Hoodlums, who disguised as worshippers, yesterday, went on the rampage, disrupted the Eid-el-Kabir prayers in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, while throwing missiles in the direction of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and other dignitaries.
The situation also prevented the Chief Imam from delivering his annual sermon just as the Emir of Ilorin also abandoned his Sallah message.
Some of the worshippers said they were only able to offer one of the two mandatory prayer rakats.
Security operatives, who accompanied the Senate President to the praying ground, had to fire tear gas and several shots, which sent worshippers running helter-skelter, with one of the emir’s horsemen injured in the melee.
It was learned that the hoodlums attempted to break through a security barrier erected by the police at the VIP area as part of measures to forestall their planned invasion as they threw stones and sachet water at the VIP area.
One witness said: “Shortly after the Senate President and other dignitaries arrived, some people started throwing stones and sachet water in their direction.
“They started chanting Ole, Ole, Ole (thief), Pay us our salaries, Where is our bailout money and Don’t use bailout money to service Abuja politics.
“Before long, the situation deteriorated, as some of the protesters started destroying cars and other properties in sight. One of the vehicles destroyed is an unmarked bus, with Federal Government number plates, belonging to the University of Ilorin.
“The protesters erroneously thought the bus was among vehicles in the convoy of Senate President Saraki.”
Several pieces of broken glasses still littered the Yidi Road venue of the event at press time.
The Public Relations Officer of the Kwara Police Command, Mr. Ajayi Okasanmi, who spoke with newsmen immediately after the prayer, confirmed the attack on the Senate President.
He said the action was sparked by some miscreants who were looking for Sallah gift from the Senate President.
He said eight suspected hoodlums have been arrested, two persons injured and some vehicles damaged during the incident, stressing that investigation was still on.
The police spokesman expressed delight that in spite of the insurgence of the hoodlums the prayers still held.
It will be recalled that the state Commissioner of police, Mr. Esosa Amadaun, Monday, confirmed receiving intelligence report that some people were planning to invade the praying ground and disrupt the proceedings but expressed confidence that the command had put enough men on ground to foil the plan.
Although some people claimed the crisis was linked to the non-payment of salaries to local government workers, the police spokesman said it would be too early to explain the motive of the hoodlums as there was no civil servant or government official among those arrested so far.
‘We expected them’
Okasanmi said: “We deployed enough policemen in synergy with other security agencies to make sure the celebration was peaceful. In the course of prayers, some criminals invaded the place, which we had put into consideration before planning our strategy yesterday.
“We know, normally, they always come there to beg for money from dignitaries and members of the public. So they came as usual and when we noticed that they were becoming unruly, we had to come out to really prevent them from gaining access to where the VIPs were standing.
“You know they would not want to be held back because that was where they believe they can see their leaders and make some money from them. So they became really unruly and we had to shield them away and we arrested about eight of them.
“They are in our custody now and we have started investigation.
“We learned that one or two persons were injured but there is no official confirmation yet. Maybe before Monday, when investigation is completed, we will know the real situation.
“The motives of their unruly behaviour is yet to be determined but as far as we are concerned, they are miscreants and they were there begging for money. The prayers eventually held and the dignitaries went back home.
Meanwhile, Dr Muideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Communication, however, said the attack was not targeted at the Senate President and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Akorede, who corroborated the PPRO’s view, said the attack was carried out by miscreants who wanted to extort money from Saraki.
He said: “Governor Ahmed was not even at the Eid praying ground; he was at his home in Share where he prayed. So the attack could not be targeted at him.
A statement from his media office, yesterday, read: “The attention of the Media Office of the Senate President has been drawn to reports that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was allegedly attacked at the Eid prayer ground during the prayers to mark the Eid-el-Kabir in Ilorin.
“The Senate President arrived at the venue this morning (yesterday) without any incident, prayed with other Muslim faithful, including the Emir of Ilorin, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Ali Ahmad and a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Alfa Belgore, among others.
“Before the Senate President left the prayer ground, he spoke to reporters who had asked him about his message for Nigerians to mark the Eid-el-Kabir.
“We want to say that nothing can be further from the truth as the Senate President was never attacked nor was there any attempt made on his life to warrant him being ‘whisked away’ as reported by a section of the media.
‘It was LG workers’ protest’
“We, however, observed that there was a protest allegedly staged by local government employees over purported non-payment of salaries, which hoodlums attempted to hijack. But this development was immediately curtailed by security agents.
“Therefore, to say that the Senate President was attacked at the venue of the prayers is totally false and a figment of the imagination of those behind the story because the protest was never targeted at him, neither was any missile hurled at him.
“Kwara State Government has since issued a statement in which it stated that majority of the workers in the state have received their salaries and that those yet to receive theirs will do so on Monday as Thursday and Friday of this week are public holidays.”
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, who was conspicuously absent, was said to have gone to pray in Share, his home town in Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State.