While 2018 was ushered in with pomp and circumstance all over the world, it was not so in Rivers, Kaduna and Kwara states as assailants attacked residents in the states, leaving behind sorrow, tears and blood.
In Rivers, no fewer than 14 persons were gunned down, while a traditional ruler and his pregnant wife were killed in Kaduna. In Kwara, worshippers were attacked by youths who wanted to organise a New Year carnival.
Some gunmen between 12.10am and 1am embarked on a shooting spree in Omoku, in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, killing 14 persons.
It was gathered that the victims had earlier gone to their various churches to pray into the New Year and were coming back when they were ambushed.
Other people also reportedly sustained gunshot injuries and were rushed to hospitals by other residents of the community.
Some of those killed during the mayhem were said to be four members of a family, including a man and his wife.
The incident, according to a resident of the area, who identified himself simply as Ukandu, occured at two places in the area – Omoku and Aligwu.
Ukandu said the fireworks that usually greeted the New Year made it almost impossible for residents to notice that hoodlums were shooting residents.
He said, “We were shocked to see some corpses in Aligwu and Omoku. About 14 persons were killed; and some of them were shot at close range.
There were, however, conflicting reports on the number of those who sustained gunshot injuries as some put the number at 24, while others said it was about 30.
A resident of the community, Desmond, told one of our correspondent that the Monday’s attack could be a reprisal from a cult.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed the incident and said the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ahmed Zaki, had ordered a manhunt for the perpetrators of the crime.
The police spokesman added that he could not immediately speak on the number of casualties of the incident because he had yet to be told.
“I can confirm the incident, but at the moment, we cannot confirm the number of casualties. The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations and heads of police units have been mobilised there to restore peace.
“The Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Zaki, has ordered a manhunt for the hoodlums so that they can face the law.”
Omoku has been experiencing violent crimes since 2014, even as some cult members, who initially embraced the state government amnesty programme, went back to crime.
A former militant leader, popularly known as Don Nwanee, had been on the run after security operatives raided his shrine and discovered over 10 human skulls, weapons and charms.
Monarch, pregnant wife killed in attack
Gunmen, at the break of the New Year, invaded Arak village, in the Sango Local Government Area of Kaduna State, killing the paramount ruler, Etum Numana ll, Dr Gambo Makama, and his pregnant wife.
Sango, with headquarters at Gwantu, is hundreds of kilometres away from Kaduna metropolis, and located in the southern part of Kaduna.
The Monday attack was third in the series of attacks in the Southern Kaduna within a week.
The first was in Nindem in Godogodo chiefdom, in the Jema’ah LGA where a lone gunman attacked Christians observing the Christmas carol on December 23, 2017, killing four persons and injuring eight others.
In less than 24 hours, gunmen again attacked a nearby village on Christmas Eve, killing six persons and injuring several others.
In the latest attack, it was learnt that the monarch had travelled from his place in Gwantu to celebrate the New Year with his subjects in his village, Arak, but was murdered around 12.07am.
It was gathered that the gunmen, who reportedly opened fire on the entire family, including the monarch’s 45-year-old son, fled into the bush after the attack.
The traditional ruler and his pregnant wife died on the spot, while the son who sustained serious injuries, was rushed to a hospital.
The monarch’s house was said to have been razed by the attackers, who reportedly wore masks.
The spokesman for the Kaduna State Police Command, ASP Mukhtar Aliyu, said, “We got a distress call about 4am that armed men stormed the monarch’s house and shot him and his wife.
“The hoodlums also set his palace ablaze before fleeing. We are intensifying efforts to ensure that we arrest them.”
The Chairman of Sango Development, Bala Audu, said the monarch was with his second wife when the gunmen invaded his home.
The chairman said, “The traditional ruler was seated with his second wife, who was pregnant. The gunmen, who covered their faces with masks, suddenly invaded the house and opened fire on them.”
The state Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on Monday condemned the attack and ordered security operatives to fish out the attackers.
He said the attack was a calculated threat to peace in the area and the entire state.
The governor, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, said, “The late Etum Numana was a peacemaker. The government commiserates with the immediate family of the royal father and his wife, the people of Numana Chiefdom and the entire Sango Local Government Area.
“The government has directed security agencies to investigate this criminal incident and bring the assailants to justice.”
“We urge the people of Numana Chiefdom to remain calm and to support the security agencies as they investigate this latest threat to the hard-won peace in the area.”
Youths attack worshipers in Ilorin
Scores of people were on Monday injured after an attack on both Christian and Muslim worship centres allegedly by youths from the Taiwo Isale area of Ilorin, Kwara State.
While the Kwara State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ajayi Okasanmi, said three people were injured, the Special Adviser on Security to the Kwara State Governor, Amusa Bello, said no fewer than 25 people were injured.
There was, however, no report of any death.
Our correspondent gathered that the youths were prevented by the community leaders in the area from embarking on what they termed, ‘New Year carnival,’ around 2am for fear of the carnival turning into a security threat, owing to previous experiences.
Sources said the youths resorted to throwing bangers indiscriminately at all gatherings in the vicinity, including religious gatherings celebrating the New Year.
It was gathered that churches in the area and a Muslim group, called Quareeb, were attacked.
Property belonging to the churches and the United Secondary School in Taiwo Isale were also damaged.
A statue of Mary was burnt, while another was smashed at the St, Joseph Catholic Church, Taiwo Isale. Some windows and other property of the church, as well as a car were vandalised.
The hoodlums also destroyed property at the Methodist Church, Taiwo Isale.
Also, the building where some Muslims were holding a session was vandalised, while some of the faithful were injured.
The Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed condemned the attack.
Ahmed in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Abdulwahaab Oba, described the attack as criminal, satanic and alien to the state.
He commended people who protected some of the victims regardless of their religious inclination.
He also called on security agencies to investigate the incident and unravel the perpetrators of the “unholy act” with a view to bringing them to book.
Ahmed said, “Peace is sine qua non for the development of any society and the government will not tolerate any act capable of breaching the peace, unity and tranquillity of the state.”
The Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, also condemned the attack.
Ahmad in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, AbdulRahman Sanni, called for calm.
According to him, the attack was not religious, but was carried out by hoodlums, who must be brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
He said peace was pivotal to the socio-economic transformation of the state and commended the state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Ado Lawan, for sending police officers and urged him to commence full-scale investigations into the incident.
He stated that Kwara State would not compromise on sustaining peaceful coexistence of the residents.
The Kwara State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ajayi Okasanmi, said 10 suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack.
Okasanmi said, “The Kwara State Police Command wishes to assure the people of Kwara State of its capacity to deal decisively with anybody arrested for being a part of the breakdown of law and order that was witnessed in the Taiwo Isale area of Ilorin.
“At about 2am of today (Monday), some youths were prevented from carrying out what was termed New Year carnival and in protest to the denial, the youths resorted to throwing bangers indiscriminately at all gatherings in the vicinity, including religious gatherings celebrating the New Year. Three persons were injured in the resulting stampede.
“The Catholic, Methodist churches and other churches in the area, as well as a Muslim group, Quareeb, were attacked.
“It is important to note, that the attack has no religious undertone. It is simply an unlawful act by the disgruntled youths of the area, as both the Christian and Muslim gatherings in the area were attacked.
“Ten suspects have been arrested, while the the injured had been taken to hospitals. Investigation into the matter has commenced.”