At least three protesters were killed and four others injured when soldiers allegedly opened fire on demonstrators in the border community of Gurin, Fufore Local Government of Adamawa State.
A witness told our reporter that the demonstration on Thursday stemmed from the incessant abductions for ransom that have ravaged the area in recent times.
The protesters were also protesting the ban on motorcycles and the alleged harassment residents pass through in the hands of soldiers and the police.
“Tension has been building in the area for a long time as we became fed up with the insecurity and uncalled harassment by security operatives,” Musa Mallum, a resident said.
“As I am talking to you now, there is serious demonstration going on in Gurin now due to the rampant kidnapping and excessive use of force on us by soldiers and police.”
Also a local leader of the road transport workers union (NURTW) in the area, who asked not to be named, said in a telephone interview that, “three persons who were returning back from their farms were shot dead and four others injured.
“We are preparing to take their corpses for burial rites. We want the government to intervene because security operatives have been harassing, torturing and extorting our peoples instead of protecting lives and properties.
“They (security) recently upped their harassment following the reinforcement of total ban of motorcycles in the state as a result of which tension between the people and security operatives escalated leading to the Thursday’s morning protest,” he said.
He recalled that about two years ago, a ‘prince’, Yerima Jika Hammawa, “died following the harassment he received in the hands of police when he was arrested for using a motorcycle.”
“His blood pressure spiked being a blood pressure patient which led to his death.
“When he died, the police allegedly threw his body away and pretended that he did not die in their hands,” the source said.
Some of the residents alleged that the security operatives were in the habit of extorting N2,000 on every motorcycle they impounded before it is released.
“The security operatives are not enforcing the ban but rather using it to extort money.
“Any motorcyclist that fails to settle the N2, 000 levy usually has his motorcycle confiscated. Sometime back, soldiers burnt down a number of confiscated motorcycles, a resident said.
“Due to the suspicion of the traditional ruler’s support for the actions of the security operatives, during today’s protest, demonstrators set bonfires at his palace,’’ he said.
Police, government react
When contacted, the police spokesperson in the state, Suleiman Nguroje, confirmed the riot but said “normalcy has been restored.”
Mr Nguroje said, “Yes, some local residents in Gurin border community were reported to have staged unauthorised protest for unknown reason to the palace of the traditional ruler though they couldn’t meet him and some set bonfires at his palace.
“They later proceeded to the soldiers check-point with their protest and we don’t know what happened there, but already the CP had directed Yola area commander and other neighboring DPOs in Fufore to proceed to Gurin in an effort to restore peace. But I am not aware of any death or injury.”
Efforts to speak to the army spokesperson in the state were unsuccessful as his lines were switched off.
Meanwhile, the state government has called on the demonstrators to exercise caution stressing that the ban on motorcycles remained in place.
A statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Adamawa State, Polycarp Ayuba, stated that government would lift the ban on motorcycles “as soon as the security situation in the area improves.”
“It has come to the attention of the Adamawa State government that the inhabitants of Gurin town in Fufore LG are currently demonstrating against the government ban on the use of motorcycles.
“The use of motorcycles was banned because it was a major of transportation used by kidnappers and other miscreants to easily carry out their inhuman and criminal activities.
“Government never intended to inconvenience its law-abiding citizens by the ban but to safeguard their lives and properties, and to create a peaceful atmosphere for them to carry on their normal economic and social activities.
“The demonstrators are, therefore, advised to disband immediately. Government assures its citizens that it will lift the ban on the use of motorcycles as soon as the security situation improves.
“However, the ban on the use of motorcycles still remains in force throughout the state.
“Officers and men of 232 Brigade Yola, have been drafted to the area for the purpose of maintaining law and order and peaceful atmosphere so that law-abiding inhabitants can go on with their usual businesses,” the statement said.