The bomb blast which rocked Kaduna yesterday, leaving no fewer than 36 people dead and scores injured, would have killed more people if the suicide bomber who drove the explosive-laden vehicle had been allowed to gain entry into the Evangelical Church of Winning All (ECWA), located along Gwari Road, off Junction Road.
The church guard, Mr. Francis Markus, who escaped the attack told LEADERSHIP how he stopped the suicide bomber who came in a Honda Accord car and wanted to forcefully gain entry into the premises of the church.
Markus told LEADERSHIP that the bomber, who could be in his 30s and was wearing a combat Knickers and a T-shirt vest, had army uniforms in his car, giving the impression that he was a soldier. He was said to have insisted on having his way and kept arguing with the guard until some police officers deployed to the church came and drove him away.
"It was 8 am. I saw the man coming and requesting to pass through the check point that we mounted to protect worshipers. I refused him entry and told him that he could not because it was during church service. We don't normally allow people to pass because of the security problems that we are having. If you want to pass it must definitely be after church hours.
"Then, he said he was going to his house. I asked him which house, he pointed at a house for me, but I know the people in the house, and I told him I could not recognise his face and told him that he was not passing here because I know everybody in that compound. Then, he changed his mind again and said he was going to another house."
Markus said the bomber insisted that he must go through the barricade, but was denied three times.
"Then he entered the car, reversed, and the next thing he did was to drive towards me and hit the iron used to block the road.
"When I was trying to explain the situation to my church members who approached me to find out what was going on, then, I noticed the man was carrying army uniform at the back of the seat and the cap behind the screen of the car. Then I said to him: you are a disgrace to the force; with what is happening around the country, you are breaking simple security order.
"As, we were arguing with him, the policemen drafted to the church saw what was going on, came over and requested to know what was happening which I explained to them.
"After a long argument, we finally managed to drive him away. It was about five to six minutes later that we heard a loud explosion just behind the church.
"The bomber spoke in English with me. He must be in his 30s - he was a young man and he was wearing a T-vest and knickers combat Jeans."
LEADERSHIP learnt that over 38 people lost their lives in the explosion which went off on the busy Junction Road. Scores of others received various degrees of injuries.
The Kaduna State commissioner of police, Muhammed Jinjiri Abubakar, who spoke to journalists, said details of the attack were being compiled. "The situation report indicated that, today, 8/4/2012 at about 8:45hours, intelligent report received said two suspected vehicles were heading towards Kakuri/Sabon Tasha axis.
"The two vehicles were pursued by Detective Corporal Francis Marcus, and then suddenly one of the vehicles hit the other, thereby causing a serious bomb explosion between the two vehicles on Junction Road by Sardauna Crescent in Kaduna.
"The bomb explosion was massive which resulted in the death of the suicide bomber and five persons with 16 injured victims who were passers-by.
"Police and other security agencies are investigating the issue and final report will soon be made public."
However the public relation officer (PRO) of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Abubakar Adamu Zakari, confirmed to newsmen that so far 16 people had been confirmed dead.
According to him, five bodies were deposited at the Rakiya Hospital and four persons receiving treatment. At the 44 Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, 20 injured persons were receiving treatment. Five other bodies were deposited at the Saint Gerard Catholic Hospital, Kaduna, with five others critically injured. One of the victims was being prepared to be taken to ABU Teaching Hospital Shika. Six dead bodies were deposited at the Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, while six other persons were receiving treatment.
The explosion left trails of pain and anguish as the moving Honda car which was between two other cars exploded, resulting in loss of several lives and destruction of a fleet of cars and motorcycles.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the explosion as at press time. LEADERSHIP SUNDAY had a fortnight ago, reported that members of the Jama'atuAhlis Sunnati Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, were planning to stage a major attack on the state.
Boko Haram, in a letter distributed in Kaduna, said it was battle-ready to fight the security operatives in the state and warned residents whose houses were located near military, police, SSS as well as prison formations to relocate with immediate effect to avoid being victims of the planned attack.
