•100 Abuja rioters arrested
By Tony Eluemunor
Revelations have begun to emerge as to why the Abuja Miss World pageant was moved to London. According to privileged reports, the hoodlums behind the riots which rocked Abuja last Friday, had planned to attack the venue for the finals earlier scheduled for December 7 at the International Conference Centre. They had planned to unleash bloodshed at the finals.
It was gathered that the last Friday Abuja riots was just a tip of the iceberg as the hoodlums had also planned to attack top government officials at the Central Mosque. Government sources revealed that several top government officials got wind of the planned attack and so stayed away from the mosque. According to the source, owing to this, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Federal Capital Territory minister, Muhammed Abba Gana, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba and other top muslims in government kept away from the Central Mosque.
However, when asked if the Police had fore knowledge of the riots, the Force Public Relations Officer, Chris Olakpe, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, was evasive: “We had adequate manpower on ground to handle such cases,” he said. Meanwhile Olakpe said that the Police have arrested no fewer than one hundred rioters who disrupted commercial activities in the nation’s seat of power, Abuja last Friday and they will soon appear in court for prosecution.
Olakpe, who spoke exclusively to Daily Independent in Abuja yesterday, said the rioters were arrested at the National Mosque and Old Wuse Market in Abuja.
He disclosed that the arrested persons are currently being interrogated and investigated by the FCT Police Command after which those found wanting would be charged to court according to law.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun has assured of the Force’s readiness to ensure the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections in the country.
City mourns after Miss World riots
From Oloche Samuel in Kaduna
A procession of Muslim men carried the body of nine-year-old Halima Mohammed, who was killed in the largely Christian neighbourhood of Sabon Tasha on Sunday.
"This little girl was hit by a bullet. We don't know from where," said one of the mourners, Yau Abubakar. "We are tired of living here - we are going to join our Muslim brothers in Tudun Wada," he said, referring to one of the city's largest Muslim areas.
Chris Yakubu, a 26-year-old apprentice carpenter working in Tudun Wada, was recovering in hospital from gunshot wounds he received on Thursday when he tried to flee riots near his workplace. Mr Yakubu, a Christian, said he did not dare return to his job in the neighbourhood.
"I can't go back there again. It is not safe for me," he said.
Hundreds of people were moving out of their homes, carrying luggage and furniture on their backs. Others clogged banks, which reopened for the first time since the violence, to withdraw money to rent newhomes, or in some cases, leave the city.
The riots began on Wednesday when a mob of Islamists burned down the Kaduna office of the Lagos-based newspaper ThisDay.
The demonstrators were angry at an article it published urging Muslims to support the Miss World pageant, and speculating that the Prophet Mohammed would have wanted to marry one of the contestants.
At least 220 people were killed and 22 churches and eight mosques destroyed in the rioting, Nigerian Red Cross workers said yesterday. Hundreds of homes were torched and at least 8,000 people were left homeless by the rampage, they added.
Volunteers and army personnel buried 101 bodies late on Sunday in a mass grave in an abandoned cemetery on the western edge of Kaduna, a military officer told the Associated Press. Government officials had been planning to hold mass burials of unclaimed bodies yesterday, several Nigerian news organisations reported.
Human rights groups have reported multiple cases of summary executions of civilians by soldiers and police, including 15 Muslim men allegedly rounded up from their homes and shot by security forces who threw their bodies in a river.
After the rioting briefly spread on Friday to the capital, Abuja, where Miss World contestants were holed up in a hotel under heavy security, the pageant's organisers evacuated the contestants on Sunday to London where they said the show would now be held on December 7, the same day as it had been due to be staged in Abuja.
Nigeria was chosen to host this year's contest after Miss Nigeria Agbani Darego won last year's event in South Africa.
Obasanjo absolves govt of blame in riots
By Oguwike Nwachuku, Tokunbo Oloruntola and Vincent Obia
President Olusegun Obasanjo has absolved his administration of blame in the crisis that rocked Kaduna and Abuja metropolis last week saying that before his regime came on board there were reports of conflicts in parts of the country.
Although, the President said the riots could have been the handiwork of those who did not mean well for his administration, he however cautioned against describing the riots as pre-election ploy.
Speaking while fielding questions from the Cable News Network (CNN) yesterday, President Obasanjo who took a whollistic view of all that transpired in Kaduna from last Thursday to last Saturday, and in Abuja last Friday, reiterated that his administration was committed to a violence–free election next year.
“I don’t believe the opinion of those who think that the riots were a pre-election conflict. There is no pre-election ploy”, President Obasanjo explained, adding that “there have been conflicts before this”. He said his administration had done its best to maintain peace and order in the country, noting that the regime is still irrevocably committed to “violence-free election come 2003”.
On the allegation that his government has been starving the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of funds to tidy up the electoral time table, President Obasanjo said: “the money INEC asked for had been released”.
Besides, he absolved his regime of interference in the activities of INEC saying, doing so would have meant the body is not independent.
