- Agony in the land
Monday, April 13, would for a long time, remain one the darkest days for Nigeria and Nigerians, writes Ohia Israel
During the morning rush hour on the fateful day, the bomb blast that killed over 100 people and hundreds with various degrees of injuries at a bus station in Nyanya, an outskirt of Abuja, is still a puzzle and the deadliest attack ever on Nigeria’s federal capital.
Security experts suspect the explosion occurred inside a vehicle, Air Commodore Charles Otegbade, director of search and rescue operations, said. The bus station, 8km southwest of central Abuja, serves Nyanya, a poor, ethnically and religiously mixed satellite town.
Nyanya is filled with government and civil society workers who cannot afford Abuja’s exorbitant rents. When President Goodluck Jonathan pledged that Nigeria would overcome the insurgency, “The issue of Boko Haram is quite an ugly history within this period of our own development,” he said. “But we will get over it … The issue of Boko Haram is temporary,” he added.
The Monday bombing in Abuja left a hole roughly 4ft deep and spread debris across the compound, as bloody remains lay strewn over the ground while security forces struggled to hold back a crowd of onlookers and fire crews hosed down a bus still holding the charred bodies of commuters.
It will be recalled that Boko Haram has carried out several previous attacks in and around Abuja, including a 2011 car bombing at the UN headquarters in the city that killed at least 26 people. Bus parks have been among Boko Haram’s most favoured targets, including multiple, coordinated bombings at a terminal in the northern city of Kano last year that killed more than 40 people.
With much of the recent violence contained in the northeast, Jonathan had been able to claim that progress was being made in the battle against the fighters. An escalation of violence in or near Abuja would pile further pressure on Jonathan.
Jonathan said the latest presumed Boko Haram attack and others like it were “unnecessary distractions that are pushing us backwards”.
“The government is doing everything to make sure that we move our country forward,” he said. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the bombings and said the United States stood with Nigerians as they grapple with “violent extremism.”
“We are outraged by these senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians,” Psaki told a regular news briefing. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked and saddened by the many lives lost today in the bomb attack. The perpetrators of this attack, and those responsible for the continuing brutal attacks in the northeast of the country, must be brought to justice,” he said.
Meanwhile, the police said its agencies were on “red alert”, and urged Nigerians to help with an investigation to find the killers. In some ways it’s not a big surprise,” said Kole Shettima, director of the Abuja office of the MacArthur Foundation, a U.S. charitable institution. The situation has been escalating. It’s a statement that they are still around and they can attack Abuja when they want, and instill fear.”
In the past year, the presumed militants have concentrated their attacks mostly in the northeast, where their insurgency started. But an attempted jail break by Boko Haram suspects near the presidential villa in Abuja last month, which triggered a three-hour gun battle, may have used outside help, security sources say.
In a sign of how politicized violence is likely to be in the run-up to elections set for February 2015, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) accused the main opposition All Progressives Congress of encouraging the blasts.
“Utterances by certain APC governors have been aimed at undermining our security forces and emboldening insurgents against the people,” PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh said. There had been no such violence near the capital since suicide car bombers targeted the offices of ThisDay newspaper in Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna in April 2012.
Control Risks analyst, Thomas Hansen, said the lack of attacks in Abuja in the past two years was probably thanks to a crackdown on Boko Haram, which had largely contained the group in the northeast. He also said that if this bomb was the work of Boko Haram, the choice of target on the outskirts of Abuja, rather than the city center, may be a sign of constraints on its capabilities.
“The security provision in the center appears to be much better than on the outskirts. It’s far easier to target that side of the city,” he said, but he added that the attack may be a forewarning of more ambitious strikes to come.
Meanwhile former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said that Nigeria’s security situation is precarious and the safety of her citizens can no longer be guaranteed. Nigerians want protection for their lives and property. There is a glaring failure of intelligence. The tempo and consistency of attacks suggest that this government’s approach is not only wrong but also wrongheaded. For how long shall we cry over the failure of intelligence and misuse of military deployments? For how long shall we weep over the avoidable deaths, loss of talents and gloom in Nigerian homes? When the story of this generation is told, who shall escape responsibility for the mammoth human lives and resources lost to the slaughter?
