A former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, who has come under attack since Tuesday's bomb blast in Maiduguri, has said the outlawed Boko Haram sect is not responsible for the blast.
Mr. Sheriff blamed Borno State government officials and members of his All Progressives Congress, APC, for the blast that is believed to have killed at least 31 people with dozens more injured.
The blast, carried out by a suicide bomber in a pick-up van, occurred at about 1:30 p.m. in the state capital.
Shortly after the incident, angry youth gathered in their hundreds and attacked persons and property linked to Mr. Sheriff. They blamed the ex-governor, who returned to the state over the weekend after a 11-month absence, for the attack. Several cars, and buildings, were damaged and burnt by the youth.
While the rampaging youth went wild, the ex-governor, who was billed to hold an inaugural All Progressives Congress, APC, meeting where interim party officials in the state would be inaugurated, shelved the meeting and left the city. He was accompanied by the state police commissioner and other top security chiefs in the state.
In his reaction, Mr. Sheriff blamed officials of the APC in Borno State for being the architect of the blast and coordinated attacks on his property and vehicles of his supporters.
He alleged that the attacks, including the bomb blast, were not the handiwork of the Boko Haram but a plot by his fellow APC politicians to undermine his influence and frustrate his regular visit to the state ahead of 2015.
Mr. Sheriff made this allegation in a statement signed by his Campaign Organisation Chairman, Bako Bunu.
"The bomb blast that rocked Maiduguri the Borno state capital yesterday, was not from the dreaded Islamist Boko Haram sect but an act of arson targeted at former governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff who was in the state for a condolence visit," the spokesperson said.
Mr. Sheriff and the state governor, though members of the APC, are battling to control the party in the state.
"Senator Sheriff sincerely sympathises with all those affected by the bomb blast planted by evil state government officials in Borno who are doing this in the name of scoring cheap and irresponsible political goals.
"The fact that Sheriffs' property at the old UTC was also targeted was a clear indication that the former governor was the prime target.
"The fact that there had been no bomb incident in Maiduguri for the past 11 months until the former governor visited also gives the impression that the sustained opposition against his visit was a calculated move to stop him.
"It is sad that vehicles bearing Ali Sheriff's posters were either vandalised or burnt which further points to the fact that Sheriff was the actual target," Mr. Bunu said.
The statement also made specific accusations against some politicians in the state.
"The bomb which killed about 19 people was the handiwork of a former chairman of the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and another highly placed official of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) who has always been suspected to be the brains behind violent activities in Maiduguri.
"It is an open secret that out of desperation to gain political control of Borno state and out of fear of the growing relevance of Ali Sheriff politically, a group of people has been hiding behind the current insecurity in the state to stop his visit.
"We are aware that the Boko Haram incident was used as an alibi for some people to perpetrate mayhem and distract the attention of the security operatives," Mr. Bunu said.
"We consider it even childish that highly placed government officials can condescend so low as to instigate thugs against their leaders.
"It is a pity that upon all the good things Sheriff did for Borno state; his reward has been to instigate public anger against him and attempt to link him with terrorist activities," he said.
WE SUSPECT BOKO HARAM
While Mr. Sheriff absolved the Boko Haram of carrying out the attack, the Army said it believed the outlawed sect was responsible for it.
A Statement from the Headquarters of the 7 Division of the Nigeria Army blamed the blast on Boko Haram terrorists.
The Army statement, signed by the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Muhammad Dole, said "scores of death and injuries were recorded and 10 vehicles and 5 tricycles are confirmed damaged and one suspect is arrested. The incidence happened after a long period of relative peace in Maiduguri and environs".
Mr. Dole, a Colonel, said the military is now stepping up its operations "to forestall recurrence."
He said findings of the ongoing investigation by the Army would "decisively deal with individuals or groups behind this heinous and dastardly act."
In the statement, the General Officer Commanding the 7 Division, Major General Junaid Bindawa, also asked residents to be calm and vigilant.
GOVERNOR CONDEMNS BLAST
Governor Kashim Shettima in a statement issued by his Media Adviser, Isa Gusau, also condemned "in strong term" Tuesday's bomb explosion in Maiduguri which he said "came at a time return of peace is being celebrated by residents."
The governor 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 those who lost their lives and the quick recovery of those who might have suffered injuries.
"Governor Shettima has directed the security to carry out a full scale investigation on the bomb explosion which resulted in the unfortunate youth rampage that led to the breakdown of law and order. The Governor also condemns uprisings in the last three days in the State capital which he described as unfortunate even though avoidable," the spokesperson said.
"Governor Shettima has directed the Ministry of Health to ensure proper medication for all victims who might have suffered injuries with Government bearing all costs of treatment.
"The Borno State Government will take firm measures to continually protect lives and property of citizens. As part of such measures, Governor Shettima today met with the National Security Adviser in Abuja during which issues of security of lives and property of Borno citizens was the agenda.
"Governor Shettima is already on his way back to Maiduguri. He appeals on all residents to remain calm and law abiding. The Governor reminds citizens that peace is a collective responsibility that requires the input of both Government and the governed through the exercise of constitutional and moral obligations,duties and responsibilities," he added.