St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla was bombed on Christmas Day
By Aisha Wakaso, Yemi Akinsuyi and John Shiklam
For the seventh time in less than one year, the serene atmosphere of Suleja, Niger State, was Sunday shattered by a bomb that went off from a vehicle.
The car was reportedly parked on the roadside close to a few others by an unknown person who walked away shortly before the explosion.
One person was feared dead and four others injured in the blast, which occurred at 10.38am a few metres away from Christ Embassy Church, Morocco Road in the town.
The church was believed to be the target.
Also, the Director of Finance Administration at the Kaduna State Ministry of Information, Mr. Isuwa Kiforo, who was shot several times on his legs and lower abdomen last week by security men attached to the state Government House, Kaduna, has died.
He was pronounced dead at the 44 Army Referral Hospital, Kaduna, where he was on admission.
THISDAY gathered that vigilant Suleja residents had noticed a man wearing gloves park a car without number plates by the roadside and left immediately.
Having noticed that the car was parked close to the church and its occupant's sudden disappearance, residents, it was also learnt, alerted security men who advised that nobody should go close to the car until the owner reappeared.
Another account quoting unnamed members of the church said some security men attached to the church discovered the bomb and alerted the head pastor, who thereafter informed the congregation of the development.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
However, the area had been targeted in the past by Boko Haram - including the 2011 Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in nearby Madalla that killed at least 44 people.
Sunday's explosion occurred just as the church began its service, Pastor Uyi Idugboe told journalists.
Security guards at the church had noticed something suspicious by the abandoned car, prompting the pastor to call everyone inside the church before the service began, he said.
The bomb had apparently been wrapped with a motorcycle chain, which sent metal shrapnel flying everywhere when the explosive detonated, witnesses said.
The explosion tore away the engine compartment of the abandoned car and damaged four other vehicles nearby.
The blast left five persons seriously injured, while five vehicles were damaged, another account said.
THISDAY further learnt that one of the victims that were rushed to one of the hospitals in Gwagwalada later lost the fight to stay alive.
“One of the injured that was rushed to the Gwagwalada Hospital died eventually,” a security operative in the state, who pleaded anonymity, said.
An eyewitness also said: “The most fortunate thing was when the bomb exploded in the car, there was no fire from the vehicle, though the other parked vehicles by the side were affected because of the impact of the explosion.”
The explosion had an impact on the church building and it succeeded in bringing the service to an abrupt halt with the members scampering for safety.
The Gresen Hotel in which frontage the car was parked had its roof partially shattered.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Richard Oguche, confirmed the incident, saying the police and military had already cordoned off the area.
Oguche said the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Zone 7, Alhaji Atiku Kafiru; Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu; and the Emir of Suleja, Alhaji Awwal Ibrahim, had visited the scene, adding that out of the five injured persons, three were treated at the Suleja General Hospital for minor injuries, while the two who were critically injured, had been transferred to the Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital.
Meanwhile, in Kaduna, the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Saidu Adamu, described the deceased as “a nice, gentle and good person to work with”, adding that he had worked with Kiforo, and that “I have found him a great staff to work with. I don’t understand why he did what led to his being shot. That would be left to the police to explain”.
Kiforo, who was also a pastor with the Living Faith Church, Kaduna, was shot by security men at the gate of the Government House for allegedly attempting to force his way in when he was prevented by the security men.
Security agents at the gate were said to have mistaken him for a member of Boko Haram, when in spite of refusing to allow him into the Government House, he allegedly wanted to drive in by force.
The state Police Commissioner, Mallam Mohammed Ballah Nasarawa, had in a statement immediately after the shooting of Kiforo, said that the deceased breached security at the Government House, adding however that no weapon or explosives were found on him or in the car he was driving.
The deceased hailed from Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of the state.