Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Kaduna Bombing - Okada, Please Lead Me to St. Rita Catholic Church - Suicide Bomber

Photo: Aliyu Adekunle S/Vanguard
A chuch badly damaged by a bomb in Kaduna

-how Inter religious mayhem was narrowly averted

-Accounts by survivors

If the bomb ferrying man's mission was to kill, an unsuspecting commercial motorcyclist popularly called okada helped seal the fate of those present at the St. Rita Catholic Church, Badarwa, Kaduna last Sunday, a Sabbath day.

That was the day a man of fiendish disposition, determined to end his life and those of other innocent people in a macabre manner, loaded explosives into a Mercedes Benz SUV, black in colour, and headed for the Church.

Badarwa is a rather rundown suburb of Kaduna, where Christians and Muslims live side-by-side in an uneasy relationship that has continued to oscillate between cold, warm and hot.

According to accounts, it would appear that the man was a stranger to Badarwa, because he had driven past a crossing leading to the fortified church and had had cause to stop an okada operator for direction, promising to pay handsomely if he would lead him to the Church.

It was an innocuous demand with the prospect of a good return, the bike man must have reasoned. And in less than a minute he led the stranger in the tinted four-wheel Benz to the barricaded gate of the Church, where Rev, Father Mike Bonni was offering Communion Prayers. It was about 8: 45 am, and there was no sign of the usual two, armed policemen and two members of the Civil Defence Corps there. Sunday Vanguard was able to confirm this.

Now a drama ensued between the driver of the vehicle and the okada operator. Instead of paying the bike man, the man in the jeep started arguing with the people at the gate to allow him in. But the three lads in brown khaki and brown boots (church cadets) brandishing metal detectors refused him entry, saying only the parish priest was allowed to park his car within the church premises during Mass.

Heavy metal bars stood between the man and the Church.

It was obvious that the cadets were bent on refusing him entry. His escort on bike sat on his machine thinking his service would be paid for soon as the "big" man found space to park.

But strangely, as recalled by those who claimed to have witnessed what happened, the driver hastily reversed some few metres; he then surged forward in full speed, heading directly for the fence of the church.

With mouths agape, the okada rider and the cadets watched him as he rammed the luxury car into the fence and drove through.

A few metres ahead laid the Catholic shrine where the Virgin Mary is usually venerated. He took it down too. But that shrine slowed his pace. Then, suddenly, just before he could burst into the Church, packed with over 1000 worshippers, the jeep became a mobile bomb. The explosion that resulted could be heard within a five kilometre radius from the blast. And it created a rattling tremor too. It brought down the wall of the church, sending shrapnels and projectiles into the congregation.

Though the vehicle never made it into the church building, its effect was felt by the building. Adjoining buildings were damaged including parked cars, as part of the exploded car bust into flames.

Survivors recalled a scene of chaos. Burnt human flesh and the effluvium of the explosives created an offensive gas. "The okada man was shouting in shock, reciting la'Ila Illahu in Arabic, an eyewitness recounted to Sunday Vanguard some hours after the explosion.

"He was saying, 'if I had known that this man was evil, I would not have directed him here. Oh Allah, what has become of this world' ", the eye witness told Sunday Vanguard.

In Bardarwa, as in most parts of Kaduna town where Muslims and Christians have defined boundaries, there are two kinds of people that respond to such emergencies: Those that go for the rescue, and those that maim, kill and destroy property as a means of vengeance.

Unfortunately for the Hausa okada rider, those that first heard his lamentation were of the second category.

"He is with the bomber! He brought the bomber! Kill him! Burn him!" rented the air. Sunday Vanguard was told by eye witnesses that the crowd ostensibly Christian youths, descended on him, and set him ablaze, along with his bike.

His murder may have averted a bigger calamity, as events were to later show.

But, just as the mob began to swell, with youths trooping out from different directions, the Army arrived and stamped out the emerging revolt.

But the arrival of the military men did not stop the pandemonium that was to take over the city.

The body of the suicide bomber, (likely a member of the Islamic Terrorist Boko Haram) was cut into two - his lower and upper torso. His upper torso was flung from the jeep onto the fence where it dangled, with the suicide bomber still showing signs of live.

"Some one came with a stick and started hitting it", said another eye witness, "but soldiers chased him away".

At the end of the whole gory event, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the death toll at 8, with 135 injured.

It would however appear that the collateral damage was the painfully slow rate of reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna that was again shattered.

