From Victor Seyi, Ilorin
Pandemonium broke out yesterday at the Eid praying ground in Ilorin, Kwara State as hoodlums attempted to disrupt the prayers held to mark the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.
Senate President Bukola Saraki was among dignitaries at the praying ground when the attack occurred.
The hoodlums attempted to break through a security barrier erected by the police as part of measures to forestall their planned invasion of the VIP section of the expansive praying ground.
The spokesman of the state Police Command, Ajayi Okasanmi, told newsmen that eight people had been arrested over the development but expressed delight that in spite of the development, the prayers still held.
Commissioner of police for the state, Mr. Esosa Amadasun, had on 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.
Several vehicles were damaged as a result of the crisis; their broken glasses still littered the New Yidi Road venue of the event.
Although some people claimed the crisis was linked to the non-payment of salaries to local government workers, Okasanmi 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.
A Government House source also explained that the government had been doing its best to ameliorate the salary situation including a directive by Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed to council chairmen to pay at least one month of their arrears pending when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would release their own bailout package.
Okasanmi said: “We deployed enough policemen in synergy with other security agencies to make sure the celebration was peaceful, it was free but in the course of prayers there was this insurgence of criminals 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 shed them away and we arrested some of them; about eight of them and they are in our custody now and we have started investigation.
“We learnt 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 to their destinations. Among those arrested there is no civil servant or public official.”