Bomb blast in Jos
Security beefed up in Abuja
Obanikoro assures Nigeria’ll overcome terrorism
African diplomatic missions, Jang condemn bombings
By Damilola Oyedele, Senator Iroegbu, Seriki Adinoyi and Chiemelie Ezeobi
Another bomb blast rocked Jos, the Plateau State capital, last night, four days after the twin blasts in the city that killed more than 120 people and injured many others. Eye witnesses said eight persons were feared dead in the latest attack.
But Plateau State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Olakpe, said three people were killed and three others were wounded in the blast. Olakpe said the attack was carried out by a lone bomber in a car, who was heading towards a television viewing centre, believed to be his target.
He added that the bomber was apparently overwhelmed by the presence of youths and security operatives and in a jittery state detonated the bomb before getting to his target.
“I can confirm to you that three people were killed and three others wounded. The dead included the loan bomber while the injured included one Alhaji Bello and his son, the owner of the house in front of where the bomb went off. They have been taken to the hospital for treatment.”
The bomb was said to have gone off on Bauchi road, but there was confusion last night about the exact location. While some said it occurred at a viewing centre not far from the Bauchi Road Park, located close to the University of Jos main campus, and targeted football fans watching the European Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, others claimed it happened near the Red Cross office along Bauchi road. Yet some said it occurred near the fence of the School of Forestry, opposite the Bauchi Road motor park.
Bauchi Road is in the northern border of Jos, close to the Plateau-Bauchi highway.
A lecturer, Mr. John Pam, who lives at the Bauchi Road university quarters said, “I was about going to bed when I heard the blast, and now I can no longer sleep.”
After the blast, a warning was quickly passed round Jos residents that it was not a night to sleep. The Bauchi Road part of Jos is mostly populated by Muslims, and Christians were apprehensive that Muslims might interpret the bombing as probably carried out by Christians to avenge the Terminus blasts of May 20, which many believed were targeted at Christians said to dominate that part of the Terminus Market.
Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, in a statement, condemned the bombing but urged the people of the state to remain courageous and confident that the war on terrorism will be won. The statement signed by his director of press, James Mannok, regretted that the attack, coming barely four days after a similar one in Jos, was a calculated attempt to disrupt the peace and normalcy that had returned to the state.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in Abuja, the nation’s capital, following intelligence reports that the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, may be planning attacks on the city. Security checks, including stop-and-search operations, have been stepped up at various entry and exit points from the Federal Capital Territory. The heightened security was visible in many parts of the FCT yesterday, especially, along the Abuja-Keffi Expressway that leads to Nyanya satellite town, where two bomb blasts occurred within two weeks, between last month and early this month, killing more than 80 persons and injuring hundreds of others.
But in Lagos at the weekend, Minister of State for Defence Musiliu Obanikoro assured that Nigeria would overcome the Boko Haram insurgency. Obanikoro spoke on Friday during a Jumat service held at the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), Quorra Mosque, Apapa, in Lagos, to mark the start of the 58th anniversary celebrations of the Nigerian Navy. He urged Muslims not to allow the insurgents to take over their religion.
This was as the African Diplomatic Group, comprising heads of African missions in Nigeria, condemned the wave of terrorism in Nigeria, including the recent bombings in Jos and Kano, and the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State.
Dean of the ADB and Ambassador of Western Sahara to Nigeria, Ambassador Oubi Bachir, made the condemnation on Friday in Abuja while speaking at a reception to mark the Africa Liberation Day. He called for the unconditional release of the schoolgirls.
The expanded security operations in Abuja involved new checkpoints at various locations manned by military and police personnel, as well as men of the Federal Road Safety Corps and vehicle inspectorate officers. The situation created a traffic gridlock between AYA Ring road and Mogadishu Cantonment, as well as Gwarimpa Estate, where some of the gates were closed while the remaining exit and entry points were under heavy scrutiny by the security men.
