It was a day of terror and horror when for the third time in three months, suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist group struck again in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, this time inching into the heart of the city, where the popular Emab shopping plaza, Wuse II was bombed.
The two earlier bomb attacks on the city last April and May were in Nyanya, in the outskirts of Abuja. The reign of terror stretched from Abuja to Mubi in Adamawa State and got to hitherto shielded Lagos. And as if to assert their unabashed determination to unleash maximum terror, a bomb blast was recorded in Mubi, Adamawa State, which was said to have killed one person. In Lagos, last night, a twin bomb explosion took place at the Folawiyo tank farm in Apapa, a few metres away from the corporate office of THISDAY Newspapers, killing four persons.
The Abuja attack, which occurred at the busiest shopping plaza at about 4.00 pm yesterday is said to have claimed 21 lives, with 17 others severely injured, according to a statement issued by the police on the blast. The police authorities have ordered increased surveillance in and around the Abuja metropolis. The statement added that the Police Bomb Disposal's Squad has commenced post-blast analysis as part of the general investigative process.
The journalism community in Abuja aslo suffered a huge loss with the death in the blast of Mr. Sulieman Bisala, Managing Editor (North) of the New Telegraph Newspapers. Bisala, who hails from Plateau State, had worked in various media organisations before joining the New Telegraph as a pioneer staff. He was an Editor with the Daily Trust newspaper. According to an eyewitness account on the Abuja blast, a bomber had attempted to force his way into the plaza when the bomb exploded as security officers manning the gate attempted to stop him.
The explosion shattered many of the shops and other facilities within the surroundings. Those worst hit in the bomb blast were petty traders who often sell banana, orange and groundnut within the entrance of the plaza. Nearly all the sellers are women and young girls who hawk their goods around the vicinity of Emab and Banex plazas. One of the eyewitnesses simply identified as Martha told THISDAY that she could not find her three sisters. "I went to collect oranges, as I picked the oranges and went to the corner of the road to wait for a car to pass before crossing, that was when I heard the explosion, and it is in that same place that we were all sitting," she said.
Martha, who was wailing profusely, said all efforts to reach them on the phone have proved abortive. One of the girls is her immediate younger sister, while the other two are believed to be her cousins. When THISDAY visited the Maitama General Hospital, a few metres away from the scene of the blast, dead bodies and victims who survived were being brought to the hospital.
Some of the deceased brought into the hospital had their bodies dismembered beyond recognition. Officials of the hospital were seen trying to resuscitate some of the victims who were severely burnt. Expectedly, the scene of the explosion had been cordoned off by security operatives as evacuation of persons continued.
One Bomber Killed, Another Arrested
The National Briefing Centre, Abuja has confirmed that one of the suspected attackers in bomb explosion has been arrested while a second suspect was killed by soldiers. The Coordinator of the centre, Mr. Mike Omeri, said the dead suspect was killed by soldiers as he tried to escape on a power bike. Omeri said emergency services had been deployed to ensure that the injured were attended to immediately.
Meanwhile, the federal government has said security agencies have fully mobilised to the scene of the bomb blasts which rocked Emab Plaza yesterday. Omeri, in a statement shortly after the blast, urged residents to go about their normal activities, as he said the situation had been brought under control.
"The National Information Centre (NIC) has confirmed a bomb explosion that occurred between the popular and busy Bannex and Emab Plazas situated in Wuse II district of the Federal Capital City. Residents of the FCT are advised to remain calm and go about their normal business. Security agencies have fully mobilised to the scene of the incident and are handling the situation," he said.
Omeri stated further that every step was being taken by the government to check the activities of insurgents in the country and advised Nigerians to remain vigilant and conscious of movement of unidentified people around their areas. He expressed the sympathy of the federal government to the families of those that lost their lives just as he wished the injured speedy recovery.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also said victims of the blast were taken to five nearby hospitals, Maitama General Hospital, National Hospital, Nigerian Turkish Hospital, Asokoro General Hospital and Alliance Clinic.
