The Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, on Saturday ordered a probe into the violence that erupted in the Katangan area of Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State over an alleged blasphemy.
Trouble reportedly started following a social media post by a 40-year-old staff of the Medical Department Warji Local Government, Rhoda Jatau, which was considered as blasphemous to Islam.
In the ensuing violence, an unspecified number of people, including a pastor, sustained varying degrees of injury while many houses were touched.
Confirming the incident in a statement on Saturday, the spokesman for the Bauchi State Police Command, Ahmed Wakil, said, “On 20th May, 2022, at about 5.45pm Some irate youths set six houses and seven shops ablaze, while some scores of persons were injured as a result of a blasphemous message posted on a social media by one Rhoda Jatau (female) 40 years old staff of the Medical Department Warji Local Government.
“The police have since deployed all tactical teams, Mobile Police Force and Rapid Response Squad, whose joint efforts brought the situation under control.
“The area is calm for now, while visibility patrols are ongoing to keep the peace.
“The Commissioner of Police appeal to the general public to be calm and go about their lawful business without any fear of intimidation as normalcy has been restored in the affected area.”
The state governor later visited the community in company with heads of security agencies and top government officials, to assess the situation and sympathise with the people.
Mohammed expressed dismay and sadness at the incident, vowing that his government would not fold its hands and watch unscrupulous elements disrupt the peace in the state.
The governor said the state would set up an investigation panel to unravel the situation and anyone found wanting among both the Christians and the Muslims would be punished according to the law.
Mohammed said, “I am really disillusioned and I feel very sad that this incident happened in Warji because Warji is a home of peace. The Christian community has been here in Warji for many years. Although they are a minority, they’ve lived in peace with the majority. And when I found out that the person who precipitated this violence and rampage is not even an indigene of Warji, my mind was soothed by that understanding.
“This social media is an evil, technology is good but sometimes, it can be used against us. Even the girl, who started this, borrowed this thing from Ghana. The security has briefed me, but certainly, two wrongs cannot make a right. We should restrain ourselves and be peaceful with each other.
“We will make sure that we don’t encourage this, reward and punishment must be embedded in this, as the Commissioner of Police has said. But please, I know with small thing, others will come up. Somebody’s house is burnt, he’s bound to feel bad, please, exercise patience in the name of God and if you won’t do it because of me or anything, do it in the name of the God that you believe in, because Bauchi is known for peace.
“You can see banditry everywhere, Boko Haram everywhere, please, sheath the sword and embrace peace and harmony. We are all one.”
The governor added, “Since I came on board, this hasn’t happened; although something similar happened but that was political in Gudum Sayawa and Gudum Fulani, but we dealt with it. But this one is more dangerous than political upheavals. I, for one, will not tolerate this. I may be carrying the carrots all the time, but I am the Kauran Bauchi that will carry the stick.”
The governor said he lost sleep over the latest incident, saying “my mind was here thinking at the level of incident but thank God that no life was lost.
“All these properties are from God. We will set up an investigation to fish out the culprits and we will bring some succour and solace to those who suffered losses. Don’t reignite this thing again.”
Reflecting on the scale of damage, the governor added: “I saw a widow there (whose house was affected) and my heart is touched; she’s a very peaceful woman. Even when I knelt down to greet her, she was just saying that there was no problem. So, we will make sure that we bring some relief at least, for those who have been rendered homeless, because you see, the person who caused this thing is not even a member of this community, so you should not bear the brunt. God will be alive to its responsibility.”
Responding, the Resident Pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All, whose shops were burnt, Musa Buba Bajam, thanked the governor for coming to commiserate with them.
He added, “I want to beg the leadership of the local government to be fair to everyone; they shouldn’t lead as if other people (Christians) don’t exist, it brings contempt. Secondly, the District Head should also take charge of his place, Christians and Muslims here are all the same before him, all of us are his subjects.
“We don’t want to talk more and go into the details, but the things that happened are not good and fair. District Head, we are all your children, anything that happens, intervene on our behalf on time, it will help us.
“This incident happened by 4pm yesterday (Friday), the Council Chairman and the District Head didn’t intervene until this (Saturday) morning, honestly, help us to walk together. Failing to intervene quickly can always cause more problems.”
Reacting, Vice President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, 19 Northern States and Abuja, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, lamented that allegations of blasphemy had become the new excuse by fundamentalists in northern Nigeria to kill “the remnant that bandits and terrorists have not yet killed.”
Hayab said, “We know and have evidence of how some of these allegations of blasphemy are false and are just for blackmail or settling scores with passive enemies or well-mannered young girls who have refused sexual advances by the opposite sex from another religion.
“We are also aware of how fanatics have in the past raised lies in the name of blasphemy.
“CAN wonders if the recent sermons we are getting from some Islamic clerics on what the holy Quran says about what should be done if anyone is accused of blasphemy is unpopular amongst followers?
“The challenge now is for government authorities and security agencies to act fast to address this abuse of our constitution before it leads to a more serious conflict that cannot be handled.”