Crisis erupted in Dambatta town of Kano State yesterday following the death of a suspected motorcycle thief after he was allegedly tortured by the police. Bonfires and barricades were seen in the highway, while billowing smoke from the burning buildings enveloped some areas the town. Broken bottles of beer also littered the streets of the town while the town’s market was deserted.
The rampaging rioters razed down a church, brothel, tavern, corps members’ lodge and four houses in Layin Tafasa area of the village.
The corps members, who spoke with our correspondent, said they escaped unhurt when the mob broke into their lodge and started burning and looting their property. The corps members numbering about 60 said no effort was made to evacuate them.
“We are appealing to police to bring cover to us because they may come back to attack us,” said a corps member from Delta, Kate Ejiro.
The youths called for the removal of Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and Investigation Police Officer named Aminu and one Joshua, who allegedly fired the shots.
“They have been torturing people to death in this village. We are out today to avenge the killing. This is unacceptable,” said the machete-bearing youths.
The police allegedly drew the ire of the youths when they dumped the body of the young man at his family house. On seeing the body, the youths began protesting. They took the body to the palace of the district head, Alhaji Mukhtar Adnan Sarkin Bai, who appeased the youths. The youths however went riotous and marched through the town chanting anti-police slogans. The police quickly moved in to quell the pandemonium.
A policeman identified as Joshua threatened to shoot one Surajo Rabi’u if he refused to leave the scene of the protest. Surajo, who was about 15 years, was said to have dared the policeman to shoot him.
“In my presence, I saw how the boy flung in the air when the bullet hit him through the neck. The boy was a beggar and he was clutching his bowl when the police shot him,” said a witness.
The police bullets also hit two other bystanders, Ibrahim Sale, 24, and Salisu Ibrahim, 25.
At the Dambatta General Hospital, it was observed that the bullets pierced off through Sale’s ribcage, while Ibrahim sustained gunshots in his hand and shoulder. The corpse of Surajo was seen at the hospital.
Our correspondents, a photojournalist and a driver also escaped death when the rioters descended on their vehicle despite bearing a large Daily Trust logo. It took the intervention of the reporter’s guide and some bystanders who calmed down the rioters by telling them that the journalists were at the village to “cover the injustice”.
Speaking to Daily Trust in his palace, the district head said it was the first time a riot of this nature broke in his domain. The district head, who has been on the throne since 1954, said the crisis was unfortunate, and they were trying their best to contain it.
Addressing a press conference, the Kano Command Police Commissioner, Muhammad Tambari Yabo, said Sani was a notorious thief released from prison just two days prior to his death, adding that the deceased was mobbed and seriously injured last Friday after he allegedly stole a motorcycle.
He noted that the police in Dambatta, having realised his condition was fast deteriorating, removed him from custody to the hospital where he died while receiving treatment. He denied allegation that he was manhandled by the police, stressing that “there was no basis for the police to torture anybody.”
Yabo said Rabi’u was hit accidentally by policemen trying to prevent the demonstrators from attacking the police station in Dambatta, adding that the officers fired into the air to disperse the protestors when they mistakenly shot the three victims.
He said the crisis was not religious. He then said normalcy had returned to town as 35 people were so far arrested.