Speaking on the aspects of the Sharia law, particularly the area that recommends sentencing women to death through stoning for adultery, the President said “no such punishment has ever been carried out in Nigeria”.
He said affected persons were at liberty to appeal at the highest court in the country which is the Supreme Court, adding that government will always support individuals who are ready to appeal against any punishment that undermines their fundamental human rights.
“Sharia law is also not the issue. It has always been there even in our penal code. It is not a new thing per se in our constitution or in our law. But what is a new thing is what people call freedom of the press. What I call license to be insensitive to people’s feelings or way of life. They show no respect. That I cannot accept as a way that journalists or press men or women should conduct their affairs in this land”, he stated.
On why his administration cannot evolve a strong leadership to check incessant violent in parts of the country, President Obasanjo said “we deliberately went for federal system of government because of our diversity and anybody who tries to evolve a unitary form of government in this country will destroy our country overnight. That has been there and it did not work. Federalism shows that each component part of the federation has power within the constitution to make its own laws and implement its own laws and that is what we have”.
Citing countries like the United States of America and Australia where federalism is also in practice, the President said that of Nigeria should not be an exception.
However, he said Nigerians, irrespective of their religious leaning, have been living together, noting that Christians and Muslims do not have choice than to co-habit.
The President who said it was regrettable that the Miss World Beauty pageant which was initially slated to take place in Nigeria was relocated to London due to the riots, however noted that “the government did everything possible to show that we cherished their presence in our country”.
He said the participants had the opportunity of meeting with Nigerians when they were conducted round the country, adding that those who adduced insecurity as the reason not to give Nigeria the hosting right were those who do not mean well for the country.
From Madu Onuorah (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Hannah Onoji, Biodun Davies (Lagos) and Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt)
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo returned to his desk yesterday after a three-day visit to Lagos State. But he was not his exuberant self, as he was obviously weighed down by the recent violent protests in Kaduna and Abuja.
The President who was saddened by the recent anti- Miss World violent riots, cancelled all engagements he had yesterday outside the State House, saying that the mayhem of last week has dampened government's efforts to attract foreign investors to the country.
The President was not alone in the condemnation of the act yesterday. Former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and former Kaduna State governor, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), also flayed the riots.
While Buhari wanted the masterminds tried according to the law, Umar chided the rioters who he said ought to have known that Nigerians who are not Moslems have the right to watch the Miss World beauty contest since Nigeria is a secular state. "Religious fundamentalism and hypocrisy were the most potent catalysts of great social upheaval and blow-up particularly in a multi-religious and multi cultural society such as ours," he said.
But there seems to be no hiding place for the troubled global beauty pageant as fresh misfortune is buffeting it even in London. Feminists in Britain yesterday began a campaign for cancellation of the 2002 edition of the world beauty show following the killings in Kaduna.
Speaking while receiving the final report of the Presidential committee on solid minerals at State House, Abuja, the President lamented that the riots have negatively affected the productive sectors of the economy and described the dire consequences of the anti-Miss World riot as self-inflicted.
But calm has returned to the streets of Kaduna, after last week's disturbances, following a newspaper publication which the Moslem community considered offensive.
According to the Nigerian Red Cross Society, over 6,000 families are however still taking refuge in different locations within the Kaduna metropolis.
In London yesterday, the feminists calling for the cancellation of the contest, hinged their campaign on the fact that if it goes ahead, the contestants "will be wearing swimwear dripping with blood."
They could also have trouble finding a major venue for the pageant on the planned date of December 7 as the Royal Albert Hall and Earls Court in London are already booked.
Oscar-winning actress turned parliamentarian, Glenda Jackson, led the calls for the contest to be halted: "The best thing to do after such fratricide and blood-letting, is to cancel the whole competition," she said.
Australian feminist Germaine Greer, said the prospect of staging the contest in London was "horrifying" while writer Muriel Gray said: "These girls will be wearing swimwear dripping with blood."
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) said though "the Moslems had a point because their religion forbids uncharitable remarks on adults and leaders, Islam does not like people of other religions to pass such remarks on its followers. So it is quite inciting for the reporter to have made the blasphemous comment, and even incompetent for the editor that allowed the article to be published.
He, however, condemned the subsequent killings, saying that "it is not justified. It is wrong to kill. People who killed should be brought before the law, although the right people should be traced."
Buhari stressed that the "constitution allows people to choose their religion, so by definition therefore, people should respect each others religion. The freedom of human rights stops where the rights of others start. So because you have the right to express your opinion does not mean you should be insultive," he added.
The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential aspirant said he was not against Miss World but the timing in the month of Ramadan.
"As usual every year, the Daily Times does organise Miss Nigeria also the North and there has never been any riot, and nobody ever passed any comment against Islam except this one." Miss World would have taken place but for the month of Ramadan, Miss Nigeria takes place every year and nobody objected to it for as long as nobody was offended," he declared.
