December 2, 2008

Yar’Adua stops inauguration of Plateau LG chairmen

There were indications in Abuja on Monday that President Umaru Yar’Adua had directed Governor Jonah Jang to stop the inauguration of the newly elected Local Government Chairmen and councillors in Plateau State.

A source in the Presidency told one of our correspondents that Yar’Adua informed Jang through the telephone that the inauguration could lead to another round of violence in the state.

He said, “On learning that the governor was planning to inaugurate the new councils today (Monday), the President telephoned him on Sunday evening to express his displeasure at such a move which could further inflame passion in the state.

“The President was highly incensed that the governor could contemplate inaugurating the councils in the face of the current development when tension was still high and people still counting their huge losses. The President told the governor to shelve the idea.”

It was learnt that Yar’Adua, who sent the minister supervising the Ministry of Health, Alhaji Hassan Lawal, to assess the Jos mayhem, also expressed displeasure that the state government had not done much in the supply of relief materials to the displaced persons.

“The President on Monday directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, under whose purview the National Emergency Management Agency operates, to ensure that efforts were made to provide relief materials for the displaced people,” our source said.

He added that Yar’Adua, at a meeting with security chiefs in Abuja on Monday, also directed that efforts should be made to ensure that the crisis did not spread to other states in the country.

It was learnt that President’s directive was informed by reports of rising tension in some states, including those in the South-East geo-political zone where reprisal attacks had been experienced in the past.

Just as our source made the disclosure, more families sought refuge in army and police barracks in Onitsha, Anambra State, as tension built up in the city over the Jos violence.

Sokoto Road, Headbridge, Haruna Street and other parts of the commercial city with high population of Northerners looked deserted when our correspondent in Awka visited on Monday.

The state Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, said through his Chief press Secretary, Mr. Mike Udah, that proactive measures had been taken to protect lives and property in the state.

Obi added that his administration had placed all the security agencies in the state on the alert.

Trouble broke out in Jos on Friday over the conduct of LG elections in the state. More than 300 people were reported killed and hundreds wounded in the two-day violence.

Also on Monday, the Deputy Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Alhaji Hassan Baba, narrowly escaped being lynched at the Jos Central Mosque by some displaced people.

Baba, who accompanied the Speaker of the House Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole and Lawan to the mosque, was accused by the displaced persons of abandoning them.

Our correspondent in Jos reported that Bankole saved the day as Baba had to cling to his hand before being moved to a safe place.

Before the incident, tension had heightened outside the mosque as the over 4,000 displaced persons refused the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Richard Chime, entry.

Chime, who also accompanied Bankole and Lawal to the mosque, then made frantic calls for security operatives to be dispatched to the scene.

A few minutes later, some operatives arrived in Armoured Personnel Carriers to bring the situation under the control.

A soldier told our correspondent that but for their quick response, there would have been another round of fracas in the troubled city.

But after the tension was doused, a mild drama occurred when a member of the House of Representative, Alhaji Samaila Mohammed, began to read an address on behalf of the victims.

As Muhammed, who is also one of those that took refuge in the mosque, was about to blame the state government for the crisis, Bankole, apparently sensing danger, quickly snatched the script and microphone from him and interjected.

He told the displaced persons that he was sent by his colleagues in the National Assembly to see things for themselves.

The Speaker said, ”We are from the National Assembly to see things for ourselves. We have visited the governor and he has told us his own side of the story.

“We need all of you now than any time because what you do in the next one hour can either save life or take away life. The difference between you and the people out there is that you are the leaders. Whether you like it or not, you must put your emotions into your pockets.

“You have lost property, sisters, wives, children or whatever, but they are not worth more than losing Prophet Mohammed. We will make sure that the people who did this are properly dealt with. You must allow us to do it.

“Because that is the job you have given us as elected representatives, you cannot do it yourself. You must be patient to allow us to investigate properly with facts and figures. I beg you, we beg you to do just this for us.”

Bankole reminded them that as good Muslims, they must pray, especially now that Arafat, the hallmark of the Muslim pilgrimage, was only six days away.

In his comment, Lawal assured the displaced persons, including a former Minister of State for Information and Communications, Mr. Dasuki Nakande, that the Federal Government would send relief materials to them.

He said that he was sent by the President to ascertain the level of destruction and the assistance they would need.

He had visited the injured at the Jos University Teaching Hospital on Sunday and the premises of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in Rikkos where reprisal attacks were recorded on Saturday.

Meanwhile, normalcy has started to return to many parts of the city. But movements are still being restricted, especially in the vulnerable areas.

However, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Gen. Yusuf Bomoi, said on Monday that corps members serving in Jos were among the over 200 people officially confirmed killed in the two-day mayhem that began on Friday.

He gave their names as Leke Akande, 23; Tola Odusola, 20; and Ibukun Oluwatosin Akinjogbin, 23.

Bomoi, who addressed batches A, B and C of the NYSC members currently in camp at the Zang Secondary Commercial School, Bukuru, assured them of safety.

He said as a precautionary measure, the batch C members would be allowed to go back to their respective homes.

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