by Masara Kim, Jos
Large Muslim mobs on 14 May targeted Christians in Nigeria’s Sokoto State in violent protests over the arrest of gang leaders who had killed a Christian college student, Deborah Yakubu, in the state two days earlier.
Several properties belonging to Christians in Sokoto city, including churches, were damaged by the rampaging gangs, according to local church leaders.
The violent aftermath to the killing began with social media messages on 13 May calling for protests across the city, but authorities did nothing to avert it.
As early as 8 am on 14 May, large groups of youths led by some adults marched from street to street demanding the release of their detained members, according to Rev. Fr. Christopher Amotosho, the director of social communications for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto.
Churches damaged, shops looted
The rioters damaged several properties belonging to the Catholic Church in Sokoto, Rev. Fr. Amotosho said in a statement.
“During the protests, groups of youths led by some adults in the background attacked the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral at Ahmadu Bello Way, destroying church glass windows, those of the Bishop Lawton secretariat and vandalized a community bus parked within the premises,” Fr. Amotosho said.
“St. Kevin's Catholic Church Gidan Dere was also attacked and partly burnt. Windows of the new hospital complex under construction in the same premises were also shattered,” he said.
The gangs also vandalized and looted shops owned by Christians in the city as reported by witnesses who shared videos of the destruction on social media. In one of the videos, youths armed with sticks and knives broke into buildings that looked like shops and moved items believed to be goods meant for sale.
An adult voice in the video cautioned the youths against looting, saying they would rather burn the shops than loot them. But the lootings still occurred as people could be seen carrying items on their heads and walking away.
In another video, a young woman believed to be a Christian is seen lying motionless on the ground as she is bludgeoned by the protesters before an older man rescues her.
The protestors also attempted to invade the residence of the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar, who condemned the murder of Yakubu and called for justice. But they were repelled by police, who fired teargas and live rounds in the air to disperse the crowds.
The Sokoto State government announced a 24-hour curfew in the city to control the violence.