It was a sad end for nine members of the Boys’ Brigade (BB) on an Easter procession on Sunday night when they were killed by an official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence (NSCDC) and his police friend in Gombe State.
The two security personnel allegedly rammed their vehicle into the crowd following a disagreement they had with some Christian youths on the route their car took.
In retaliation, the youths pursued the security personnel and killed them as well.
LEADERSHIP learnt that 30 other faithful in the procession were seriously injured in the “accident.”
Trouble allegedly started when the youths protested the manner the NSCDC and his police officer’s friend drove their vehicle too close to the procession, an action the security personnel reportedly detested.
According to eyewitnesses, the youths were observing their usual Easter procession when the NSCDC and the policeman arrived in the scene and drove menacingly close to them. After a brief argument with the youths, the security officers allegedly left the area, took another route and turned back with the headlight of their vehicle switched off.
The members of the procession were reportedly caught unaware as the vehicle rammed into them from behind and killed nine of them on the spot.
Other youths, who survived the attack, allegedly gave the officers a hot chase and caught up with them. In the mob action that ensued, the two security officers were also killed.
Another account said that the car ran into a group of Boys’ Brigade from ECWA Church from Bamusa, Barunde and from St Peter’s Anglican Church, Madaki around 11.30 pm on Sunday who were on a procession.
The source said that they were heading to Sabon-Layi area in the Gombe metropolis where they were expected to celebrate Easter on Monday.
The survivors and the corpses of the deceased were said to have been taken to the Gombe State Specialist Hospital as soon as the incident occurred. The source put the death toll at 10. He did not confirm the mob action.
When the news broke out yesterday morning, tension engulfed Gombe, the state capital, it took the immediate intervention of the state government and the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria before calm returned in the state capital.
The police also rose to the challenge as Mr. Bello Makwashi, the police commissioner and his men immediately beefed up security to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
Makwashi told journalists that nine persons died in the unfortunate incident. He, however, denied the identity of the friend to the NSCDC officer as a policeman. He said that investigation into the matter had started and was silent on the purported killing of the two security personnel.
But the state police command’s public relations officer, Mary Malum, who also confirmed the accident, said that 10 persons died in it.
Malum added that 30 others were being treated for various injuries they sustained from the tragedy.
He said that eight of the 10 dead persons were members of the Boys’ Brigade while the other two were the driver of the car and his friend.
Also yesterday, the Force Headquarters in Abuja confirmed that 11 persons died while 30 others sustained various degree of injuries in the Gombe accident.
The inspector-general of police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who expressed sadness over the accident, ordered a speedy and comprehensive investigation into it.
The Force Headquarters said that the accident occurred along Gombe-Biu Road.
According to Force spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, “eyewitness accounts reveal that the accident occurred as a result of loss of control of the vehicle by the driver while driving along Gadan Malale and heading towards Central Round About, and on reaching a point at Unguwan Waja, rammed into a procession of crowd evidently celebrating Easter.
“With the assistance of policemen from Gombe Division, the victims were immediately rushed to Gombe Specialist Hospital where the driver, one corps assistant Adamu Abdullahi, a staff of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) attached to the Government House Gombe and 10 others were confirmed dead and their bodies deposited at the morgue while 30 other persons injured are currently receiving treatment,” he said
Mba said that the Gombe State commissioner of police had visited the scene of the accident to have an on-the-spot assessment as well as the hospital to monitor the treatment of the victims.
The IGP, while condoling with the families and friends of the dead and the injured victims advised motorists to exercise utmost caution by obeying all traffic signs, rules and regulations while driving especially during this festive period and beyond.
Meanwhile, the CAN leadership in the Northeast zone have appealed to Christians in Gombe to remain calm over the killing of nine Boys’ Brigade (BB) members by an NSCDC officer during the Easter procession on Sunday night.
Similarly, the Gombe State deputy governor, Charles Iliya, who represented Governor Dankwambo, appealed for calm as he assured the people that the state government would not allow the unfortunate incident to go unaddressed.
Addressing parents and other mourners who thronged the Gombe State Specialist Hospital where the dead were deposited at the mortuary and the injured receiving treatment, Iliya said that the state government will foot the hospital bills of the injured.
Iliya, who spoke amidst boos and jeers from the angry youths, stated that he was equally pained and that the government was not behind the unfortunate incident. He said that “we have spoken to the security authorities and they have assured us that action will be taken.”
Also, Rev. Joda (the state CAN chairman) appealed for calm among the Christians and described the incident as a very sad moment for the faithful in this period of Easter when they were supposed to be celebrating the resurrection of the risen Lord. He also offered prayers for the healing of the injured and for the repose of the souls of those that died.
In an interview with newsmen, Rev. Kalla (Northeast CAN chairman) said that though it was painful, calm and caution must be the watchword now.
According to him, “we must be calm now to avoid the breach of peace and then pursue justice thereafter.”
Kala said that the Christian body was putting in efforts that would ensure that the situation was properly managed.
He said: “We call on the Christian community in Gombe to take the situation in good faith, be calm and also follow the right channel in seeking redress on the issue on ground.
“Two wrongs cannot make a right. So, I appeal for caution in the process of addressing the issue. If we apply the wrong approach, it will lead to another issue.
“For now, we are trying to calm the situation by appealing to Christians to see reasons for calm and allow the authorities concerned to take necessary measures. We have informed the security agencies concerned about the situation on ground. We are aware of the pain this sad event had caused, but let’s be calm and allow the leadership to handle the matter,” he said.
Mr. Michael Achika, the captain of the ECWA Church’s Boys’ Brigade from Bogo (Gombe State), appealed to the government to offset the bills that would be incurred by the injured.
Achika also urged the state government to compensate the families of the deceased.
17 Injured As Bus Run into Easter Procession In Adamawa
In another accident, 17 Christian faithful were injured yesterday when a passenger bus run into them during a procession to their place of worship called Galilee to mark the Easter celebration in Numan local government of Adamawa state.
The accident occurred yesterday morning when the faithful in their hundreds were in high spirit to mark the resurrection of Christ.
The injured were evacuated to the General Hospital in Numan and nearby health centres for treatment from various degrees injuries they sustained.
The driver of the passenger bus (name withheld) has been arrested by the security agents who came for rescue operation at the scene of the accident.
An eye witness, who simply identified himself as Stanley Jaule, said: “It has become a tradition that every Monday, some members of the Christian community march in procession to a nearby mountain which they called Galilee.
“While they were in a procession, a passenger bus rammed into them from behind and injured so many people including women and children. It almost led to a serious crisis but the situation seems calm now but there is no case of death now,” he said.
When contacted, Mr. Abani Imam, coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Adamawa/Taraba States said he had not received the report officially.
Imam promised to identify the victims with a view to supporting them.
The state police command spokesman, Mr. Othman Abubakar, could not be reached on his mobile phone.