed, last year, and injured a lot of faithful.
“We called the director of the State Security Service, SSS, Asaba and the Area Commander and they responded. The Joint Task Force, JTF, on the Niger-Delta also deployed soldiers to take care of the situation”, he said.
Delta state police spokesman, Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, Charles Muka confirmed when contacted, Friday, that some hoodlums who wanted to cause pandemonium in order to loot were behind the attack on Muslims.
He said it was a minor incident as police deployed men to the scene immediately.
“As I speak to you, normalcy has been restored in Sapele, the police are patrolling the affected area to ensure that there is peace and security”.
DSP Muka also confirmed the killing of a northern security guard by armed robbers, saying he was killed during a robbery operation.
He said the police were investigating the incident with a view to bringing the culprits to book, while two suspects were arrested in connection with the assault on Muslims.
But for the timely intervention of soldiers and policemen who arrived the scene with two armored tankers, irate youths would have set ablaze the two mosques in the area, as they had already gained entry into the mosques with substances suspected to be fuel and kerosene, and boxes of matches.
All vehicular movement around the area was halted, while shops along Hausa road, Urhobo road, Market road, Cemetry road, Palm Avenue and Yoruba road were shut down for fear of vandalisation just as the youths paraded the streets with dangerous weapons, including cutlasses, battle axes and knives, making people in the area to scamper for safety.
The Children Muslim School head teacher in the area, Mallam Abdul Rasag said, ‘’ Over 50 Hausa men and women got various degree of injuries, and are now admitted at various hospitals within and outside Sapele, for intensive medical treatment, while others have relocated to a safer place in the meantime’’
The Chief Imam of Sapele Central Mosque, Alhaji Mohammed Usman, condemned the incident, which he said was “orchestrated by disgruntled irate youths who have capitalized on the fuel subsidy imbroglio across the country to unleash mayhem on the Muslim community in Sapele, to maim and rob them of their belongings, saying that the attack was unprecedented.
As at 10.00 am when these reporters visited the area, the two mosques were locked up and were been guarded by heavily armed fiery looking security men. No Hausa man was on sight, except goats, rams and other lives stock, which they had placed for sale.
One of the wounded victims, Mallam Isa Yakubu, said he and his fellow Muslims lost cash and valuable items, worth million of naira to the irate youths.
Ex-militants threaten fresh onslaught
Meanwhile, a group of ex-militants, under the aegis of Niger Delta Revolution Force for Peace, yesterday, in Sapele threatened to begin a new offensive in the Niger-Delta if the amnesty programme was not scrapped.
The former militants re-grouped in Sapele to discuss their strategy to commence fresh disturbance should the government fail to heed their demand within the next seven days.
The group gave President Goodluck Jonathan seven days ultimatum to scrap the amnesty programme or expect bombardment of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, saying that the programme was ‘fraught with gross irregularity, partiality and deception of the highest order.’’
The leader of the group, Comrade Babatunde Omatseye disclosed in Sapele that the group arrived at this decision after a meeting at its Eghoro Camp, in Warri North Local Government, Delta State.
The former militant leader said, ‘’Though Mr. President has implemented the programme in good faith and for the interest of the people of the Niger Delta Citizens, a cabal in the system has hijacked it to their selfish benefit and has discriminated against most of the ethnic groups in Niger Delta.’’
Comrade Omatseye cited the Itsekiri, Urhobo, Isoko and Edo ethnic as some of the ethnic groups highly discriminated against in the amnesty programme and called on the president to scrap the programme forthwith.
The former militant leader also requested the president to direct the military and the police handling civilian protest against fuel subsidy removal across the country never to kill or maim innocent unarmed civilian or risk heavy reprisal attack.
The group, through its leader, also requested the President to fund adequately and within a short time, the Ministry of Niger Delta, as its investigation revealed that ‘’the ministry is being underfunded, leading to the poor development of the region.’’