NEMA in a statement issued by its Senior Information Officer, Sani Datti, said "Following the explosion that occurred around 4:00pm at Emab Plaza, we can confirm that all the affected persons at the location of the incident have been evacuated to various hospitals. "Most of the affected persons were evacuated to the closest medical facilities being Maitama District Hospital before being transferred to other hospitals." However, THISDAY learnt from independent sources that the number of the dead may have exceeded 21 and could be up to 30.
Maku, Mohammed Condemn Attack
In his reaction, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who strongly condemned the bomb blast believed that the spate of bombings and killings in parts of the country was calculated to distract and intimidate the president and his government as the 2015 elections draw nearer.
"Every time there is any major positive development in the country, it is quickly greeted with bombs and attacks on defenceless citizens. Every milestone recorded by government is followed by explosions and attacks to discourage the citizens and to turn them against the government," he said.
Maku, who observed that the Abuja bomb blast occurred simultaneously with another bomb explosion in Mubi, Adamawa State, said the federal government was deeply saddened by these dastardly acts of murder against innocent Nigerians.
The minister however called for unity among Nigerians in this trying moment in order to isolate and defeat the insurgents who are bent on creating panic and dividing the people with the aim of casting President Goodluck Jonathan and his government in bad light. On his part, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, condemned the bomb blast, describing it as an act of savagery even as he again directed free medical services for all those injured.
Mohammed spoke during his visit to the scene of the bombing and the Maitama District Hospital, Abuja where most of the injured were receiving treatment. The minister also restated his directive a fortnight ago for stricter security in all public places and other soft targets which usually witness large gathering within the FCT.
Bomb Blast in Mubi
In the Mubi attack, the insurgents had bombed Kuturu market in Mubi South Local Government of Adamawa State yesterday resulting in the killing of one person triggering panic in the surrounding communities.
There was however controversy on the source of the blast. While eyewitnesses in Mubi South said the explosion occurred when a gas cylinder fell out of a moving vehicle belonging to a new generation bank, the police said it was a bomb planted by the side of the road that detonated.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the Adamawa State Command, Abubaker Othman, a Deputy Supreintendent of Police (DSP) who confirmed the incident, said a bomb planted by the side of the road detonated although he added that there was no casualty. He said soldiers were already alerted and that they had cordoned off the area to make sure that another bomb is not planted in the area.
However, sources at the General Hospital Mubi said the lone victim died of cardiac arrest following the psychological trauma that he went through during the blast. Kuturu Market is usually flooded with people every Wednesday which is the market day to transact businesses. It may be recalled that about three weeks ago, a bomb was detonated at a commercial football viewing center leading to the death of about 40 persons while scores sustained varying degree of injuries.
Explosion Claims Four in Lagos Tank Farm Lagos, unusually, had its share of violence last night when no fewer than four persons were killed at Folawiyo Energy Depot along Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos, after twin explosions rocked the depot.
Although it was yet to be officially confirmed if the explosion occurred from a bomb blast, eyewitnesses alleged the explosions went off after some persons suspected to be bombers stealthily set off the twin explosions.
Pandemonium broke out when a loud blast occurred at about 8.25pm at the tank farm, a breath away from the corporate office of THISDAY Newspapers. The blast shook the entire area, setting off security alarms in buildings. The effect of the blast shattered the windscreen of many cars as well as the window panes of several nearby buildings. Although there were conflicting reports as to what exactly set off the explosion, two of the victims were identified as Ronke, a popular food seller opposite the Folawiyo Tank Farm and Kabiru, a tanker driver.
Others whose identities were yet to be ascertained were a security guard attached to Enterprise Bank and another person who was found dead at the other side of the kerb underneath one of the charred tankers.
