Maiduguri — More than 50 people, including 16 members of the Vigilante outfit, also known as Civilian JTF, were killed, yesterday when a Peugeot 505 saloon car conveying charcoal and wired with Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, exploded in the busy Monday Market in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. About 68 others were seriously injured.
A conflicting report from residents and sources, however, said 20 people including Civilian JTF members died in the blast, while more than 60 others sustained serious injuries. Other sources claimed that the number of those who died could be higher than 40 or 50 as many among the injured died before getting to Umaru Shehu and State Specialist Hospitals.
How it happened
The explosion was said to have occurred at about 7 am at the Elkanemi Round -About, in the Monday Market, which is about 40 metres away from the office of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Maiduguri.
Mallam Umaru Jubrin, a wheel barrow pusher at the market, who also sustained an injury said: "The IEDs were concealed under bags of charcoal in a Peugeot 505 saloon car, which was parked by a suspected Boko Haram member in the busy area. Some people, who noticed the vehicle parked and abandoned in the area were suspicious and decided to alert some Civilian JTF men. Unfortunately, when about 20 of the Civilian JTF men approached the vehicle, it exploded, leaving about 16 of them dead as well as 30 innocent civilians. 68 people, including the Civilian JTF men were also seriously injured in the blast and were all rushed to various hospitals in Maiduguri for treatment.
"The people, who parked the vehicle knew that the area was a busy place for all kinds of traders as well as people who pass through the place on their way to their offices."
Traders and workers who witnessed the blast said many people were killed, while several vehicles went up in flames.
Another trader Mallam Hussaini Sani said: "We were here very early in the morning and waited for the market to open. While waiting, we were discussing and all of a sudden we heard an explosion. We ran towards the area and saw many people dead on the ground before the security men came and pursued everybody away. But so many people died in the blast."
I lost my friends -- Eye witness
Another eye witness, who did not want his name mentioned in print said that most of the people killed were his friends. According to him, "the owner of the vehicle parked here (pointing at the place). He later alighted from the vehicle and disappeared into the crowd. When we realized that the vehicle was parked wrongly, we were suspicious and began to look for the owner but to no avail; we, therefore, asked some of us to volunteer and push it to a normal parking space along the road. When we realized that the owner had locked the two doors and wound up the glass we were left with no option than to leave it where it was. When I left the place and was about 200 metres away, I heard an explosion apparently from the vehicle which scattered everywhere with mangled bodies of human beings".
He said it was only God that saved many of them, adding that the explosion happened at the time when the market was not fully open and business was yet to commence.
The explosion also destroyed shops, vehicles many tricycles and tubers of yam, groundnuts, fruits. other items destroyed were petty food items usually displayed along the main road by aged women, fresh fish sellers and yam dealers popularly known as Yandoya in Hausa.
When Vanguard visited one of the hospitals where the victims were conveyed to, especially the State Specialists Hospital, top management staff of the hospital, who pleaded anonymity said both government and security operatives had warned them not to give out information particularly to the press over the incident.
"We are not authorized to speak on the incident, but so many people lost their lives while a lot more were wounded".
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Gideon Jibril told Vanguard on phone in Maiduguri: "Our officers and men are already at the scene of the explosion as evacuation of corpses is ongoing as such, I don't have details yet until our men are back with detailed report."
However, another security source, who was at the scene said the situation was pathetic as security operatives have cordoned off the area to evacuate corpses and clear the area before people are allowed into busy areas of Maiduguri city centre.
Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima has since visited the scene of the explosion after leaving the State Specialist Hospital, Umaru Shehu General Hospital in Bulumkutu, where most of the victims were taken to.
He said government will be responsible for all the medical bills of the victims, while the families of those who lost their loved ones or relatives, particularly the Civilian JTF will be given N1 million each.
He, however, condemned the perpetrators of the heinous act, describing it as anti-Islamic, barbaric and wickedness against humanity.
He wondered why "in the period of Ramadan, which is a holy month for prayers and fasting and total submission to Allah, some miscreants should use the period to cause havoc to lives and property, which is very unfortunate".
Although, the Chairman of the Civilian JTF attached to Sector 3, Mallam Iliya Saidu while briefing Governor Kashim Shettima said, his men were able to identify nine of their members, who died in the blast, but the Chairman of Monday Market Traders Association, Alhaji Bukar Jere, while giving the breakdown of the number of casualty to the Governor insisted that 16 Civilian JTF men were among the dozens of people killed.
Briefing, Governor Shettima, the Manager Maiduguri Monday market said: "16 civilian JTF members were among those killed in the blast, while 68 sustained serious injuries".
He said four vehicles and four tricycles, popularly called ' KEKE NAPEP' were burnt in the blast, adding that the incident also affected 49 shops and Wares displayed by the petty traders on the road side.