Some religious fanatics in Kano, attack and murder polio immunisation personnel believing they were evil agents on a mission to kill
On Friday, 8 February, all was set to receive the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar and the Minister for Police Affairs, Mr. Caleb Olubolade. They were billed to pay condolence visit to the government and people of Kano state over the attack on the convoy of Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Abdullahi Bayero, which claimed six lives and left several others wounded, including two Princes of the Kano Emirate.
However, another macabre event took place. In a wave of cruelty, at about 9:30 a.m. that day, unidentified gunmen riding in a tricycle, launched coordinated attacks on health centres at Hotoro and Angwa Uku quarters where polio vaccinators were administering drugs to children. Within a few minutes, nine female social health workers were killed, while several other people sustained various degrees of injury.
Many in Kano were particularly concerned over the manner the assailants carried out the attack. A resident of Angwar Uku, Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, who revealed his experience to this magazine on phone, said in his life he had never experienced such horrific sight. In October last year, unknown gunmen killed two cops at Kofar Dawanau axis of Kano city. They were on special assignment with officials of Polio Immunisation Programme. The gunmen who trailed and ambushed the police men on foot also made away with their guns. A woman believed to be an official of the immunisation programme was hit. Some Islamic extremists in the Muslim-dominated city of Kano, often criticise polio immunisation programmes, describing them as anti-Islam and a ploy by the west to, “reduce the population and afflict dangerous diseases on our people.” Such views, in most cases, have continued to influence the actions of their followers who, in most cases, engage in violent protest, resulting in gruesome attacks on hapless citizens.
Pricked by that incident, the Inspector-General of Police vowed to fish out the perpetrators of that dastardly act. He disclosed that security agents are on the trail of the culprits, promising that in due course, there would be no hiding place for those behind the heinous crime.
In defence of his men, the Police boss queried if, “the recent killing of 29 persons in America suggest that the security apparatus in the US had collapsed? No.”
He added that it should not be judged that way because killings occur all over the world, “so what is needed for now is to fortify security and that is what is engaging the attention of men of the Nigeria police now.”
We will do everything within our capacity to restore peace to Kano. We urge the people of the state to assist the police in providing relevant information, as well as intelligence reports that will help the police to nail the perpetrators of such crimes,’’ Abubakar urged.
A few days after the 8 February attack, it did not, however, come as a surprise to many when security men besieged the premises of Wazobia FM station in Kano and arrested three staff of the organisation. They were: Suleiman Gama, producer of the Hausa programme (Sandar Girma); Yakubu Musa, presenter of the programme and Mubarak Sani, a reporter with the radio station. The Police accused them of running programmes portraying polio vaccination in bad light, just a few days before the attack. Also arrested by the Police was a controversial Islamic cleric, accused of making inflammatory statements against polio vaccination in his sermons. Security agencies believed that in the radio programme, Polio immunisation was criticised as anti-Islam and a western ploy to reduce the population of the region via infertility.
Mr. Ibrahim Idris, Kano state Commissioner of Police, confirmed the arrest of the radio journalist, describing their action as, “irresponsible journalism,” pointing out that thorough investigation is being carried out by his men. According to him, the programme which was aired a few days before the attack was grossly inciting, noting that it influenced the behaviour of the attackers.
While the Police later released Suleiman Gama, Mubarak Sani and Yakubu Musa, alongside Alhaji Abubakar Rabo, former Director-General of Kano Censorship Board under Malam Ibrahim Shekarau’s administration, were on Tuesday, 12 February arraigned before a Kano Magistrate’s Court presided over by Chief Magistrate Ibrahim Bello. It was learnt that Abubakar Rabo was earlier arrested for not allowing his children to receive polio vaccination, coupled with his alleged open criticism of the programme.
In his presentation during the arraignment, the prosecutor, Sergeant Sadiq Na’Abba, said the charges against them included criminal conspiracy, abetment, inciting disturbances, intentional insult, obstruction of public servants in discharge of public function, defamation of character and injurious falsehood contrary to the penal code law. They were also said to have conspired and aired a programme discrediting the polio immunisation programme and insulted the District Head of Tarauni.
According to the First Information Report, their actions were meant to incite the public to rise against the immunisation programme, which resulted in the attack on and killing of nine immunisation personnel at Filin Cashew, Angwar Uku and Hayan Hotoro in Hotoro quarters.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, Kano state government and the Dangote organisation have at different times paid condolence visit to the families and relations of the victims of the recent shootings at two polio vaccination centres in Kano, which left about 10 people dead while several others were wounded.
They also made monetary donations to representatives of the families to the tune of N24.45 million on the whole.
Kano state government donated the sum of N500, 000 each to families of the 10 killed health workers, while N250, 000 was went to four others that sustained injuries during the attack.
The state governor, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso announced this during a meeting with the family members of the victims at the Government House in Kano. He said the money was to cushion the gref of the bereaved.
He also announced that the chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote donated N500, 000 to each of the bereaved families and N250, 000 to each of the wounded.
Governor Kwankwaso, who sympathised with the victims prayed to Almighty Allah to grant them eternal bliss, and assured that the state government will not relent in the fight against killer diseases, urging wealthy individuals and organisations to emulate Alhaji Dangote by teaming up with the administration to eradicate
The Federal Government donated N1 million each to the 10 family members, giving N200, 000 each for the seven injured victims.
The Federal Government donation to the families of the victims was made through a delegation, led by the Minister of State for Health, Ali Pate, who was accompanied by five northern emirs on the condolence visit and were received in audience by the Acting State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on behalf of Governor Kwankwaso who is in London to assess the health condition of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, whose convoy was recently attacked by gunmen.
The Minister told Ganduje that they were in Kano to condole with the Government, people of Kano, as well as family members of the affected health workers, describing the incident as unfortunate and barbaric.
Ali Pate recalled that three health workers had earlier lost their lives in Borno in similar circumstances in addition to the murder of Korean Doctors in Yobe General Hospital, “It is an unfortunate tragic attack on innocent people trying to immunise and protect children’’.
We won’t be deterred by this evil act and that is why we are praying to the Almighty Allah to touch the heart of the perpetrators to have a change of mind.
He said the Federal Government’s contribution should not be regarded as compensation, as human lives cannot be quantified in monetary terms, adding that the assistance was considered necessary for now.
The Acting Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, while receiving the Federal Government cheque, admitted that the attack on the health workers, who were on vaccination exercise against polio in the state came at a time when Kano was almost achieving the desired goal on the immunisation exercise, pointing that : “We will not be deterred as we will still continue to pursue our target of eradicating polio by December 2013.”
According to him, the incident marks a turning point in the polio exercise, saying it would be approached as a normal medical or health programme without celebration or attracting any form of attention.
“Hospitals in the state would be put in major shape with all required equipment needed for Polio vaccination where those for polio would just walk in like any other patient and get immunised.
Ganduje promised that all donations to the victims would be presented to their family members, adding that already, they have been identified and in touch with the authorities.