IT was another gruesome day of bloodshed in Kaduna as suspected Boko Haram members blew up a major road leading to Ahmadu Bello Stadium (ABS) in the metropolis, killing more than 36 people and injuring scores of other residents yesterday. .
The impact of the explosion, which occurred along the busy Junction Road, where several hotels, residential apartments and business premises are located, was so devastating that not less than 60 buildings were affected.
Although no group had claimed responsibilities as at press time, the Boko Haram sect had threatened a possible bomb blast during the Easter celebration in some parts of the north.
Most of the casualties of the blast were mainly commercial motorcyclists known as Okada riders, black market fuel sellers, as well as residents who were going to attend Easter services in different churches. The sound of the explosion, which was heard in many parts of the city sent fears down the spines of many residents.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Malam Abubakar Zakari Adamu, who spoke at the scene of the disaster, put the figures of those killed at 36, adding that 13 other residents were seriously injured.
Adamu said: “We had seven persons at Rakiya Memorial Hospital, out of which five have died. The remaining two have been transferred to 44 Army Reference Hospital. At the Army Hospital, we have 20 people who were seriously injured and at St. Gerald Hospital, we have 10 casualties: Five have died while the remaining five who were seriously injured are now receiving treatment.
“At Barau Dikko Hospital, we have six people who are already dead and six seriously injured. Twenty people died on the spot. In all, 36 died while 13 were seriously injured.”
There were indications that the attack was actually to be carried out on a church. The bombs might have exploded after an unsuccessful effort by the bomber to penetrate the ECWA Goodnews Church at Gwari Road behind Junction Road where the explosion occurred.
One of the security personnel at the church, Mr. Francis Markus, told journalists about his encounter with the suicide bomber when he (the bomber) attempted to penetrate the church while service was in progress.
Markus said: “The suicide bomber arrived at about 8.45 a.m. He came to the street here in an ash Honda Academy car and said he wanted to pass, but I told him that he could not pass because it was during church service and we did not allow people to gain entrance here because of the security problem we had and that if he wanted to pass it must definitely be after church hours.
“Then he said he was going to his house and I asked him which of the houses he was talking about. He pointed to an upstairs. I know so many people living in the house, I could not recognise him as one of those living there, because we do work here every Sunday. I asked him again to show me the particular building he spoke about and he pointed at the very building whose occupants I know very well, then I told him that he was not passing because I knew almost everybody on the street and the house. At that point, he said he was not talking about the particular building he earlier pointed at, he pointed at another upstairs.
“He was in the car. I told him to stay at the entrance to the street here. He alleged that I was violating his rights for not allowing him to go to his house. He insisted that he must pass through and go to his house, he started his car and reversed, the next thing he drove towards me, yet I stood my ground and held the iron gate very well, he hit the iron against me. Luckily enough, one of the church members came around. When I was trying to explain the incident to him, I noticed an army uniform at the back of the sit and the cap behind the screen. As we were dragging the matter, armed policemen who were posted to the church came to the spot and said he must stay back until the church service was over. Then the man decided to drive back to the main road. Just about three minutes later, we heard a big blast just behind. He was a young man, wearing a vest and a combat knickers”.
Also, at the All Nations Christian Assembly, Gwari Road, the Presiding Pastor, Joshua Raji, remarked that “we were all here having our Holy Communion service and I was exhorting my people when all of a sudden we heard a mighty blast that shattered our windows and doors, destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church”.
According to him, “all my members in the church were initially perplexed, but in the long run, we saw the hand work of God that all members were saved. No single person sustained injury.
“But all our property were destroyed. The sermon we had today was that each member of the church must put his attention on Jesus Christ, living a Godly life, knowing that there is a reward in everything you do, whether good or bad. That was what I was preaching when the blast occurred. We were able to take the communion, and the service ended when the blast occurred”.
Some victims of the blast who were on their way to attend the Easter Church service also spoke on the experiences yesterday.
Mr. Aaron Idiawaje, a victim and eye-witness of the explosion said: “We were on our way to the church, Christ Embassy and we were on motorcycle with my younger brother. Right there was a bang and I was hit by the sound, the next thing I could see was darkness and I was unconscious. That was all I could know. I was with the bike man with my brother. I could not recognise anything apart from the darkness I was. After sometimes, I regained my consciousness and I was trying to run out of the fire that engulfed us, myself and my younger brother as well as other victims that are dead now. The Okada man that carried us died instantly.”
Idiawaje continued: “When I ran out of the fire, I ran to the direction of the fire again to look for my younger brother, Augustine Vincent. I was calling on him, I could not find him. I feel better now and happy that I see him by my side too, he is alive, it was the hand of God. The situation was confusing then, but I saw five dead bodies around me, then there was this young man that was from head to toe melting down. All he was saying I could not hear him, he was just murmuring and raised his hands up. He was trying to say something, but fell down and gave up the ghost.”
The Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Abubakar Mohammed Jingiri, who gave indication that his men were aware of the planned bombing and made effort to stop it, described the blast as massive.
Quoting intelligence report, he said the bomber was heading to Kakuri and Sabon Tashe area, all in the southern part of the state, when the bomb went off at the Junction to /Sardauna Crescent. He appealed to the residents of the state to be patient, calm and go about their lawful businesses.
According to him, the Police Command was able to establish that there were two bombers in two different vehicles heading towards Kakuri/Sabon Tasha, before the bomb exploded on transit.
Jingiri said: “The two vehicles were pursued by a detective, Corporal Francis Marcus, and then suddenly one of the vehicles hit the other, thereby causing a serious bomb explosion between the two vehicles on Junction Road by Sardauna Crescent in Kaduna”.
He said police and other security agencies had begun investigating the bombing and final report will soon be made public”.
A Management Consultant to Fina White Hotels, Theophilous Ashaolu, who took journalists round the hotel along Junction Road, said “this is unbelievable, this is beyond description and the damages are colossal. My happiness is that at the time it happened, there was only a single guest in the room and you can see the room where he stayed, it can only be God to have brought somebody out alive from this kind of ruin. This is a terrible ruin and God did it and he and his wife and child came out unhurt. And he checked out immediately”.
Ashaolu further said: “What I don’t know is whether this action of suicide bombing is political or religious. One cannot assign a definition to what is happening. If it is political, why on Christian days, if it is religious, then what is the aim or objective? There are Christians in the North who are northerners too. What do you want them to do, to leave their states or what? So, nobody knows the mission of those suicide bombers. They have not told us their grievances, all we can do is to appeal to them because the result of their actions may not be achieving their aims.”
Apart from Fina White Hotel, other places affected by the blast were Musafir Hotel, Fajecco Hotel, MAB Technical company, Afam Ventures, Bufes Nigeria Limited, First Bank Plc and Kent Merchandise, among others.
Condemning the act, the Director-General of the National Emergency Agency (MEMA), Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sidi, who visited St. Gerard Catholic and Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, Kaduna, said the agency would pay the hospital bills of the victims
Owners of business premises where the unfortunate incident occurred were also at the point of the blast to take inventory of the damages to their property.
In a swift reaction to the incident, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Kaduna North Central, Alhaji Shehu Usman, blamed the security agencies for the incessant attacks and called for disbandment of road-blocks in the country.
He contended that if the security operatives were up and doing on the road-blocks mounted across the length and breadth of the country, the bombers who planted bombs in their cars would not have been able to pass through them.