File photo: St. Rita's Catholic church building, hit by suicide bombers in Kaduna on Sunday. Photo: Olu Aja

Catholic Arch-Bishop of Kaduna diocese, Mathew Man Oso Ndagos, when he spoke to the press after visiting and praying with some 14 injured members of the Church at St. Gerard's Catholic Hospital, Kakuri, said: "What happened was unfortunate, being the second time that the Catholic Church, and the third time Churches were bombed in Kaduna State. Once again, as Christians and as Catholics, we are challenged to deliver our own faith to witness for us. I think we are even called to witness our faith as more credible and to bear the message of the Bible to those who hate us.

"In the five hospitals we have visited so far, most of the victims are children. And therefore you begin to wonder if a human being in his full senses could do such a thing. Honestly, as a person, I believe that the person who could carry out such wickedness, deserve our pity and mercy. He has only tested the integrity of our faith; these kinds of people are not in their right senses.

"How could a human being, who claims to be working for any kind of god, go to a place where people are worshiping God with a bomb and do this kind of harm to them? I know we are in difficult times, but my advice to Christians and my fellow Catholics in Kaduna State is that difficult situations do not make us less Christians. In the same vein, difficult situations do not make us less human. No matter how difficult the situation is. My appeal to Catholic youths and all our Christian brethren is 'never, never retaliate'! Two wrongs can never, and will never make a right", he said.

But, not many Christians in Kaduna town have such grace and magnanimity towards the Muslim camps.

In Sabo, Television Village, Narayi, Maraban Rido and most Christian strong holds, the youths mobilised for a show-down but discovered that the Muslim minority had fled as soon as they heard about the carnage at St. Rita. But, as news filtered that the Christian youths in Badarawa had taken their pound of flesh and that the harm was not of unforgivable proportion, added to the pleas of local elders and church leaders, what would have been a headache for the Army and police subsided.

On the other hand, Muslim youths in Tudun Wada, Rigassa, Kawo, Rafin Guza and places they have strong presence, also armed up, waiting to attack any non-Muslim that wondered into their zone - this, in readiness for any "retaliatory" assault on their members.

But by noon, with two military helicopters flying low over the town, and wailing sirens of armed soldiers and police in open vans supported by armoured cars, anxiety soon ebbed away, and the town started life anew. By evening, businesses almost returned to normal but some shops remained shut.

Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State heaved a sigh of relief the next day after going round to see what happened and consoling and speaking with the injured.

At a press conference that day, Governor Yakowa said "I have gone to the affected Church, and I have visited all the injured patients and I am deeply saddened by what happened. But I thank God, because it could have been worse.

"I met the officiating priest during the Mass Service. His name is Rev. Fada Mike Bunni. He was able to tell me that the bomber was very determined to kill all the over 1000 worshippers in the Church. And you could see how daring he was.

He did not go through the gate. He drove straight against the fenced wall of the Church. The Priest said that if the fence of the church was not strong enough, he could have driven through the walls of the Church and detonated the bomb there. But the bomb went off just outside the door of the church and brought it down. That was why the casualty was not that much. Four were killed. That was what I was told. About 100 were injured. So, you see, we have to thank God for his infinite grace, because the casualty could have been far worse.

"The Priest told me that no amount of terror will frustrate him from worshiping Christ, and that Terror cannot detect how we worship God.

"I want to use this opportunity to also say that no amount of wickedness of terrorism will deter us from pursuing our agenda of Peace, Development and Security. The few evil ones in this state cannot frustrate the state", he said.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility, but the style of the bomber clearly shows the signature of the Boko Haram sect.

KADUNA: A history of bombings

April 8th 2011

Police uncovered massive bombing plots in Kaduna after a bomb explosion killed one person.

On this day, three hours after the Kaduna State Police Command said it was aware of plans for massive violence to disrupt the presidential election, a bomb exploded in Mahuta, a dusty, rusty overcrowded suburb, killing the handler and maiming one Mohammed, a suspected accomplice who was rushed to St. Gerald Hospital Kaduna under police cover. The police said it found over 100 strands of dynamites loaded in three sacks in the home of the arrested bomber.

17th April 2011

Police arrested 4 foreigners after two bomb blasts.

The Kaduna State Police Command this day paraded four arrested foreigners and a Nigerian accomplice after two bombs exploded the previous night at an interval of two hours injuring eight and destroying some structures. According to the then Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mr. John Haruna (now deceased), the second explosion which took place near the high profile public gathering place, Magajin Gari Sharia Court area, around 10:30 pm, could have killed hundreds if it had been detonated at a busy hour.

22 April 2011

A bomb-making factory was uncovered after a blast killed one person.

