Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State
Four persons have so far lost their lives while at least one house, a church and a shop have been burnt in a riot sparked by alleged posting of a blasphemous statement about Prophet Muhammad on the social media in Pandogari town, Niger State last Sunday, according to Nigerian military authorities.
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the military announced imposition of curfew on the town to curb the raging violence in which it said has also led to looting of 25 shops.
Major N. C Agwu, Assistant Director Army Public Relations, in the statement released on Tuesday morning said the religious riot began at about 6 pm on Sunday when 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.
He added that 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.
However, the rioters embarked on further violence on Monday morning , looting shops and blocking the Lagos – Kaduna Road, a major artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the country.
Again, according to Major Agwu, military personnel in conjunction with the operatives of Nigeria Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC) took control of the situation to forestall escalation of violence.
He however said despite the intervention, one church, one house and a shop were burnt while 25 other shops were looted.
“Three other persons including a personnel of the NSCDC also lost their lives. 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.
Major Agwu added that the military is working with the Local Government Council authorities, community leaders, including the Kagara Emirate Council to pacify all aggrieved parties and build on the peace so far established.
But he said 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.
He also urged inhabitants of the town to abide by the conditions of the curfew.
“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,” Major Agwu said.