The situation was the same along the normally free Asokoro-Kubwa Expressway with new military checkpoints set up along the speed lanes at "Tipper Garage", Flyover Bridge, and other strategic locations.
THISDAY gathered that there had been a heavy infiltration of Abuja by suspected Boko Haram members, who were believed to be using the boundary satellite towns of Maraba-Nyanya, Kubwa-Madala-Suleija, Lugbe-Gwagwalada-Abaji and Mpape as hideout.
There was a bomb scare on Friday at Kubwa when a Volkswagen Gulf car with a gas cylinder was sighted parked near the El-Rufai Mass Transit bus stop. Even though the cylinder was later found to be empty after the Police Anti-bomb Squad had arrived to cordon-off the area and assess the situation, the authorities saw that as enough signal to tighten security around the area.
Speaking with THISDAY, an intelligence source said the heightened security was in response to the increased number of terror alerts and sustained arrests of suspected members of the Boko Haram sect since the Nyanya bombings.
The intelligence officer, who wished to remain anonymous, urged members of the public to be vigilant, saying there has been an increase in the activities and movement of the terrorists into the nation's capital. He said most of the terrorist activities were being exposed and nipped in the bud by frequent security raids.
But the officer said the security breakthroughs had largely been kept from the public to avoid panic and uneasiness.
The source said, “We are just being responsive and proactive because so much has been happening. It’s just because we don't want to cause panic in this Abuja. We have been arresting many Boko Haram members.
“These are things that I think the security information officers should be doing, which they are not putting out there, maybe so that people don't get agitated.”
But Obanikoro said the military had performed well in the fight against insurgency in the North-east, saying the country would soon overcome its security challenges.
Explaining that Islam abhors the shedding of human blood, the minister said, “There is no doubt in my mind that we have some of the best of everything in the world. I am not saying this because I am minister of defense; I am saying this with all sense of responsibility.
“When you enter into any new engagement or endeavour, mistakes will be made, corrections will be made and when you learn, it is what you learn that you will improve on.
“So far, our military men and women have done well, and there is need to rally round them so that at the end of the day we will be proud of what they are going to come up with.”
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, who was represented at the occasion by Rear Admiral Abdullahi Yinusa, called on naval personnel to stand united with the federal government to tackle the national security challenge.
“I strongly believe that with hard work, dedication and determination, the present situation would become a thing of the past,” the naval boss stated.
He said security was the key towards the attainment of the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda, stressing that the Navy’s transformation plan is anchored on a vision to put in place a navy that is adequately motivated and capable of combating the security challenges in the country's maritime domain.
Jibrin said he would do everything within his powers to improve the welfare of the officers and men of the Nigerian Navy.
Speaking also, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, congratulated the Navy on its 58th anniversary, but said it was still pursuing its dream of being a strong navy.
Alade said, “We have not gotten there yet, but with all the effort the CNS is putting in place, we will improve and since he came onboard we have improved tremendously.”
On the central message of the Jumat service, Chief Imam of the Navy, Lieutenant Commander Kabiru Bello, urged Muslims to have good knowledge of the religion before they can carry out actions in the name of Islam.
In the meantime, at an occasion on Friday to mark the 51st anniversary of the African Union (formally Organisation of African Unity), Bachir said Africa stood with the Nigerian government and the international community in the fight against terrorism.
He said African leaders were committed to, “Accelerating action on the ultimate establishment of a united and integrated Africa, through the implementation of our common continental governance, democracy and human rights frameworks, and moving with speed towards the integration and merger of regional economic communities as the building blocks of the Union.”
Massive arrests and raids have followed the attacks at Nyanya. Two Cameroonians were arrested on the night of the May Day bombing, amongst other foreign nationals. Many more suspected Boko Haram members alleged to be attempting to breach security at the Defence Headquarters and other important public facilities have been arrested.
Findings also revealed that the Army intercepted a trailer load of suspects numbering over 50 at Kugbo military checkpoint, barely one week after the first Nyanya bombings.