Twin bomb explosions Tuesday at a bus terminal and market in Jos, the Plateau state capital, killed 118 people and wounded a dozen others, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The busy terminal and market are right in the heart of the ancient tin city where Nigeria’s northern and southern regions meet.
According to eye-witnesses, the second bomb went off 30 minutes after the first, killing some of the rescue workers who had rushed to the scene, which was obscured by billows of black smoke. “It’s horrifying, terrible”, Mark Lipdo of the Stefanos Foundation, a Christian charity based in Jos, who described the sickening smell of burning human flesh to a foreign news agency, Associated Press (AP).
Three days after, no group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, the first in Jos since the last one in 2012. However, they bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, that has been waging an insurgency against the Nigerian state since 2009. The Jos blasts came exactly a month after the sect exploded two bombs near Abuja that killed over 100 people and the abduction over of 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state. Two days earlier, a bomb attack in Kano killed some 20 people.
As usual, there has been a flurry of condemnations, condolences and assurances from the nation’s political and religious establishments. President Goodluck Jonathan, in a statement put out by his media spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, the same Tuesday, condoled with the bereaved and assured of his government’s determination in “winning the war on terror”. He added, “This administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilization”.
It is significant that these latest Boko Haram deadly strikes have come, barely a week after the Nigerian government accepted outside help in the search for the kidnapped schoolgirls and a request for the United Nations to add Boko Haram to its black list of international terror groups. They were an unmistaken message by the sect that it could strike at targets and at times of its own choosing.
There is one thing, however, that makes the Jos attacks different from the rest. An opportunity presented itself, which if taken, would have aborted the tragedy altogether or minimized the scale of it. According to Mark Lipdo, “a white van that held the first bomb was parked for hours in the market place, raising suspicions of vendors and others who reported it to the authorities, but nothing was done”.
Besides, he told AP that there was an earlier warning of impending attack. “A man with explosives strapped to his body was arrested on Saturday”, he said, who told police that many militants had instructions to plant bombs in churches and public areas in Jos.
Why the authorities, particularly the security forces, failed to act on the intelligence provided by locals cannot be explained. These are the same authorities that say they are not receiving enough support from the Nigerian public in the fight on terror. This time they got enough of it but instead went to sleep. With this type of attitude, it is not hard to see why the insurgency is waxing instead of waning.