However, Mr. Tunde Folawiyo, the CEO and Group Managing Director of Yinka Folawiyo Group of Companies, explained to THISDAY last night on phone that the blast took place outside (opposite) the tank farm, but admitted that there was a "trailer spark" within his premises, which emitted heavy billows of smoke. In a statement by Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, the company denied that the explosion had anything to do with Folawiyo Energy Limited (FEL) claiming that the sight of the explosion is 200 metres from the FEL premises.
THISDAY was not allowed into the tank farm last night. While the duo of Ronke and Kabiru were dismembered from the effect of the explosion, the security man was killed on his seat. His handset rang repeatedly beside him triggering rounds of wailing.
Policemen from Area B, who stormed the scene shortly after, were seen trying to cordon off the gate of the depot, whilst they made random arrests of passersby and commercial motorcyclists.
At Folawiyo Tank Farm, the workers were said to have contained the first blast by putting on their functional fire hydrant which gushed out water in torrents and put off the fire before it could spread, although the blast killed one person.
Whilst they were still battling with the flames, the second explosion went off at Alex Junction, (opposite the tank farm) killing three persons and burnt three vehicles including the Toyota saloon car where the explosives were allegedly planted.
According to the eyewitness account, the explosion occurred after a lady dressed in hijab allegedly sneaked into the compound with a fuel tanker and set off the explosion. She was alleged to have also planted the explosive in another standby car which set off the second explosion and killed three people.
According to an eyewitness who simply identified himself as Femi, the twin explosion happened few minutes after each other.
He said: "I had closed for the day and was waiting for bus at the Alex Junction, when suddenly there was this earthquake. The ground literally shook and debris was flying up and down.
"We saw a lady dressed in Hijab flee and enter a car that was parked strategically at Alex Junction. Minutes after the first explosion occurred, the second one happened at that same junction I was standing by."
Speaking with THISDAY, the Apapa Divisional Police Officer, Usman Ndanbabo, who confirmed that there was an explosion, said it was no bomb blast, rather a gas explosion. He said: "The incident happened at Folawiyo Energy Depot at Creek Road. A tanker exploded but it is under control. I have my men there and we have cordoned off everywhere and the fire is being put out. "There was no bomb blast. There was no woman wearing hijab. It is far from that one. Boko Haram will not enter Lagos."
Another 21 Boko Haram Suspects intercepted in Enugu
But as the battle against the insurgents intensifies, some 21 persons suspected to be members of the Islamic sect were intercepted yesterday in Enugu. This is coming barely two weeks after 486 suspected members of the sect were also arrested on the highway. Those arrested yesterday are believed to be members of the Islamic group travelling to Kano with several military uniforms concealed inside a luxurious bus.
They were intercepted by the National Task Force (NATFORCE) at Amala in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The news of the arrest fuelled panic in the coal city as many feared there was more to it. It was gathered that the suspects left Aba, Abia State, around 2.00 pm, on Tuesday heading to Kaduna and were intercepted at wee the hours of yesterday at a boarder community in Enugu state leading to the northern parts of the country.
Investigations revealed that an army sergeant on special duty at Xerox Construction Company in Ohaofia, Abia State, procured the military uniforms and employed the services of the suspects for onward delivery of the consignments to an army corporal in Kano for an undisclosed mission.
A competent police source while speaking with THISDAY said the luxury bus which they were travelling with which belongs to the Young Shall Grow Company was not fully loaded at Aba but stopped over in Enugu to pick other passengers who unknowingly mixed up with the dreaded Islamic sect to Kaduna.
In his reaction, the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Adamu Abubakar, said full scale investigations would be carried out to authenticate the true mission of the 21 suspects.
"I wouldn't tell you we arrested people with arms or whatever but all that I know is that we have arrested some people and we did not say they are Boko Haram because people can speculate. For us, we don't speculate until we investigate and after the investigation, we come up with the facts. We have arrested some people from Obolloafor and the matter has just been transferred to us from Obolloafor, but we have not yet gone into the facts of the case, the moment we get details, we will call you back or do a press release. People should know what is happening", he said.