“It is clear the Jonathan administration has not devised a grand strategy against this menace, either locally or internationally. There might be a need to get back to the drawing board. Nigeria should also partner with the international community on convening a security summit under the auspices of the AU where Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Niger will deliberate on the menace. That can be the start of a well-coordinated offensive led by Nigeria.”
According to him “We cannot continue on the old ways since the result has been tragedy. We have had enough agonies as families and a nation. Let us have peace, and it is in our hands.” President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had summoned members of the National Security Council to a meeting last Thursday at the Presidential Villa against the background of recent events and developments in the country.
Those expected at the meeting include Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Minister of Defence, Lt.-Gen Aliyu Gusau, the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, the Service Chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, the Director-General of the State Security Services and the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency.
The meeting of the National Security Council has also followed an enlarged meeting on security developments in the country to which President Jonathan has invited State Governors. All Progressives Congress Governors Forum (APCGF), on Wednesday appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to intensify effort to fish out the perpetrators of the Nyanya bomb blast.
The Chairman of the Forum, Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, made the call when the he led his colleagues on a visit to victims of the Nyanya bomb blast at the National Hospital in Abuja.
It would be recalled that on April 13, a bomb blast killed dozens of commuters and other Nigerians at Nyanya, an outskirts of Abuja. “We want to request our President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces, to deepen that particular section of our constitution, which guarantees safety of lives and property of the ordinary citizens.
“We urge him to show leadership at this moment and do whatever it is within his capacity and capabilities as president to fish out those who are involved in this act. We are here as APC governors at the National Hospital to visit victims of the Nyanya bomb blast, which was an ugly and unfortunate incident that claimed so many lives.”
Okorocha, on behalf of the APC governors, commiserated with the families of those who lost their loved ones, saying “we know they must be in serious pains at this moment”. He decried increasing lost of lives in the country, adding that “almost on daily basis we hear one ugly incidence or the other about lost of lives.”
He condemned what he called “an unholy act,” which he said would not do any good to the country. “We notice that the increased blood shedding in our nation is becoming worrisome and as leaders we believe that this is not a time to say what is wrong or who is wrong.
“This is a time that we must all close hands to ensure the safety of lives and properties. This is not a time to talk about politics with people’s lives,” he said. He appealed to all Nigerians, irrespective of political affiliations and religion, to come together and unite with a view to fighting “this evil of the moment which has terrorised our nation.”
Okorocha also said the governors were concerned over the kidnapping of 100 school girls in Borno. “While we urge all Nigerians to remain calm and prayerful, we pray that we should unite at this moment to fight this evil.”
He disclosed that out of concern, the forum had decided to establish a trust fund for APC governors to support families of victims. “We shall also join force with other democrats to ensure that this bad story ends as quickly as possible.”
Also speaking, Gov. Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa, advised Nigerians to be vigilant and observe any unusual movement that was not in line with what they see daily. “My advice to Nigerians is that we should be observant and vigilant. We should not in any way leave the issue of security in the hands of security agencies alone.
“Security should be everybody’s business; we should be more meticulous and observant of any suspicious movement and report to security operatives to complement their efforts of combating crimes,” he said.
Other governors on the visit are Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Abiola Ajimobi .
Also the All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned the atrocious bomb blast that left 71 people dead in Abuja on Monday, and urged the Federal Government to urgently convene a national stakeholders’ security summit to help find a lasting solution to the spate of mindless killings in the country.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Monday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party expressed shock and sadness at the savagery of the attack, while condoling with the families of the dead and prayed for a quick recovery for the injured.
It said it is obvious that all efforts so far to tackle the insurgency in the country had not yielded much fruits, meaning that the PDP-led Federal Government lacked the capacity and had clearly run out of ideas on how to tackle the violence.
“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,” it said.
APC said in the national interest and in the spirit of bipartisanship, it was willing and ready to be part of any positive efforts to end the daily loss of lives and the damage to property that seemed 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 was 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 in to 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.