Buhari who spoke on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), noted that although the dresses are provocative, the Moslems still watch the television or buy newspapers.
He, however, denied that northern politicians were behind the riots.
It will be a dishonest approach to Nigeria politics and it will not hold.
"The President has apologised to the Moslem community that was offended and I believe they will accept his apology," he said.
Similarly, former military Governor of old Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd) has lamented the violence that erupted in Kaduna last week.
Umar at a press briefing in Kaduna yesterday wondered why the state government allowed the protest by the Moslems to degenerate into such a serious upheaval.
The development, he said, could have a negative implication on the much sought economic recovery in the country.
"I wish to observe that once again this crisis is far from being religiously motivated. It is the handiwork of criminals and political thugs who were out to steal and get at their political enemies," he observed.
While criticising Moslems who were against the hosting of Miss World by the Nigerian authorities, Umar stated that "religious fundamentalism and hypocrisy were the most potent catalysts of great social upheaval and blow up particularly in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society such as ours."
"I believe it is the right of the Moslems to abstain from any form of participation in the event. The rights of Moslems, however, stop at where the rights of other Nigerians to participate begin.
"Moslems that are so averse to the Miss World beauty contest can even go to the extent of refusing to watch it."
"Where they cannot avoid that they can summon the power of their faith and suppress their hearts and minds from being attracted to the ladies no matter what they wear. Anything more than this would be encroaching on the rights of other Nigerians and would therefore constitute an infringement of such rights," he declared.
Umar who argued that the attempt by people of a religious belief to force their rights on others constituted a violation of the constitution, said that "this constitution provides that Nigeria is a secular state."
"In fact section 10 of the Constitution is quite clear when it says that the government of this country cannot adopt any religion as a state religion," he stressed. Noting that "under this setting we not allowed to exercise our religious rights, Umar argued that "over the years, we have done so responsibly while showing great sensibility to the values and beliefs of our brothers and sisters."
"I honestly believe that there are far more important issues which bedevilled our society and which call for more urgent attention than the issue of the hosting of Miss World beauty pageant. Issues like the growing pauperisation of our people, the rising gap between the rich and poor, particularly when the rich are public servants, the issue of crime rate, the total dependence on oil revenue, with no attempt at diversification even when we know that this commodity is exhaustible and non-renewable," he declared.
He warned against "the use of religion as a cloak for the perpetration of criminal acts and to score cheap political points."
Nigeria won the right to host this year's pageant after Nigerian Agbani Darego was crowned Miss World 2001, the first black African to win the title.
But Nigeria's plans to stage its biggest show business event had been hit by controversy from the outset, with international campaigners calling for a boycott over the case of Amina Lawal, who was sentenced to death by stoning under Islamic law in for bearing a child out of wedlock.
By ap in lagos
The leader of an Islamic state in Nigeria has called on Muslims to kill the Nigerian writer of a newspaper article about the Miss World beauty pageant that sparked deadly religious riots last week.
"Just like the blasphemous Indian writer Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed," Mahamoud Shinkafi, Deputy Governor of Zamfara, told a gathering of Muslim groups in the state capital, Gusau, yesterday.
Other ThisDay employees had been spared from the fatwa, which "applies only to the offending pen."
Ms Daniel, a Lagos-based fashion writer with ThisDay, reportedly went into hiding after being interrogated by police last week in connection with the article, which suggested that the Prophet Muhammad would have approved of Miss World and might have wanted to marry one of the contestants.
While state officials cannot issue fatwas, the deputy governor considers the death sentence against Ms Daniel as "a reality based on the teachings of the Koran," according to Tukur Umar Dangaladima, Zamfara's Information Commissioner.
The Koran "states that whoever accuses or insults any prophet of Allah ... should be killed," said Dangaladima. "If she (Daniel) is Muslim, she has no option except to die. But if she is a non-Muslim, the only way out for her is to convert to Islam." Ms Daniel's religion is not known.
The newspaper has issued repeated apologies for the article, saying the offending portions were published by mistake after earlier being deleted by a supervising editor. One of the paper's columnists, Amanze Obi, suggested that Ms Daniel "may have been a victim of excitement."
Zamfara was the first of 12 states to adopt Islamic law after Nigerian military rule gave way to elected Government in 1999. Religious clashes since then have killed thousands across the country.
The rioting began last week when Muslims burned down a ThisDay office in the northern city of Kaduna. More than 200 people were killed in the city and rioting also briefly spread to the capital, Abuja.
The violence caused Miss World organisers to abandon plans to hold the pageant in Nigeria and evacuate more than 80 participants to London, where the show will go ahead on December 7 at Alexandra Palace.
Rushdie went into hiding after Iran's late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, against him for allegedly insulting Islam in The Satanic Verses.
In 1998, the Iranian Government declared it would not support the fatwa, but said it could not rescind the edict since, under Islamic law, that could be done only by the person who issued it. Khomeini had died in 1989.