The Kaduna State Police Command took newsmen to a bomb making shop it uncovered at the Rafin Guza area of Kaduna metropolis. The Police also displayed recovered arms from the shop.

Late CP Haruna had said eight persons were arrested three of whom were critically injured during the blast which occurred at about 6.00pm the previous day.

June 11th, 2011

Police found bomb at Gonin Gora market. Police Anti Bomb Disposal squad on this day discovered and detonated a live bomb in a market place in Gonin Gora area of Kaduna metropolis at about 11 am. Kaduna State Police Spokesperson, DSP Aminu Lawan said, "an explosive object (was) discovered by the people and they quickly alerted us and we were able to move to the scene, recovered and detonated the object immediately".

June 13th, 2011

Bomb found at NNPC quarters. The Police recovered an explosive on the road leading into the NNPC staff quarters at Narayi, Kaduna.

"Our men were alerted to the presence of an explosive around 4am by the security man", said Kaduna State Police Command spokesman, DSP Amuni Lawal.

"We quickly mobilised our team and decommissioned the bomb. We are investigating the matter", he said.

14th June 2011

On this day, a bomb, strategically placed under a bridge near a high profile private secondary school, which, if exploded, could have cut off the southern part of Kaduna metropolis from its north flank, was discovered by the Police.

The bomb was planted on a rail track near an overhead bridge behind Dambo International School around Barnawa GRA in the heart of Kaduna city.

The Police Officer in charge of the police anti-bomb squad, DSP Patrick David Effiong, who spoke at the scene of the discovery said, "the explosive is capable of causing massive destruction and would have cut-off the bridge"

December 6th, 2011

A shattering explosion in the heart of Kaduna metropolis in the morning rush hours of this day bought down a block of shops and apartments, which promptly went under smouldering flames leading to the agonising death of eight persons.

February 7th, 2012

The Police found a bomb in a compound and promptly detonate the explosive safely.

The bomb was discovered in the Tudun Wada house of Hon. Auwalu Ali Tafoki, a former chairman of Kaduna South Local Area.

The discovery created panic and anxiety making residents of the area to scamper to

safety as it was believed to be capable of destroying the whole area. However, it was expertly detonated by men of the Police Anti Bomb Squad without a single casualty recorded.

February 15th 2012

A member of the Kaduna State anti-bomb squad, Sgt Sunday Badang, was on this day blown to pieces when he attempted to decommission a bomb planted under the Sultan Bello pedestrian bridge, in Kaduna.

April 1st 2012

On this fools' day, a man suspected to be making improvised bombs was killed by an explosion at Unguwan Muazu area of Kaduna, said Kaduna State Police Spokesman, Deputy Superintendent of police(DSP) Aminu Lawal in a telephone interview with Sunday Vanguard.

"The explosion happened at Unguwan Muazu and killed a lone person we suspect to be making explosives. And we mobilized our Anti Bomb squad men to the area".

April 8th

Suicide bomber kills 36, injures 13 in Kaduna.

A Suicide bomber's car laden with a bomb accidentally exploded at Sardauna Crescent junction, Kaduna, after he failed to gain entrance into the 1st ECWA Goodnews Church, on Gwari Road, not far from the point of the incident.

At least 36 people, mostly Hausa Muslims were maimed to death.

The explosion dug a crater about two feet deep and five feet in radius. The Impact mangled the roof of the Fina White Hotel, bringing down the ceilings and badly cracking the 10 room hotel to its foundation.

April 26th 2012

Kaduna twin blasts: Police confirm 3 dead 25 injured

Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Jinjiri, confirmed that two bombs that went off in Kaduna at two separate places killed three and injured a total of 25 people.

The bomber was arrested and handed over to the Police. He said that the man that detonated the bomb at SOJ Plaza, No 9 Kontagora Road, by the ever busy Ahmadu Bello way, Kaduna, where the Kaduna offices of Thisday, the Sun and the Moment Newspapers were sited, was chained by his hands, legs and torso to the Hospital bed he was receiving intensive care.

June 17th 2012

Churches in Kaduna and Zaria bombed.

The three bomb explosions hit two Churches in Zaria and another in Kaduna leading to the death of 17 persons and at least 90 others injured.

August 15th 2012

Two killed while transporting explosive on motor bike.

On this Wednesday, residents of Kaduna metropolis got lucky once more as two couriers of an explosive abruptly ended their sojourn on earth after their lethal cargo inadvertently set off before they hit their target. They were killed when the explosive went off on Zaria road, not far from the Sultan Bello Mosque.

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