At about 11.30 am yesterday, the suspects whose ages ranged between 20 and 35 years were brought to the state police headquarters by the luxury bus accompanied by full military and police security escorts.
Moments after, they alighted from the luxury bus; they were led into the premises of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) apparently for questioning.
In the meantime, the state commissioner of police has assured Nigerians that his command would not rest on its oars in the fight against crime and criminality in the state. According to an elated Abubakar, his command was partnering genuine car dealers to discourage the sale of snatched/stolen and refurbished cars, stressing that there cannot be buyers without those stealing or snatching and called for the assistance of the members of the public through the giving of timely and useful information to the police.
Ethiopian PM Hopeful of End of Scourge
But despite the rounds of fierce and deadly attacks across the country, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, yesterday said terrorism was on the path to extinction, going by the way suicide bombings are being carried out by the group. He canvassed the crippling of funds to terrorist groups coming to them outside the African continent.
Also, Nigeria and Ethiopia resolved to tackle terrorism which is prevailing in the continent. The comment was the highpoint of a joint press conference by addressed President Jonathan and Desalegn at the Presidential Villa. The Ethiopian leader noted that terrorists were losing the battle, and as such resorted to suicide bombing. He said mutual cooperation among countries affected by terrorism could put an end to the scourge.
"You know terrorism is not an African agenda only, there has been terror attacks in Boston and many parts of the globe. So it is not something that is new to Nigeria, Ethiopia and other African countries. It is a global phenomenon and you see that there is terror attack in Iraq recently and it's expanding. We have to see it as a global phenomenon that has to be tackled together in unison. It shouldn't be left to this or that region or this or that country. We have to bear in mind the genesis of this terrorism. "Apart from that, we in East Africa region especially, we have been fighting terror in the last 10 years continuously. So we have to continue to fight until we ensure this ideological bankruptcy stops.
"There is a funding source, the funding sources is out there outside the African continent so we have to find an African way to solidify our actions to ensure the funding sources dry up. This needs cooperation.
"So we in the continent who understand and are the worst hit by terrorists should be the ones leading the process. That is what we agreed that if Nigeria and Ethiopia and other African nations who have been hit time and again by terrorism will take the forefront in fighting this process, we can get others to come on board.
"We are working as one Ethiopia and Kenya to fight this terrorism and our chiefs of staff are in Nairobi discussing how to fight this issue as we speak.
"You know that Al-shabab has weakened very much. That is why they take desperate actions like suicide bombing because they are declining and are in the process of being extinguished. So we have to fight hard and work very closely in this regard and Nigeria and Ethiopia will be at the forefront of fighting terrorism and extremism," Desalegn said. Jonathan while speaking, said going by Ethiopia's experience on terrorism, Nigeria has a lot to learn in the war against the scourge.
The president however canvassed for job creation and investment in the continent. He called on the two countries to strengthen their relationship in agriculture. "So Nigeria and Ethiopia need to cooperate in agriculture and commerce as was emphasised because we must trade. The greatest problem we have in Africa is infrastructure in terms of movement of goods and services.
"We want Ethiopian businessmen to come to Nigeria and invest. We have a lot of green field and brown field, even the oil sector is still very open. Before now, most of our services like power, ports, airports, roads were monopolised by the federal government but now all these have been opened to private sector investment. We are also encouraging Nigerian businessmen and women to invest in Ethiopia in the area of agriculture and mining. The Dangote Group has investment in cement and sugar farms production in Ethiopia.
