Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Barely 18 hours after the deadly attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, acting President Yemi Osinbajo Thursday defied the security threat when he paid a one-day working visit to the troubled city.
This is just as it emerged that 18 persons were killed and 24 others injured Wednesday night during the sectâ€™s attempt to invade the city, the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Damien Chukwu, has said.
Osinbajo, who was in the state to flag-off the distribution of 30,000 metric tonnes of assorted grains for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-east, landed at the Maiduguri Airport at 12.30 p.m.
The acting president was received by Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, members of the State Executive Council, traditional rulers and politicians.
Security was beefed up across the town, with heavily armed security personnel from the army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Services (DSS), immigration and other para-military agencies deployed in the major roads and streets.
Similarly, several armoured personnel carriers and tanks were stationed on all the roads where the acting president was scheduled to pass, with assault helicopters and military fighter jets providing aerial surveillance.
The town was effectively shut down as commercial and social activities were scuttled.
Shortly after his arrival, Osinbajo headed to the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai El-Kanemi, where he paid homage to the traditional ruler.
He told the monarch that the distribution of the grains was part of the federal governmentâ€™s intervention to address the feeding problem of the IDPs.
The acting president later moved to the store of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to inspect the grains, following which he proceeded to the Bakassi IDP camp for the flag-off of the distribution programme.
The night before the presidential visit, the insurgents, in what looked like a coordinated attack, deployed suicide bombers at a section of the troubled town and simultaneously deployed its members in another axis.
Suicide bombers were deployed along Muna area, while armed militants were deployed along the Jiddari Polo axis of the town.
When the invasion was halted by both Nigerian troops and the security agencies, THISAY learnt that 18 persons were discovered dead.
At the Alidawari and Jiddari Polo areas of the town where the sect had tried to invade the town, two insurgents were killed as well as a suicide bomber in a crossfire.
Also at Jiddari Polo, one person died during a stampede, as people tried to flee for their lives.
Thirteen persons were also reportedly killed during the multiple suicide bomb attacks at Goni Kachallari, Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA) quarters and Lake Chad Research Institute, all along the Muna axis.
Police Commissioner Chukwu, in his account, told the press that at 6.05 p.m. on Wednesday, Boko Haram terrorists attacked Alidawari village near Jiddari Polo in the Maiduguri metropolis, sporadically firing anti-aircraft guns and setting houses and makeshift tents ablaze.
The police, he said, was the first security agency to get to the scene of the attack with its Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) and Police Mobile Force (PMF).
The military from the headquarters of 7 Division, Maiduguri, then immediately followed. They were massively mobilised and repelled the attack in a gun duel that lasted for about an hour, he said.
Chukwu revealed that one terrorist was captured alive, and was in the custody of the army, while three terrorists, including a suicide bomber were killed during the exchange of fire.
On the suicide bomb attacks at Muna area, Chukwu said three male suicide bombers detonated the improvised explosive devices on their bodies.
The first explosion was at a mosque at Goni Kachallari, where the suicide bomber and six others died, while 18 other persons were injured; the second suicide bomber detonated his own within the premises of the CBDA at 9.20 p.m. where the suicide bomber and three others died; and the third suicide bomber detonated his IED just across the road outside the CBDA, adjacent to the Lake Chad Research Institute, killing himself and one other person.
However, an eyewitness who resides near the CBDA said he was among those who conveyed eight corpses and 37 injured to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
He said the suicide bomb attacks occurred in four different locations: the CBDA mosque, inside Lake Chad Research Institute, opposite College of Agriculture, and a mosque at Goni Kachallari, all around the Muna axis.
Also, when THISDAY spoke to some members of the Civilian JTF, other vigilante groups and eyewitnesses, they said the vigilantes and local hunters were the first at the scene of the attack, followed by the police then the military.
Sources said thousands fled the surrounding villages because they had been warned by the insurgents of the coordinated attack earlier on Wednesday.
They lamented that even after the villagers alerted the military of the impending attack, nothing was done to checkmate it.