Tension heightened yesterday across Nigeria following rumours that Islamic fundamentalists had concluded plans to unleash another wave of attacks on Christians across the country.
One of the messages reportedly sent out yesterday warned: “Please instruct your ministers and all Christians you know in the North to leave. Northern Muslims are planning jihad-total massacre of our brethren in the North from midnight of Friday.”
As soon as the message went out, some fear-stricken Nigerians began to make frantic and desperate moves to make their loved ones relocate from the North.
Alarmed by the reported move to attack Christians, Senator Uche Chukwumerije yesterday addressed a news conference in Abuja and asked the security agents to take proactive steps to avert further massacre of Christians especially Igbo in the northern part of the country.
Chukwumerije said he had to draw the attention of the security agencies to the planned attack so that they would not be taken unawares by the attackers, as in previous ones in parts of the North.
The lawmaker said he alerted the nation to the evil plot, having confirmed from other sources that the text had been widely circulated across the country.
He said, “We are hereby alerting all Nigerians, particularly Christians and Igbo, about an SMS being sent to several persons and which reveals that some sectarian fundamentalists have perfected a plan to massacre prominent Christian leaders from midnight.
“For Christians and Igbo, we urge you to organise yourselves and take adequate precautionary self-defence measures within the limits of the law. These actions must include immediate contact with your Muslim and other neighbourhood communities for joint peace operations. Whether the present alarm is true of false, we urge all Igbo to remain vigilant,” he said.
Worried by the circulation of the same text in Kaduna, the state police commissioner, Ballah Nasarawa, played down on the information, saying that it was untrue that Islamic fundamentalists had concluded plans to attack Christians in the state.
Nasarawa, who addressed journalists in his office, warned that the police would unmask those behind the spread of the information. He, however, warned those behind the alarming text message to desist from it or face the wrath of the law enforcement agencies.
The police boss appealed to residents of the state especially those living in Zaria where a Shiite sect is running a programme, not to panic.
He said, “ I want to use this medium to inform members of the public that the Shiite sect is having a programme in Zaria and that their presence in some areas of the town should not be seen as a security threat.”
In a similar reaction, the FCT police commissioner, Mr. Michael Zuokumor, dismissed the planned attacks on Christians and worship centres by jihadists as unfounded, mischievous and misleading.
The CP said the police and other security agents were on top of the security situation in the capital city and warned mischief-makers not to dare them, as the full weight of the law would be brought to bear on them.
FCT minister Bala Mohammed also dispelled the rumours. In Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, the Serikin Hausa, Alhaji Abdullahi Aadmu, denied rumour that Hausa people were being molested in the state in reaction to attacks in the North.
Adamu, who addressed journalists in Atikankan, described the area as the meeting point of Hausa/Fulani in the state, adding that they had never been attacked since they settled there over 50 years ago.
There has been renewed tension in the country following the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State, by the Boko Haram sect and the murder of many others n Adamawa, Gombe and Borno states by the same sect, fuelling speculations of retaliation in the South.