"Ethiopia is doing very well in terms of power generation, agriculture, power and commerce and industry and these are areas we must cooperate. "On terror, Ethiopia started experiencing terror long before Nigeria so we have a lot to learn from Ethiopia and how it has been managing terror," Jonathan said. In the communique, both leaders stressed the importance of greater people-to-people contacts and enhanced cultural and sporting ties between Ethiopia and Nigeria. Both countries signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) on technical assistance on the deployment to Ethiopia of skilled volunteers under Nigeria's Technical Aid Corps (TAC) scheme, cooperation between the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries, Visa-waiver regime for holders of diplomatic and official passports and cooperation in the field of agriculture, among others. In condemning terrorism and the proliferation of small arms in the continent, both leaders urged all countries to ratify the United Nations Global Arms Trade Treaty.
Boko Haram Activities Deadlier Than Civil War, Says Jonathan
Speaking earlier before the blast occurred, when African Bishops, led by Primate Emmanuel Udofia, paid him a courtesy call at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Jonathan had said the civil war experience is a child's play compared to the activities of the dreaded sect.
While saying the enemies were identified during the civil war, Jonathan noted that it is difficult in the case of Boko Haram, as they are faceless. The president expressed optimism that with the prayers of Nigerians, the war against terror would be won.
"Whenever I have the opportunity to interface with clergymen and Christians generally, I always thank them for their prayers because this country is facing challenges that we never expected.
"I always say that apart from those of us from the Eastern region who witnessed the effects of the civil war, people have not witnessed this kind of insecurity in the country.
"In the North-east, it's almost like it's even worse than civil war because in the civil war, you know if you are here, you know the battle line, either a Biafran or Nigerian. You know where to run to. Right now, you don't even know where to run to because the enemies are in our sokoto (trousers) pockets. So, it's a problem.
"But with your prayers, God has been kind and whatever the enemies contemplate, we will never get there," Jonathan said.
He said both the government and the church were working towards the same goal for the good of all Nigerians. "Most parents are too busy to have time for their children. For us here, we have to thank you for the good work you have been doing. People may not see it. People only see when roads are constructed or houses are built but how you mould society, how you create a society that is conducive for people to interact is more important even than the physical roads we build or the infrastructure that is put on ground," the president averred.
He further said: "Everything about terror is evil. It represents negative forces on earth and all over human history, negative forces, terror terrorises people for sometime but the light always subdues it with time."
In his remarks, Primate Udofia indicted some security agents for being sympathetic to the terrorists. "The Boko Haram menace is the most unfortunate affront on your administration. I call it most unfortunate due to the human face and all-inclusive approach of your government. "Since the dawn of these ugly and demonic attacks, you have been so magnanimous by applying the carrot and stick measure, yet the bombings have escalated but certainly not beyond God's control.
"Some of the security agents charged with the responsibilities of combating them are silently sympathetic to Boko Haram. "Our hope to bring an end to Boko Haram lies in our God Almighty who is the Mighty Man in Battle and ever present help of His people in times of trouble" the man of God added.
Insurgents Kill 16 Soldiers at Military Post
But despite the hope for an end to the scourge, the onslaught continued as suspected members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect on Tuesday night attacked a military post at Bulabulin Ngaura in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State, killing not fewer than 16 soldiers.
A soldiers that narrowly escaped the attack while recounting his ordeal to journalists in Maiduguri, said: "We were totally subdued by the insurgents." He lamented that: "Some of my colleagues were abducted and many others escaped with bullet wounds. Dozens of Boko Haram insurgents stormed our checkpoint at Bulabulin on Tuesday night.
"The terrorists came in a convoy of over 30 vehicles, mounted with Anti Aircraft guns (AA)." On how he was able to escape, he said: "I was at the checkpoint when the terrorists came, we tried our best but they had advantage over us. They had AA and we had Ak47 rifles that are not fully loaded. When we realised that they have taken over the place, some of us escaped to Maiduguri and other places but many could not make it.
"As I am talking to you, 16 bodies of our colleagues have been brought to Maiduguri, this is beside those that sustain injuries and many others that are missing in action." As at the time of filing the report the military authorities have not issued a press statement on the attack.