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« Public Hearings End in Secret Meetings; Yoruba elders disown Sec-Gen, oppose 3rd Term | Main | Obasanjo orders soldiers to quell riots »

February 24, 2006

Calm return to Onitsha, schools remain shut

RELATIVE calm yesterday returned to Onitsha, Anambra State, after two days of sectarian violence. Other key cities like Awka and Nnewi were affected by the mayhem that broke out following reports of mass killings, looting and torching of Igbos and their property by Moslems in some Northern States.

From Chuks Collins (Awka), Gbenga Akinfenwa (Onitsha) and Biodun-Tomas Davids (Owerri)

But the bodies of dead victims of the crisis still littered Onitsha streets yesterday while public and some private schools remained closed, while students were asked to remain at home until further notice.

The Governor, Chris Ngige, is billed to visit parts of the state particularly Onitsha and Nnewi this morning to assess the situation and appeal to the people to keep the peace.

His earlier call on escaping prisoners to give themselves up yielded results as about 10 of them have reported back to the authorities. Others of northern extraction were said to have run to the 302 Artillery Regiment Onitsha for safety.

Miscreants suspected to be accomplices of the inmates attacked the prisons, overpowered the warders, destroyed the locks and set the in-mates free. The administrative block was also burnt down while valuable records, property and personal effects were set ablaze.

Yesterday, residents were seen counting their losses to the violence. Offices and markets, which were however closed when the riots broke out again opened for normal businesses. The banks still adopted a cautious approach all over the state.

The State Police Commissioner, Mr. Moses Anegbode, said that his men had taken full control of the situation and had been on a 24-hour patrol to ensure that no resident is molested. He declined comments on whether they arrested any suspect during the riots, as he maintained that their concern was to restore peace and security.

The Onitsha military Barracks is still flooded with displaced persons who still took refuge there. They are mostly Moslems, who ran away from their homes in the wake of the riots. They expressed doubts on their safety and chose to remain under the custody of the soldiers pending personal assurance from Ngige and President Olusegun Obasanjo. They were also worried that their Igbo brothers/hosts could become so bitter with them knowing that they had no hands in the killings up north.

Commuter vehicles, private cars returned to the deserted roads while social activities were gradually picking up in the markets.

Meanwhile the Obi of Onitsha, his Royal Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe has appealed to the federal and state governments to invoke all the necessary machinery to investigate the causes of acts of violence in various parts of the country and to take necessary steps to prevent a future occurrence.

He also implored all residents of Onitsha to remain calm, peaceful, lawful and respect the rights of other to go about their normal business.

The monarch made appeal yesterday morning when he visited the Army Barrack 302 Artillery Regiment, Onitsha refugee camp for the Hausa.

He noted that the victims might not know the import of the controversy. The Obi added that it was unfortunate that riot happened at the period when the country should be seriously focused on the entrenchment of rule of law, democracy, mutual respect and economic reforms for the improvement in the general well-being of the population.

Earlier in his office, the Commander Onitsha 302 Artillery Regiment, Col. Lucas Logagwoma, said about 5,000 people were taking refuge in the barracks.

He said that Ngige had promised to send in more doctors to treat the injured at the military hospital.

Logagwoma however, denied the rumour that soldiers were used to kill primary school pupils in Awada, a suburb of Onitsha.

About 10 of the 585 inmates that escaped on Wednesday when the prison was set ablaze by youths have returned.

The inmates were set free by youths who claimed to be looking for Hausa in the prison as a reprisal attack of the religious crisis in Maiduguri, Borno State which led to the death of many people and destruction of property.

The Anambra State Deputy Comptroller of Prison Mr. Columbus Omenuko stated this yesterday when the state Comptroller, Alhaji Sule Danyaya visited the prison.

In neighbouring Owerri, the Imo State capital, Hausas are still taking refuge in police barracks, 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze and a few other places secured by the security operatives.

Meanwhile the Secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State, Reverend Joseph John Hayab, lamented that Nigerians were destroying their future. "What advice do you want me to give them, when they are busy destroying their future, burning their shops and people. What about the advice we had given them. You want me to tell them not to retaliate or what? What advise do you want me to give when some people are making themselves a monopoly of violence, my brother...

As at press time yesterday suya (stick meat) spots manned by Hausa in Owerri remained deserted.

Others selling confectionery in major streets of the state capital also abandoned their spots.

They however converged at Ama Quarters on Douglas Road and Relief Market on Ikenegbu Extension transacting their businesses.

There were no armoured tanks, armed policemen and soldiers in the areas.

Posted by Publisher at February 24, 2006 03:10 PM


Nigeria should be divided so peace will reign

Posted by: Tony at February 27, 2006 08:03 AM

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