As the Muslim community worldwide celebrated the birth of Holy Prophet Mohammed, Maiduguri, the troubled capital of Borno State, was thrown into pandemonium yesterday when a suicide bomber detonated a massive bomb in the centre of the town which led to the death of about 30 persons, with 50 others injured.
The bomb blast, which left the streets deserted, was greeted by protests by some aggrieved youths who alleged that the latest ordeal was traceable to the immediate past governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who had stayed away from the state for a long time.
The youths went about smashing every car on the road with the sticker or poster of the former governor or his alleged anointed political son, Mohammed Imam, who he is believed to be supporting to take over from the incumbent, Alhaji Kashim Shettima in 2015.
In the last four days, tension had risen in the state which degenerated when supporters with alleged ties to Sheriff pelted the governor with stones at the weekend. On Monday, Sheriff got a taste of his own medicine when alleged supporters of Shettima got their revenge when they pelted the former governor with stones at the Shehu of Borno's palace.
Immediately the bomb went off, the youths took to the empty streets to protest the incident as they were seen shouting "Sheriff means no good for us and he has brought this present bomb explosion."
The irate youths also destroyed the political office of the former governor at the UTC area, along the popular Kashim Imam Way, and headed for the highbrow GRA to torch Sheriff's imposing residence, but were turned back by the military and police who had been alerted to keep them off.
A military source revealed that Sheriff, who was still in the state at the time of the explosion at 1.30 pm, was ferried to the airport to his waiting private jet by the police to avoid being lynched by the angry mob.
The police were said to have dispatched a strong team to his residence to escort him out of town.
As a result of the explosion, businesses and shop owners were forced to hurriedly close their shops and scampered home.
Hospital sources revealed that 30 corpses were deposited at the morgue with over 50 persons brought in injured.
The Commissioner of Police, Lawan Tanko, however, told journalists that 17 persons had so far died in the explosion and that his men who had brought back reports said five persons including a police traffic warden was seriously injured, adding, "They are still going round hospitals to confirm the number of casualties."
He said the explosion which happened between 1.15 pm and 2 pm was caused by a suicide bomber who drove a firewood seller truck and detonated the bomb in the middle of the road.
Tanko revealed that security personnel had to be sent immediately to all public buildings to forestall more attacks.
The bomb was detonated close to a roadblock mounted by the military and at the centre of the town, which is a beehive of activities and densely populated. Also confirming the attack, the spokesman of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army Maiduguri, Col. Mohammed Dole, in a statement, said: "At about 14:13 hours on Tuesday, January 14, a Honda car laden with an improvised explosive device IED) exploded near the post office area in Maiduguri metropolis.
"Members of the frustrated Boko Haram terrorists are suspected to be behind the bomb explosion.
"Scores of deaths and injuries were recorded and 10 vehicles and five tricycles are confirmed damaged and one suspect has been arrested.
"This incident happened after a long period of relative peace in Maiduguri and its environs."
Also speaking on the attack on the state capital, the Borno State governor condemned the explosion which rocked the city.
The governor said it was regrettable that the explosion came when the people in the town have started celebrating the return of peace to the town. Shettima, in a statement by his spokesman, Isa Gusau, described the incident as most cruel, evil and inhuman.
He expressed his deep condolences to the families and friends of all affected victims and prayed for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives and the quick recovery of those who might have suffered injuries.
The statement read: "He has directed the security to carry out a full scale investigation into the bomb explosion which resulted in the unfortunate youths rampage that led to the breakdown of law and order.
"The governor also condemned the uprisings in the last three days in the state capital which he described as unfortunate even though avoidable.
"He also directed the Ministry of Health to ensure proper medication for all victims who might have suffered injuries with government bearing all costs of treatment, insisting that the Borno State Government will take firm measures to continually protect lives and property of citizens."
Gusau revealed that as part of such measures, Shettima met with the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), in Abuja, during which the issue of security of lives and property of Borno citizens was topmost on the agenda.
The governor, while appealing to all residents of the state to remain calm and law abiding, said he was already on his way back to the town.
He reminded all that peace was a collective responsibility that requires the input of both the government and the governed through the exercise of constitutional and moral obligations, duties and responsibilities, and called on residents to remain prayerful and committed in the search for peace.
He told them to remain extra vigilant, report suspicious persons to security agencies and be their neighbour's keepers at all times.
In a related development, the Commanding Officer of a special operative battalion situated in Mubi, Adamawa State, Lt. Col. Beyidi Martins, has revealed that the military in the city has killed 13 suspected members of the dreaded Boko Haram during a battle in December last year.
He revealed that two notorious members of the dreaded sect who had been on the wanted list of the military were among those killed, adding that they have been terrorising the ancient town and its environs.
Martins made the disclosure yesterday, adding that the 13 Boko Haram suspects were killed during a raid at a Mubi Bureau De Change on the 18th of December, last year. The commanding officer, while handing over N20 million to the chairman of Mubi Bureau De Change, Alhaji Mohhamed Nuru Dahiru, which was also recovered from the insurgents, further disclosed that during the exchange of fire with the insurgents his command lost a soldier.
Martins disclosed that on December 18, the Mubi Bureau De Change came under serious attack from about 20 suspected members of Boko Haram who carted away large sums of money and other valuable materials and killed four civilians before the military was alerted and went after them.
"We were able to contain the situation by drafting our men to the scene of the incident, as we were alerted by police. When the terrorists spoted us, they opened fire and made an attempt to escape, but we were able to engage them in a gun battle where we killed 13 of them and lost a soldier. "We recovered N3.5 million, CFA12,516,000, 13,240,000 CFA coins, eight AK47 machine guns and one police teargas gun," he said.
Martins, presenting the recovered money to Dahiru, assured the general public that the military was confident that terrorists would no longer operate in the town because the most wanted members of the group who used to lead others to attack the town had been killed.
In his remarks, Dahiru commended the battalion for salvaging the situation and taking on the dreaded terrorist group.
He said had it not been for the prompt intervention of the military, the terrorists would have killed more than 30 civilians.