A riot broke out in Kusada, headquarters of Kusada Local Local Government Area of Katsina State on Saturday March 28, 2020 over the arrest of a religious cleric who allegedly led a Friday Jumat service, despite a subsisting on large gatherings to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Vehicles and motorcycles were burnt, while the police station and the official quarters of a Divisional Police Officer were burnt down.
According to eyewitness accounts, the stage for the riot was set when the cleric, Mallam Hassan conducted Jumat prayers in a mosques in the town, an act that was a contravention of a standing order by the state government. This resulted in his arrest by officers of the Police Area Commander’s office in Malumfashi.
Mallam Hassan’s disciples, who were irked at the arrest of their leaders, mobilized and launched a sneak attack on the Kusada Police Division.
Spokesman for the Katsina State Police Command, SP Gambo Isah, confirming the incident, assured that calm had returned to the town while investigations into the remote and immediate causes of the incident were ongoing.
In the statement, SP Gambo “Recalled that Katsina State Government under the leadership of His Excellency, Governor Aminu Bello Masari, issued a restriction orders Nos. SEC.2/T/3 and SEC.2/T/14 dated 25th and 27th March, 2020 respectively, directing the total closure of its borders and suspension of large gatherings for the weekly Friday prayers and Sunday church services while marriage ceremonies are to be conducted in a low key across the state as part of measures taken to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“However, on Friday, March 27, 2020, some disgruntled youths under the leadership of one Mallam Hassan tested the will of the state and conducted a Friday prayer in one of the Kusada jummat mosques.
“Subsequently, he was arrested for questioning at Area Commander’s office, Malumfashi which did not go down well with some of his followers.
“Consequently, today (Saturday) around 9am, this particular group organised themselves in a tumultuous manner, attacked and overpowered the policemen on duty at Kusada Division, set ablaze the police station and the DPO’s Quarters. They also burnt down seven vehicles and 10 motorcycles in custody of the police station.”
Gambo further stated that ninety suspected rioters had been brought into custody, while Sanusi Buba, the State’s Commissioner of Police had ordered an immediate deployment of police patrol teams and a special joint security task force on the enforcement of public gatherings in the state to the area.
“Ninety suspected rioters have been arrested while one of the rioters lost his life as a result of the encounter. Investigation is ongoing,” he added.
Against the backdrop of the continuing spread of COVID-19 in the country, the federal and state governments had placed bans on gatherings for religious or social purposes. But there have some reported cases of the flouting of these directives in some states of the federation.
*** Iyke Nwabueze