The Nigerian Army has imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on Pandogari in Rafi local government area of Niger state, following the outbreak of religious violence in the area.
The violence resulted in the killing on Sunday of a 24-year-old trader identified as Mr. Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel, who was accused by the mob of allegedly posting blasphemous comments about Prophet Mohammed on social media.
The riotous mob, which was still spoiling for more blood, embarked on a looting spree of shops just as they took over the Lagos-Kaduna road, a major artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the country before they were dispersed by the security agencies.
A statement on Monday signed by Major NC Agwu, Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, said one church, one house and a shop were burnt while 25 other shops were looted in the ensuing melee.
Major Agwu, however, regretted to announce that three other persons including personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, also lost their lives.
Continuing he said, “Some arrests have been made in connection with the violence and the suspects handed over to the police. The military and other security agencies are currently embarking on confidence building patrols in all nooks and crannies of the town”.
Giving further details on the violence, the assistant spokesperson for the Army said, “At about 6pm on Sunday, 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 Monday morning 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.
“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”.