- We‘ll defeat Boko Haram – Jonathan boasts
- Opposition behind blast, PDP alleges
- President needs help to tackle worsening insecurity – APC
By Lawrence Olaoye, Tobias Lengnan Dapam, Mashe Gwamna and Ayodele Samuel, Lagos with agency reports
71 persons were officially confirmed killed by a bomb explosion at Nyanya, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), yesterday with several others injured.
But unofficial reports had it that over 200 people, consisting of workers leaving the suburb for the city centre, petty traders, motorists and passers by may have lost their lives in the blast.
Although no group has come out to claim responsibility as at the time of filing this reports suspicion was rife that the dastardly act may have been perpetrated by the deadly insurgents popularly known as Boko Haram sect.
There were conflicting reports on how the blast occurred with some eyewitness claiming that the bomb may have been hurled into the park by a passer-by. Others claimed that it must have been detonated in one of the Abuja Mass Transit Buses, popularly called ‘El-Rufai’ by a suspected suicide bomber while some others claimed that the lethal material was detonated in a Volkswagen ‘Sharon’ bus parked inside the park.
An eyewitness, also a commercial motorcycle rider, who gave his name as Wahad, told NAN that a man threw a bag containing the bomb into the congested park.
“I was conveying a passenger to the park this morning when I saw a man throw a big black bag into the park; the next thing I saw was explosion,’’ Wahad said.
Another eyewitness, David Lukman, however, said that the bomb was planted in a car at the park. “I am very sure the bomb was either planted at the park last night or a suicide bomber posing as passenger entered one of the cars with it,’’ he said.
Several dead bodies and human parts littered the ground in and around the park after the blast.
As at 10 a.m. more than 100 victims of the blast, made up of the dead and the injured, had been deposited at the National Hospital, Mrs. Rabia Labaran, an assistant information officer, at the hospital said.
The Chief Medical Director of Maitama General Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Sotimehin Adetohun, confirmed that the 14 dead bodies and 37 injured persons were brought to the hospital, while two persons in critical conditions were transferred to National Hospital.
Men of the Anti-bomb Squad of the Nigeria Police, Fire Service, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) personnel arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the attack.
Rescue workers battled to take the dead and injured to nearby hospitals, including Nyanya General Hospital.
An Abuja-based journalist, resident at Nyanya, Mr. Romanus Ugwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he ran to the scene on hearing the blast.
Ugwu said what he saw could be best described as a “gory sight” because many people were burning in some cars and were calling for help that never came to them while some were on the ground, helpless without limbs.
“You have to be hard-hearted to look at these things. I saw a woman lying face down without limbs while one, who was surrounded by her children, struggled for life and gave up in their arms.
“These attackers appear to be more pro-active than our rescue organisations and security agencies because so many lives would have been saved if help had come in time.”
Ugwu said he counted many bodies littered on the ground in the park, but could not say if all of them were dead.
He, however, commended the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel for their rescue efforts.
Mr. Abdulrazak Haruna of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Unit of NSCDC, told NAN that he counted more than 100 bodies, including the injured while evacuating victims.
“It is a sad experience. We counted 20 BRT buses, 14 cars, 24 commuter buses and 13 motorcycles.”
Mr. Femi Lawal, a survivor of the blast, who could not contain his joy and gratitude to God for sparing him, said he had dropped from one of the green buses from One-man Village and was heading to the park when the blast went off.
Lawal said he fell and was dazed momentarily before realising what had happened. He said that he heard a loud bang, which nearly blinded him, and saw a thick smoke while people ran in confusion.
The 32-year old man, who was apparently wounded on the wrist and neck, said “it is a day I will live to remember”.
CSP Frank Mba, Police Force spokesman, confirmed that 16 high capacity buses, some cars and motorcycles were affected in the explosion. He said investigation had begun.
“Experts from the Bomb Disposal Squad are on ground, the police are working with other security agencies.
“At this stage, we may not be able to give the casualty figure; the reasons are obvious; a lot of people are in the hospital; our detectives are visiting hospitals and taking count.
