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Jos In Flames - Nov. 2008

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The following is a verbatim eye witness account of the rioting in Jos.

At this moment, it is difficult to say what exactly happened to sparked off this mayhem. That is who started it, meaning who provoked who!! But it is very clear that the destruction started within the Hausa-Moslem community in the heart of the city, just beside the central mosque at about 11pm on Thursday night. The men went on rampage on a presumed election result that is yet awaited and yet anticipated. Even at this moment, no one knows who has won the chairmanship seat.The news of the attack started spreading at about 12 am Friday morning and a source told me he phoned the special adviser to the governor at about 1am to tell him that the city center was under siege.

By 5 am, at least 20 houses were burning! And a quick assessment showed that the Muslim (Hausa) men were attacking the Christian residents. The police were out on the streets when I got to the Terminus area of the centre of Jos, but it seems they were simply standing at a safe distance, completely unsure of what to do. Meanwhile more and more houses and churches were going up in flames; the fires were spreading more rapidly.

I tried going to the Dilimi street area, but an excited Muslim boy armed with a cutlass charged at me and I dashed back and made a detour towards the old burnt main market, that wa s when I met one of the first casualties, a young Ibo man, whose arm was spurting blood, he was weak form blood loss and can barely walk. I quickly made him sit and grabbed a dirty carton string the nearest thing I could find- and tied the arm, it was a machete cut that shattered his arm and other cuts to the head, and it was obvious he blocked a blow that would have ended his life. I talked to the man all the way as I walked him to the University teaching Hospital nearby to keep him from fainting as he managed to walk. Getting into the emergency room of the hospital, I was taken a back to see that as early as about 8:30, there were already 8 people being attended to and all the nurses in the station were already engaged as more casualties poured in. I could not get anyone's attention to was the blood off my hands. I walked out and realized if I had to get any where near where I could make sense of this situation I had to walk all the way round the city itself. So I took off towards the British- America junction and walked all the way through the Bauchi Ring Road to Dogon Dutse. All the way the police seemed to have left the boys in the communities to set up their road blocks. Once a while a police vehicle or a military patrol will drive by, ask the boy to open the road blocks for them and then drive off while the boys armed with bow, arrows cutlasses and any thing they can defend themselves with stand and await the imminent attack of the Hausa boy and indeed, at about 9:30 am the Hausa boy emerged from Yan Shanu and had reached the fringes of the Fudawa junction. Women and children came down the hills running for their lives and few minute later, their houses went up in flames. At a distance you could see the Muslim boy shouting 'Allahu akbar!' and torching the houses with petrol bombs. I finally was able to get in to Chwel-Nyap (Congo-Russia, as it is known), the battle ground of the first religious clash in 2001, and I was completely overwhelmed by the fight that was going on. At least 30 houses were burning and boys, girls, old men and women were all out trying desperately to defend their houses from the gangs of boys that are armed with shot guns and petrol bombs. Through the smoke I saw boy 12 to 20 years launching attack at the church nearby and were trying to set it ablaze the Christian youths were trying very hard to ward them off by throwing stones at them there was a shot from a gun and all the Christian boys scattered, the church then went up in flames. I had to dash off immediately.

I ran into two boys carrying their colleagues, who had bullet wounds, they were taken into a roadside chemist who had opened his store to assist with the casualties. Soon after, there was a call-to-prayer in a loud speaker somewhere in the Nassarawa area, the=2 0'allhu akbar, allahu akbar!!' over the speaker went on for a long time. At about 12 noon more houses were going up in flames. The radius of burning houses and spreading smoke was expanding. Again the police patrol were doing just that, 'Patrolling" and they fire into the air to show what you can hardly say, but the Muslim boy were having a field day burning and looting. I tried making my way to Bauchi road, but soon realized that would be suicide. So I turned back to make my way back to the heart of town where I came from.

I was very relieved when the GhADS ambulance sped pass me to the Bauchi Ring Road where the casualties were increasing and there is no hospital in the area, they had their hands full there attending to people with machete wounds. At about 4:30 smoke came into the air in the distance to indicate that the Tudun Wada area was also going up in flames.

There was a 5 minutes broadcast by Governor Jang on the mayhem. He announced a curfew.

