John Joseph, chairman of the Billiri local government area (LGA) chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Gombe state, has asked the Muslim community for forgiveness over the recent violence that broke out in the area.
Joseph made the appeal on Wednesday, following a meeting held with Muhammad Yahaya, governor of Gombe.
Also present at the meeting were Manassah Jatau, deputy governor of Gombe; Okon Ene, assistant inspector-general of police of zone 12 in Bauchi; Abubakar Abdullahi, chief imam of Tangale, and Margaret Bitrus, chairperson of Biliri LGA.
While addressing stakeholders present at the meeting, the CAN chairman also promised to work with other Christian leaders in the area towards peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“To the parents who lost their children, we extended our condolences. We the Christian community apologise. We condole with Muslims whose place of worship was attacked. AIG, permit me to gather other Christian leaders to meet imams and his people to apologise,” Joseph said.
CRISIS OVER SELECTION OF NEW EMIR
Abdu Baba Maisharu II, the former Mai Tangale, had died on January 10, prompting the opening of the selection process of a new emir.
The seat is usually filled by persons of different religious leanings, and the kingmakers were said to have forwarded three names to the state government, after the conclusion of the screening process.
However, violence had broken out in the area recently, following the delay in the announcement of the new traditional ruler, as decided by the kingmakers.
What began as protests degenerated into crisis, following the delay in the announcement, leading to attacks on properties and killings, and the state government declared a 24-hour curfew on Biliri LGA, which took effect on February 19.
The governor had visited the LGA on February 20 to assess the level of damage recorded by the protests which turned violent.
Speaking to journalists after the assessment, Yahaya condemned the attacks, which led to the loss of lives and property.
“Government is still on the selection process of appointing a new Mai, but some forces took advantage of the development to cause mayhem, just to achieve their personal goal, which as you all witnessed today, resulted in the loss of lives and property,” the governor said.
“We condemn the criminal behaviour and actions committed by those unscrupulous elements and we sympathise with the families of those who lost their lives and property in this unfortunate incident.”
GOVT RELAXES CURFEW, CALLS FOR CALM
After the stakeholders’ meeting held on Wednesday, the government announced a relaxation of the curfew, which will now run from 6am till 2pm, beginning on Thursday.
A statement issued on Wednesday by Ismaila Misilli, spokesman to the governor, also dismissed the allegation about plans to announce the name of an unpopular candidate, contrary to the decision of the king makers.
Misilli was responding to a statement reportedly credited to a “southern/middle belt” forum regarding the crisis.
“It is public knowledge that the Tangale Chiefdom is a mixture of the two major religions, and available records indicate that persons of different faith had in the past few decades occupied the exalted stool of Mai Tangle. The records are there for all to access,” the statement reads.
“To the best of the knowledge of the Gombe State Government, the three names submitted by the Kingmakers are the choice of the Tangale people, and any one among them can ascend the throne.
“Thus, against the baseless allegation by the forum, there is no room for the imposition of “an unpopular candidate as the new Mai Tangle” as the Governor will not go outside the names submitted to him by the Tangale traditional Kingmakers.
“The Gombe State Government understands that all the three contenders are members of the same Tangale Royal Family. For emphasis, all the three nominees are equal before the law, irrespective of their number of votes.
“The Gombe State Government wishes to call on the citizens of the state, especially the people of Tangale Chiefdom, to continue to be calm and peaceful at this moment.
“The state government assures all citizens of the protection of their lives and property without fear or favour.”