Suspected hoodlums descended in the early hours of yesterday on worshippers in churches along Taiwo Isale area of Ilorin, Kwara state, disrupting their Cross Over services and creating pandemonium in the vicinity.
Several vehicles were damaged during the attack while some ladies were reportedly raped by the hoodlums, according to sources familiar with the development. It took about two hours before the mayhem could be brought under control by the police.
At least 10 suspects had been arrested over the incident as at the time of filing this report while the injured had been taken to the hospital.
Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed described the incident as criminal, satanic. While the state police command ruled out religious factors behind the attack as it claimed that a Muslim group also worshipping in the area around the time was also attacked by the hoodlums, many sources in the community contended that it was a religious attack spearheaded by about 50 youths.
One source, who asked not to be identified in the media because of the nature of the incident, said,”Muslims attacked our churches during cross over this morning, many were injured, church auditoriums and cars were destroyed, while many innocent girls were raped. The churches include St Joseph Catholic Cathedral, Methodist Cathedral, CAC, and UMCA Hausa Church.”
Ahmed, in a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, Abdulwahaab Oba, commended those who made efforts to protect some of the victims regardless of their religious inclination and called on security agencies to immediately launch investigation into the incident and unravel the perpetrators of the unholy act with a view to bringing the culprits to book.
According to the governor, “peace is sine qua non for the development of any society and the government will not tolerate any act capable of breaching peace, unity and tranquillity of the state”. The governor called on the people of the state to imbibe spirit of tolerance and harmonious relationship for the sustenance of growth and economic development in the state. He also called on parents and guidance to monitor their wards with a view to curtailing their likely excesses.
The State Police Command through a press statement by its Spokesperson Ajayi Okadanmi traced the attack to attempt by some youths in the Taiwo Isale area to hold a New Year Carnival despite having been warned not to do so by community elders.
The statement reads: “At about 02:00 am of Monday, some youths that were prevented from carrying out what was termed New year carnival by the community leaders of the area for fear of the process turning into a security threat, owing to previous years experiences.
“In protest to the denial, the youths resorted into throwing bangers indiscriminately at all gatherings in the vicinity including religious gatherings celebrating the new year cross -over services, three (3) persons were injured in the resulting stampede, both the Catholic, Methodist and other churches in the area, including a Muslim group called Quareeb team, holding their programme in an adjoining school were attacked, some vehicles belonging to both worshippers were damaged.
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.”
The statement therefore warned mischief makers to stay clear of the state or face the wrath of the law as Okasdanmi assured residents of the capacity of the command to deal decisively with anybody arrested, for being a part of the breakdown of law and order in the state.
Okasanmi stated that “Good people of Kwara are admonished to continue with their lawful endeavours and disregard the insinuation that the crisis was between the Muslim and Christian, as Kwara state is known for her harmonious relationship among all religious group”.