Day two of the crises showed that at about 6 am that the youths from Angwan Rogo/ Bauchi Rd area have neither relented or are they easing off on the attack to the Christian communities. At Rikkos area, what was left of the Christian homes around the Bauchi Ring Road went up in flames. As I walked around the ring road again, to get to Nassarawa, fresh fires were 0Acoming up again, in a guerilla like attack, the Muslim youths followed through very narrow alleys and footpaths between narrow streets and attacked the Christian homes and set them ablaze. Fleeing home owners tried to get the assistance of the few patrolling security men on the streets but they were told that there was nothing they could do. I walked Tina Junction, Bauchi Ring Rd and there followed the trail of a smoke rising in the sky, I then came to a house that was burning. A short distance from the house laid the body of a young man, Friday by name, who had been macheted to death. I spoke to the community head and a young man whose friend was killed. The story of the attacked is consistent all through, the Muslim boys were armed, prepared, and organized in their attack, and from the wave of the attacks it seems they want to over run the Christian community in the area. I got to Chwel Nyap, just three hours after the battle was over, the Pastor of the church had been shot dead and the Muslim youths were about to over run the church when a patrol of soldiers appeared, and shot into the air, dispersing the youths. Once more what was left of the Christians there survived another day. I was taken to a small dispensary and on the floor laid the corpses of five young men, shot by the Muslim youths. Arrangements were being made to bury the bodies because taking them to the mortuary had it challenges. Families wer e being contacted and an old Peugeot pick up drove in to take the bodies away.

There are still corpses on the street those set ablaze and the ones shot or macheted. From body count, I have seen eleven so far; one burnt at Tudun Wada ring road, one at Dogon Dutse, near the Mountain of Fire Church, one in Chwel Nyap, five shot by Muslim youths at Chwel-Nyap, The pastor that was shot- that makes nine all in all, as I walked down the Secretariat Junction going down towards Hill Crest School, a truck load of dead bodies drove pass, the truck of the ministry of urban development, escorted by police. I will estimate that there are at least ten bodies in the truck. I walked down to standard building, a very long walk and there too a Peugeot station wagon drove past carrying another set of bodies, about three at the back. My attempt to go towards the main mosque looked suicidal so I turned round and headed for the university teaching hospital to see what the casualty rate is. I did notice though that the number of refugees was not as much as that of the 2001 crises. I thought that either the owners of the homes got burnt inside with their homes or they must have fled to homes of friends and relations rather than to the Military or Police Barracks. The number of refugees at the police barracks and public schools was a handful. I later realized that most of the Christi ans had run to the surrounding hills because they were cut off from reaching the police or military barracks. At the University teaching Hospital, I was denied any information and was told to wait for the Chief Medical Director. I tried chatting with the attendant at the Mortuary and he simply said there were corpse of the dead that were brought who were shot or burnt all over the floor in the morgue, and not getting any further details, I left.

Church attendance was poor. This was to be expected. People have been displaced and other are still mourning their dead, while other still are trapped and do not know what to do or where to go. The streets were largely empty. Those that were at a walking distance walked to their churches to find solace, meet friends or to hear if there are other developments. The rumour that is fast spreading is that the Muslims outside Jos are preparing another attack because their fellow muslims have reported on the CNN at to other international media that the Christians are wiping out the Muslims in Jos. So they are coming as back up squads and are armed. The report of the two pastors that were killed at COCIN Chwel Nyap and ECWA Rikkos, also filtered through the churches. Prayers for peace were said.

The town is beginning to smell, well at least some part of it. The government is working tirelessly to=2 0bring a sense of normalcy. The ministry of housing and environment is tirelessly trying to clear the dead on the streets as well as remove burnt vehicles. Well the local media houses in Jos have entered a code of silence. There was a gross under reporting of the happening as if trying to wish away all the chaos on the streets. BBC and CNN were having a field day reporting, either what they were told or what little they could see from a long distance and the stories are grossly distorted.

There is a cease fire from the Muslim youths. The Christian youths are now beginning to muster some courage and a few reprisal attacks were reported in Tudun Wada and Rock Haven area of Jos town. Three mosques were attacked, one in Tudun Wada, one at Dogon Dutse and the other at Rock Haven. Two Arabic schools were also attacked at Dogon Dutse. A fleet of fairly used vehicles belonging to a Muslim were burnt down at Zaria RD. As of the time of writing this report, I have seen eight churches burnt down and two pastors reportedly killed. It is still difficult to ascertain the accurate number of people killed generally because there are still a number of people missing, no one knows if they are dead or have simply fled to safety or are in a hospital some where. In the Chwel Nyap area alone I was given a record of 140 houses burnt or destroyed all with the properties and businesses of their owners.

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