Christian leaders in Zaria, Kaduna State said yesterday they had a premonition of the bomb attacks on their churches before it happened last Sunday.
They spoke just as Kaduna Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa was overwhelmed by emotions when he visited the scene of the explosions at the Second ECWA and Christ the King Catholic Church, both in Zaria.
Secretary of the Second ECWA DCC which was affected by the multiple attacks, Rev. Chris Dariya, told the governor and his entourage that they actually got information that the Boko Haram Islamic sect was planning to attack churches.
According to him, they got the information few days before the attack that members of the sect were in Zaria and that they met last Friday to perfect the co-ordinated attcks, adding that the chairmen and secretaries of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) were invited for a meeting on the issue.
He noted that they were surprised when the following day, the military personnel drafted to maintain peace around the church were allegedly withdrawn.
He said: "We were conscious of the fact that Boko Haram members were already in Zaria. We heard vividly there was a meeting on Friday and the chairmen and secretaries of CAN (Zone I), were actually invited for a meeting. We were told that Boko Haram members were already in Zaria and that they were going to strike this (last) Sunday.
"Some of us were very concerned and were thinking of what could be done to avert such happenings. I came back on Saturday from the meeting and drove into my office which is just behind (the Church), that is the District Office.
"There were soldiers that were actually patrolling and guarding the area. I saw them parking their things and I drove there and asked two of them what was happening and what we heard. ‘You are parking your things and it does not mean well for the community and for me as a religious leader.’
"I was told that the community was disturbing them and that is why they have to move. I told them that it was not the community that sent you here, but the government. But they told me they were ordered. But I don’t know where the others came from."
The cleric said he did not want to be confrontational with the soldiers and so had to let them be only for the bomb blasts to occur on Sunday, adding that they were baffled why the soldiers were pulled out on Saturday only for the Church to be hit the following day.
He noted that as Christians, they have forgiven the perpetrators of the dastardly act and will leave vengeance to God, stressing that about two hundred children who were in the Sunday school section escaped as none of them lost their lives.
Yakowa expressed surprise about the explosion in the Church and the violence that followed, stressing that if the state is peaceful, the nation would have peace because whatever happens in Kaduna has adverse effect nationwide.
The governor, who was full of emotion, expressed sadness at the level of destruction and called on residents not to resort to reprisals.
He said: "If Kaduna State has peace, Nigeria would be at peace. We have been told times without number that anything that happens in Kaduna will have consequence throughout this country."
He assured that his administration would do everything possible to ensure the safety and security of lives and property, as well as cushion the effect on those affected.
The governor called on aggrieved persons to utilise the dialogue channels to seek redress without resorting to violence.
He also said that the government will do everything within its power to ensure that the efforts being made to make the state a model for peace and harmony is not truncated.
At the Christ the King Catholic Church in Sabon Gari, the governor could not control his emotion when he visited the Church and heard how young Muslims and Christians died at the scene.
The Bishop of the Zaria Catholic Diocese, Rev. George Dodo told the governor how the suicide bomber tried to force his way through the barricaded metal gate while the second service was going on and how three young cadets were killed.
He also told the governor how the remains of some young men, with explosives tied around their waists, were found after the explosion.
The cleric noted that the victims were not just the worshipers, but Muslims resident around the church.
Dodo said that despite what happened Christians would not stop praying for hardened criminals to repent from their ways. He decried the high level of unemployment among the youth which he said, makes them easy prey in the hands of those who want to destabilise the society.
He noted that since the incident, he has received several calls from outside the country on what possible assistance they could render, saying his response has been that they should assist the government at the various levels to curtail the situation.
Speaking in an emotional-laden voice, the governor said he was not unaware of the efforts by traditional rulers and others to ensure security, peace and harmony.
He said: "If there was any place in the whole of this state that I thought this kind of thing would ever happen, I thought the last place is a place like Zaria. That is why we were so shocked."
The governor, who later visited the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Shika, where some of the victims are receiving treatment, was accompanied by his deputy, Mukthar Ramalan Yero, the state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, Director State Security Services (SSS) Mr. Abayomi Zamba among others.