— Jonathan visits scene, condoles with victims
–This is inhuman, ungodly, cowardly – Mark, Tambuwal
David Agba, Abdullahi M. Gulloma, Chizoba Ogbeche, Samuel Ogidan, Ezrel Tabiowo, Ameh Ejekwonyilo Ayoni M. Agbabiaka
Over 200 people were killed yesterday when a car bomb exploded in a motor park in Nnanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The police, however, claimed that 71 people died, a figure disputed by witnesses at the scene.
Blueprint gathered that the bomb, which went off at about 6:45 a.m. inside a Volkswagen Golf car, with registration number XQ 299 LSD, shook buildings, shattered glasses, upturned cars and left hundreds dead in varying degrees, with body parts and projectiles strewn at the scene.
The blast occurred a few kilometres to Abacha Barracks when people were heading to their places of work and boarding buses.
Our correspondent reports that 16 luxury vehicles, known as ‘El-Rufai buses,’ owned by the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company (AUMTCO), and 24 other vehicles were affected by the blast.
A survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the terrorist’s car drove into the park and pulled up in front of the already loaded high capacity Mass Transit buses.
He said the driver of the car was seen hurriedly leaving the park minutes before the massive explosion.
Those affected were mostly workers leaving the park to the city centre, petty traders and transporters taking passengers to locations within and outside the FCT.
The timely arrival of soldiers and policemen from the nearby Nyanya and Karu Divisions, as well as officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) helped to create room for emergency services to get their fire trucks and ambulances to the site of the blast.
Our correspondent saw several dead bodies and human parts strewn all over the blast site as emergency and security operatives struggled to evacuate the injured, some with their innards pouring out.
No one claimed responsibility for the explosion, but accusing fingers were pointed at the Boko Haram sect.
Attempts by our correspondents to find the exact number of the dead and injured failed to yield fruits as the medical personnel said there was no time for press interviews as they were attending to the injured.
At a joint briefing at the scene by all the security outfits in Abuja, the Nigeria Police Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, told reporters, “Only 71 have been confirmed dead and 124 injured.”
Mba added that the incident occurred at about 6.55 a.m. and affected 16 high capacity buses as well as several cars and motorcycles.
“We are paying very close attention to all vulnerable points including motor parks,” he said. “We advise the public to avoid unnecessary huge crowd. We are also paying close attention to government buildings.”
President Goodluck Jonathan, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed D. Abubakar, and Commander of Guards Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Anthony Omozoje, visited the scene of the blast.
Jonathan, who was accompanied by top government officials and security chiefs, condoled with the families of the deceased and assured that his government would do everything possible to address the current insecurity challenges in the country.
He called on Nigerians to be security-conscious and report suspicious movements and objects around them, and also appealed to media practitioners to create awareness amongst citizens on the need to be vigilant.
He said: “Though we lost quite a number of people, we condole with our countrymen and women. We will continue to work very hard.
“The issue of Boko Haram is temporary. Government is doing everything to make sure that we move our country forward in spite of all the distractions that want to take us backward. We promise that we will get over it.
“We also want to use this unique opportunity to plead with the media and our great men and women to come up with enlightenment programme for our people.
“Those countries that face terror, they have developed great awareness. If there are unusual movements of vehicles and bags, they call security and based on this a lot of incidents are contained.”
The president, who visited the National Hospital to see casualties, also cancelled his scheduled visit to Ibadan for the 100 years birthday of the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade 1.
He was accompanied to the scene of the explosion by the President of the Senate, Sen. Mr. David Mark; National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu; Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro; National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, and the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed D. Abubakar, among others.
Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, who was represented at the on-the-scene assesment of the explosion by FCT Permanent Secretary, Engr. John Obinna Chukwu, said victims of the blast were taken to “nine hospitals” across the territory for treatment.
Victims of the bomb blast were taken to various hospitals like Customs Hospital in Karu, the General Hospital in Asokoro, Wuse, and Nyanya, the National Hospital, Medical Centre in Maraba, and many others across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Medical Director of Asokoro General Hospital, Dr. Ahmadu Abubakar, said the hospital had so far received 30 dead and 27 injured persons when Blueprint visited.
Sani Datti, Senior Information Officer at NEMA, said his agency in collaboration with other response agencies’ spokespersons, gave an update on the casualties which showed that a total of 71 people died.
He said NEMA and the response agencies carried out a herculean task of evacuating victims to the various hospitals.
He said further to the evacuation and to ensure adequate care for the injured, the Director General of NEMA, Mohammed Sani-Sidi, immediately visited some of the hospitals.
Condemnations followed the incident.
Senate President David Mark condemned the blast, just as he shelved his conferment of a chieftaincy title on him by the Olubadan of Ibadan.
He said in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, that the perpetrators of yesterday’s attack needed to rethink “because this is a needless war.”
Mark said: “It is hard to believe that this is happening to us. No matter the anger or grievances in anybody’s mind, this war on defenceless citizens is uncalled for. This is inhuman and unarguably ungodly.”
He sympathised with the victims and reminded Nigerians of the need to be their brothers’ keeper at all times.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, also condemned the attack.
In a statement issued in Calabar by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal described the attack as “cowardly and barbaric.”
He said Nigerians must join hands to bring an end to the spate of wanton killings in the country.
Tambuwal further urged security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of the violent act are brought to justice.
He pointed out that the gains recorded by the security agencies in their battle against terror should be consolidated in order to protect the citizens at all times.
While condoling with the families of those who lost loved ones in the blast, Tambuwal prayed for the quick recovery of those injured.