By Senator Iroegbuand John Shiklam
As the death toll of Sunday’s attack on St. Andrew’s Military Protestant Church at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, rose to 15 on Monday, investigations have revealed that the borders of the college are unfenced and very porous, which might have made it possible for suicide bombers to infiltrate the military facility.
THISDAY learnt that the college, which is located on a large expanse of land, is surrounded by many indigenous villages through which arms and ammunition are sometimes smuggled in and out of the military facility.
Military sources, who spoke on the issue, also confirmed that the villages have many dirt roads and routes that the perpetrators might have used to perfect their plan to avoid security checks.
Findings further revealed that while the two main gates are heavily manned, the villages and border areas are easy to breach without detection.
“The issue is that our two main gates are well secured but the challenge also is that our barracks is not fenced. There are many villages surrounding us with footpaths. The barracks is porous,” the sources said.
“There are these villages surrounding the military base through which the perpetrators might have penetrated the facility,” they added.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the AFCSC, Col. Mohammed Dole, told THISDAY that there was no certainty as to who might have attacked the church, as investigations were ongoing and that no one had claimed responsibility.
Dole also confirmed that there are villages surrounding the military base but there was an ongoing effort to fence the facility.
“I can assure you that investigations are still ongoing and I am not in a position to say who carried out the act or how, as no one has claimed responsibility,” he said.
“Concerning the fencing, it has been in the pipeline and is being carried out by a higher authority and I hope with this unfortunate incident, action will be taken in this respect quickly,” he added.
He added that the military was still working at unravelling the identities of the victims and the wounded in order to convey the right message to their families and members of the public.
“You know this is a military environment. We have to be sure of the identities of those affected - both the military and civilians – their families duly informed,” he explained.
Also, a senior military officer, Air Commodore Alechenu Ekagbo, was said to have been among those injured in the incident.
Army sources said arrangements were being made to fly Ekagbo, who is the Director of Air at the college, for further medical treatment abroad due to the critical nature of his condition.
“He would be flown abroad anytime from now because of the critical nature of his condition,” the source added.
But the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Bola Koleoso, refuted the story, saying it was a lie.
Ekagbo was said to be resting at his Brigadiers’ Quarters in the college just a few metres away from the church when the bomb exploded, hitting part of his house.
Four people, however, were said to have died in the hospitals, bringing the death toll to 15.
The Commandant of the AFCSC, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Abdulahi Kure, disclosed this when Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State visited the scene of the incident on Monady.
He did not, however, disclose which of the hospitals the deaths occurred.
The commandant described the incident as unfortunate, saying that security had been beefed up at the college.
In accordance with the beefed up security, stern looking armed soldiers were seen yesterday manning the gates, just as the two gates were securely locked.
Also, the entrance into the college was restricted to people with specific missions.
Journalists who accompanied Yakowa during his visit were prevented from getting to the scene of the incident as they were taken to a waiting room where they were kept under the watchful eyes of soldiers.
Sources claimed that on Sunday, those who attempted to use their mobile phones to take photographs of the incidents had their phones either seized or destroyed by soldiers. The hospitals are also a no-go area to journalists.
At the 44 Army Hospital in Kaduna, efforts to enter the hospital were frustrated as the soldiers at the gate insisted that no journalist would be allowed without clearance and a letter of authority from the AFCSC.
Speaking on the attack, Yakowa said it was a wakeup call for all security agencies to find out the root cause of the insurgency in the country and proffer solutions for a lasting peace across the nation.
Yakowa said insurgency in whatever name or for whatever reason cannot address the grievances being nursed by anyone.
He urged Nigerians to cooperate with the security agencies in order to fish out perpetrators of the evil act, stressing that “there cannot be development without peace and the need for peace should be the greatest project for us all now.”
Yakowa said the state government would foot the bills of the victims receiving medical attention in various hospitals.
Similarly, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar called for a halt of the relentless bombings of worship places and other soft targets by mass murderers in the country; otherwise, it may produce consequences beyond anyone’s control.
In a statement by his media office in Abuja, Atiku noted with sadness that mass murderers and their sponsors were posing a fatal threat to the unity of the country.
He called on national leaders to speak with one voice and common concern to defeat the killers, who according to him, pose the greatest danger yet to Nigeria’s existence.
Also, the Northern socio-cultural organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), described the suicide bombing right at the heart of the military formation as the failure of intelligence on the part of the military.
The forum in a statement by its National Publicity, Mr. Anthony Sani, said: “All those who take delight in taking the lives of innocent people, as their own way of addressing their concerns, should know they are chasing shadows.
“This is why they should lay down their arms and embrace dialogue as the only viable option to addressing their concerns towards peaceful coexistence.”