“We want to give you figures that we can back up with facts,’’ he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan who visited the scene of the blast in company with the Senate President, David Mark, and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar was received by the Chief of Defense Staff, Alex Badeh as well as the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Airforce.
The President assured the nation that the Boko Haram threat was just a temporary set back, promising that the country would triumph over the terrorists. He emphasized that there was need for the citizens to be enlightened to be security conscious and report suspicious persons and object to security agencies.
Meanwhile, The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the attack as barbaric, monstrous and extremely wicked insisting that it was politically motivated.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, while stating that the attack could not be justified under any guise posited that it could be traced to the utterances of desperate persons who seek to undermine and discredit the present administration and make the nation ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan by instituting a reign of terror against the people.
The party stated “We stand by our earlier statements that these attacks on our people are politically motivated by unpatriotic persons, especially those in the APC, who have been making utterances and comments, promoting violence and blood-letting as a means of achieving political control.
“Nigerians are also aware of utterances by certain APC governors which have been aimed at undermining our security forces and emboldening insurgents against the people.
“Those who have been promoting violence through their utterances can now see the monster they have created. They can now see the end product of their comments; a country flowing daily with the blood of the innocent. The question is; how do they feel when they see the mangled and blood-soaked bodies of their victims? How do they feel when they hear the voices of the dying and the injured?
“Of course they feel nothing. Their hearts have been hardened and they are embittered by the fact that they have been rejected by the people. They are bitter because the people have chosen to rally round the government they love and voted for; but must they chose the path of violence and bloodletting as a response to the wishes and aspiration of the people?”, the statement queried.
While urging those fuelling the attacks to retrace heir steps, the PDP called on all well meaning Nigerians to stand up and join President Jonathan in his untiring efforts to check terrorism in the country.
The APC in its response to the blast maintained that efforts made by the government so far in curtailing the insurgents have failed insisting that President Jonathan needs all the helps he could get to address the challenge of insecurity in the country.
The party in a statement issued by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, suggested that Jonathan should urgently convene a national stakeholders’ security summit to help in finding a lasting solution to the spate of killing in the country.
While maintaining that the PDP government has run out of ideas to tackle insecurity in the country, the APC stated that ”It is time for new thinking; new ideas to stop this insurgency before it consumes all of us. The attack, right on the outskirts of Abuja which has been spared this kind of spectacular strike since 2011 means those behind it are getting bolder and bolder, and it’s time to stop them.”
APC said in the national interest and in the spirit of bipartisanship, it is willing and ready to be part of any positive efforts to end the daily loss of lives and the damage to property that seem to have hit a new high since the beginning of this year.
Meanwhile, the party has described as despicable the PDP’s attempt to trivialize a very serious issue and make the opposition the fall guy for its own egregious failure.
”The PDP and the government it leads at the centre should realize that this issue is beyond politics and partisanship, and should reach out to other stakeholders to help find a way to end the insurgency that has now defied all measures, including a state of emergency.
”Trying to blame the opposition for the attack, as the harebrained PDP has irresponsibly done even when the bodies of the victims are still lying in the morgue, cannot advance a genuine push to end the insurgency,” the party said.
It wondered whether the PDP’s ignoble accusation is part of a sinister motive to call the dog a bad name just to hang it.
”PDP is so desperate that it will stop at nothing to plunge Nigeria into chaos just to achieve its objective of clinging to power at all costs. Its baseless and infantile accusation, at a time of great national pain, may be a ploy to instigate a clampdown against the opposition.
We are therefore calling on all our members, and indeed all the good people of Nigeria, to be vigilant in the days ahead,” the party said.
The Nyanya blast would be the seventh in the series within and around the FCT. Others include those of 2010 Independence Day; Modagishu (Abacha) Barracks bombing of December, 2010; United Nations Headquarters Building bombing in 2011; Police Headquarters bombing of June 2011; This Day bombing in 2012 and the Madalla (Suleja) Catholic Church bombing on Christmas Day in 2012.