Zamfara State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Alhaji Abdulazeez Yari, has vowed that perpetrators of the violence in Talata Mafara in the state on Monday, resulting in the death of eight persons will be arrested and prosecuted.
Eight persons were set ablaze following an altercation between two students of a polytechnic in Talata Mafara. One of the students was alleged to have committed blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed, resulting in a mob reaction and violence that led to his death and that of seven others when they were burnt alive in a residence.
The governor, who explained the incident to newsmen after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday at the State House, Abuja, said even though no arrest had been made by the police, investigations were on-going to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime do not go unpunished.
Yari said: “At the time I left Zamfara, no arrest had been made. Immediately the incident happened, the school authority shut down the institution.
“The police and DSS are carrying out their investigation and soon there will be arrests. The government will not take this lightly, people taking the law into their hands?
“If you say the punishment of those who abused the Prophet should be death, and you now kill innocent people, and by the way there is a government in place; there are laws and there are courts where Islamic laws are practised in Zamfara.
“So why should someone take the law into his hands? So definitely all the culprits will be brought to book.”
Dispelling the perception that the violence was religious in nature, the governor explained that it was a fallout of a disagreement between two students.
He explained: “I think what happened was unnecessary and it was not supposed to happen. From the intelligence report I got from the security agencies, there was a fight between two students and I think one of them injured the other and started shouting that his assailant had abused Prophet Muhammad and other students came and beat the other boy who is Yoruba and from Kogi State.
“Some people said he was a Muslim and some said the boy was a Christian, so they beat the student until he collapsed and thought he was dead. Then security personnel requested help from one shop owner who then took the boy to the hospital in his car.
“Then the students heard that the boy was still alive and was in the hospital. So they went to the hospital. However, the boy was rescued by soldiers in the hospital. But I don’t know if the boy is alive or dead now.
“Then the students went back to the polytechnic and burnt the shop of the person who gave his car to rescue the boy and they came back to town again and you know the police in the division, they don’t have enough men to contain riots, so before reinforcement could arrive, the crowd threw tyres on the man’s house and burnt the house down.
“That was how everyone in the house was killed and everyone killed in the house was Muslim and not the rumours going around on the social media that Christians were killed in Zamfara.
“In fact, the mob wanted to go and burn churches and attack non-Muslims but the security forces stopped them. Talata Mafara is my home town and that’s where I live.”
Reacting to the attack in Zamfara, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), an Islamic body led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday condemned the violent attack in the state, following the alleged blasphemy on the Prophet of Islam.
JNI described the attack as “most unfortunate”.
“This recurring matter is becoming tediously monotonous and remains condemned in the strongest terms,” the JNI said in the statement signed by its general secretary, Khalid Aliyu.
The JNI said all Muslims should see themselves as faithful in the practice of the religion and not assume the position of judges to mete out punishment against anyone.
“The nasty behaviour of some miscreants should not be misconstrued as the Islamic teaching,” the JNI said.
It conveyed the condolences of the Sultan to “all the affected victims of the unfortunate incidence” and called on “respective predominant Muslim communities to be very wary and cautious of the crafty art of blasphemy within or around their respective communities and learn to handle such matters with utmost caution no matter the provocations that may arise therefrom”.