On 19 February, an improvised bomb exploded near a church in Suleja, a town in Niger State, but on the edge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The blast occurred on Morocco Road, at the heart of the commercial area of the town, wounding five people and damaging five cars.
According to Uyi Idugboe, pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, the blast struck just a few minutes after the church service had started at 10 am. He said a member of the church, who had gone out to check that his vehicle was locked, spotted a suspicious-looking package lying between two cars. He promptly alerted everyone to stay indoors.
Said Idugboe: “When we were alerted, about 25 minutes before the detonation, we called everybody inside the church. That is why we don’t have casualties”.
The Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu, reported that no one was killed by the blast. Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also confirmed that: “No person died in the Suleja explosion. One person was seriously injured and is now in hospital. Four victims had minor injuries while five vehicles were damaged”.
Responding to the incident, large numbers of soldiers, police and other security operatives soon cordoned off the area, to enable bomb experts commence investigations.
Churches in Suleja and nearby Madalla have been targeted repeatedly by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northern states of the country. Its most recent attack in the area was the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, which killed about 43 people and wounded 57.
However, security operatives have arrested the suspected mastermind of that attack. More recently, the State Security Service (SSS) reportedly raided the home of one Bashiru Madalla, identified as coordinator of Boko Haram’s operations in the FCT and Niger State; but the suspect is said to be on the run.
On 11 April, the Labour Party (LP) senatorial candidate for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Barrister Kayode Ajulo, who was kidnapped on 7 April, was found by the Police along the Abuja-Kaduna road. One report says he was found lying by the roadside, looking dishevelled and disoriented. The police promptly took him to the office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Garki, Abuja, where he was debriefed on his kidnap experience.
Ajulo, a brilliant lawyer and human rights activist, was abducted by four gunmen in Abuja, shortly after an interview programme at the Aso Radio station, Katampe Hill, in which he had laid out his manifesto for the senatorial election. As he came out of the station, two of the assailants overpowered him and forced him into the waiting car of his younger brother, Toye. According to a source, they headed for the Kubwa-Kaduna Highway, but forced Toye out at Dutse Alhaji Junction. After seeing him run into the bush, they then moved Kayode over to their own car and sped off to an unknown destination.
It was gathered that prior to the incident, Ajulo had been under pressure to quit the senatorial race. Sensing danger, he wrote the FCT Commissioner of Police complaining of a major threat to his life. But he had apparently not been able to obtain police protection at the time he was seized.
On 8 April, a message signed by Mr Daniel Elombah, the convener of Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM) of which Ajulo is a member, said his kidnappers were not asking for ransom, but had said “he should go elsewhere to pursue his senatorial ambition, that the Abuja senatorial seat is not for his likes!”. The TNM therefore called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election for the Abuja FCT senatorial district until he is released.
The Abuja Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), through its chairman, Abdullahi Yahaya, had also called on all workers and affiliates across the territory “not to participate in the election until the Labour Party senatorial candidate is released”. However, INEC went ahead with the elections, largely boycotted by Ajulo’s supporters.
The day after the polls, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), a militant pan-Yoruba pressure organisation, served notice that as from Monday, 11 April, it would mobilize its members to march to the headquarters of the FCT Police Command, to protest the kidnap of Ajulo, who is a Yoruba. The FCT coordinator of the OPC, Chief Oluwole Adedeji, had alleged that: “The police and SSS are not showing any concern over the issue. We are not hearing anything from the SSS”.
The OPC leader had also stated that “All Yoruba are agitating that nothing must happen to Ajulo; he must not die”. And he had warned that “Should anything happen to him, there will be problem”.
With Ajulo’s captors not having asked for any ransom, and releasing him only after the election had held, there are speculations that the kidnap might have been organised by political opponents who simply wanted him out of circulation, to ensure he does not win the polls.
FCT Police Spokesman, Superintendent Jimoh Moshood, confirmed to newsmen that that Ajulo has been found and that investigations were continuing.