Confirming the report, the state police commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar, said: "Yes, we are aware of it, that unless their people are released from detention, they will come and stage attacks. We are aware of that one, we have strategized and are waiting for them.
"If they come, we are around; we are used to their threatening intimidation. All I want to tell the members of the public is to shun them (Boko Haram) and go about their normal businesses and be vigilant. They should alert the security agents in case they suspect any strange movement."
How police battled to ward off Boko Haram
But for the proactive intervention of the Nigeria Police and sister security agencies ahead of yesterday's Easter celebration, the nation perhaps would have recorded a series of attacks by the Boko Haram sect.
LEADERSHIP investigations revealed that the police, smarting from the 2011 Christmas Day bomb attacks in Kano State which left no fewer than 186 people dead, had vowed never to allow themselves to be taken by surprise a second time.
The inspector-general of police, a few days to the Easter celebration, had held a closed door meeting with his senior officers where he disclosed the strategies the force would adopt to ensure that the notorious Boko Haram members did not have any leeway during the festivities.
Part of the strategy was to deploy officers to most of the places of worship and put in place tight security on the roads leading to the churches.
During the closed-door meeting, Abubakar ordered heads of police commands and formations across the federation to commence an intensive motorised patrol of the highways in the country to replace the dismantled roadblocks.
While disclosing that the force would reintroduce "rapid response" structures to complement the motorized patrols, he also directed his officers to personally take charge of security and ensure there was no report of attack during the period. These moves, the IG said, would check any undesirable elements who wanted to commit havoc using any of the highways.
"All commands shall, with immediate effect, commence robust motorised patrols of federal highways within their jurisdictions. Nigerians travelling on our highways must have confidence of their safety with visible police patrol," Abubakar said.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the police took over all the roads leading to places of worship as early as 4am on Easter Sunday, before churches which held early morning services started their worship.
When the worshippers began to come to the church, the police made sure that vehicles were not allowed to get anywhere close to the churches.
Vehicle owners who were coming to church were asked to park far away from their churches and then trek to the church premises.
The officers who were said to be alert, carried out a thorough search of the people coming to the church and those who were not going to the church were ordered to go back.
This action by the security agents helped to ensure that there was no report of any blast anywhere in the church except for the Kaduna incident, though the bomb was prevented from exploding inside the targeted church.
Pope faults Kaduna attack
Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for peace in the world's trouble spots in his Easter Sunday and decried the bomb attack in Kaduna.
The Pope also condemned the car bomb which exploded near a church in Kaduna during Easter service.
Some people are undermining Nigeria's peace - ACF
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has decried bomb explosions in Kaduna, saying that the development suggests some people are determined to undermine needed peaceful coexistence and national security.
The northern socio-cultural group, in a statement sent in last night and signed by it spokesman Anthony Sani, said the act of killings through bombings was unconscionable and condemnable.
The statement reads in part: "Few things are less pleasing to God than when innocent people are killed in the name of God.
"Yes, ACF asks Nigerians not to be discouraged by the spate of bomb explosions. Rather, they should regard the challenges posed by insecurity as a collective responsibility by living up the collective challenges.
"ACF therefore condemns the bomb explosions and condoles with those who lost lives and properties, as well as pray for the repose of the souls of those who died. May He make it possible for replacements many folds."
UK condemns Kaduna bombing
The United Kingdom government has condemned yesterday's bomb attack in Kaduna state that killed about 38 people.
In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the UK Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said, "I condemn today's (yesterday's) bomb attacks on the Nigerian city of Kaduna. This horrific act took place on Easter Sunday injuring and killing innocent people. The full tragedy of the attack is not yet clear, but I send my sincere condolences to those who have been injured or bereaved."
Chika Otuchikere, Isaiah Benjamin, Midat Joseph, Ruth Yamta, and Usman Ahmed