On 6 February, gunmen and bombers, suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, set the Sharada police station on fire, in Kano, capital of Kano State.
A senior police officer said the police station had been burned down by attackers armed with explosives. He said in the shootout between the attackers and the police, a police officer was shot in the leg.
The attack reportedly occurred around 6pm, just before the commencement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the city following the 20 January multiple bomb and gun attacks that killed over 200 people. One resident said she saw the police station on fire from her house and that more policemen and soldiers were later deployed to the area. Others said spent bullets and used explosives littered the grounds around the area, after the gun duel between the attackers and the police.
The Kano State Police Command confirmed the incident, saying one police man was hurt, but it was yet to give further details.
Local sources also said they heard a separate gun battle in the Mariri area of the city. Some said the sounds of gunfire came from an area suspected to be a Boko Haram hideout on the outskirts of Kano. They said a security team had apparently raided a home in the neighbourhood, leading to a shootout with the occupants. Others said the gunshots seem to have come from the Danladi Nasidi police station in the area. There had been no official statement from the police.
On 5 February, a group identifying itself as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), claimed responsibility for an attack on an oil pipeline owned by the Italian firm, Agip (Eni), in Bayelsa State. Witnesses had reported a fire on the company’s Nembe-Brass pipeline late the previous day.
In a statement sent to the media, the group said: “On Saturday, the 4th of February at 1930hrs, fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) attacked and destroyed the Agip (ENI) trunk line at Brass in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria”.
The statement added that: “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger Delta and a sign of things to come”.
MEND was the main militant group in the Niger Delta and responsible for years of attacks on the oil industry. However, following the Federal Government’s offer of amnesty in 2009, virtually all of its known commanders and thousands of its fighters dropped their arms and joined the government’s re-orientation and rehabilitation programmes, which also guaranteed them monthly stipends from the government. Several thousands have been enrolled in vocational and academic training courses, in Nigeria and abroad.
MEND purportedly sent several threats to the media in 2010 and 2011, but the threatened attacks never materialized. Oil industry sources said most of the recent damage to oil infrastructure in the region had been caused by gangs stealing oil, rather than insurgent militants. Security sources add that these gangs lack the capacity to cause the level of damage and disruption that was seen in early 2011, when attacks slashed the country’s oil production by more than 50 per cent.
The military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta said: “JTF advices Niger Deltans to be mindful of people who are out to swindle them by wrongfully appropriating the identity of the erstwhile leadership of MEND to curry sympathy for their selfish and criminal interests”.
On 28 July, about six people were feared dead, with scores of buildings and automobiles razed, after a fuel-laden tanker caught fire and exploded at a roundabout near the popular Ogbete Market in Enugu, capital of Enugu State. The Ogbete market is the largest market in the city.
Mr. Sikiru Raimi, Commandant, Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said the incident occurred when the tanker loaded with diesel lost control while negotiating the roundabout. Witnesses said the crash was followed by leakage of fuel from the tanker, operated by the Port Harcourt-based Shorelink Oil and Gas Services Company.
They said as the leaked fuel flowed into the barracks of the Enugu Central Police Station and some parts of the Ogbete market, the tanker driver raised alarm and ran to the police station to seek for help; one source said there was no immediate response, apparently as the police had no fire-prevention equipment. A short while later, the tanker exploded and went up in huge flames.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Steven Ekpei, confirmed three people dead. But local residents and witnesses said apart from the three charred bodies recovered initially, the toll may be up to six. Over 20 buildings, housing officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Prisons Service, were burnt. About 10 cars and several motorcycles were also in ruins. As the fire also destroyed poles and cables of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the company’s Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Eseme Udo, said some facilities, including the Enugu Prisons, may run without electricity for some time.
Witnesses say personnel from the Enugu Fire Service, and their colleagues from other agencies like the NSCDC and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), rallied to save the market and the police station from ruin. But they said fire-fighting vehicles could not get to some of the burning buildings as structures constructed without approvals blocked access routes. Some fire-fighters, injured while battling the inferno, were later rushed to Parklane Hospital.
Addressing reporters shortly after inspecting the scene of the accident, the Deputy Governor, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, said the state government would do everything possible to minimise the damage from such accidents in future. He said as a first step, Governor Sullivan Chime had ordered the demolition and clearance of all illegal structures in the city, within the next two weeks.
He praised the Fire Service and other emergency agencies for their quick response to the incident and pledged the state government’s assistance to alleviate the suffering of the victims.
On 1 June, an explosion occurred at the Disease Control Unit (Epidemiological Centre) of the Borno State Ministry of Health, in Maiduguri, Borno State. The blast instantly set off a fire that destroyed tens of thousands of doses of polio, measles and meningitis vaccines, and other private property worth millions of naira.
Details of the incident are yet contradictory. Some residents said they heard one explosion, others two.
It is also not clear whether the incident was an attack by members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, as local residents say, or an accident, as some police sources claim. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
One account said the building was attacked with explosives around 7.25 pm, while most local residents were huddled together in front of television sets, watching a friendly soccer match between Nigeria and Argentina which was massively followed by people all over the country. It further said the explosion was followed by gunshots, people running for safety, and then a huge fire from the warehouse which soon engulfed nearby stores.
Another account said some men came to the building around 7 pm, chased out an elderly man who was “guarding” the entrance, went in and planted explosives which went off and set the warehouse ablaze. The source said the fire soon spread to a shopping centre and a private house located behind the vaccine store, and also to three cars that were parked on the grounds around the building. One shop owner, Mohammed Mustapha, said he lost goods worth about N25 million.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Malam Lawal Abdullahi, ruled out any attack or sabotage.
He told a newspaper reporter that: “It was purely a fire incident and the police have already commenced investigations into the cause. There was no life lost, but we are yet to quantify the value of the property lost”.
The Epidemiological Centre, which doubles as the warehouse for vaccines being used for the National Programme on Immunisation (NPI) in Borno State, is the biggest store for disease control resources in the state. Its destruction is a major setback to the Borno State Government’s programme against major child-killer diseases.
On 22 April, the residence of the vice presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Pastor Tunde Bakare, in Lagos, was gutted by fire; but no life was lost.
Family members and neighbours at the building located on Awuse Estate, Opebi, Lagos, said the fire started at about 4pm. No one could not identify what caused it or where exactly it started from.
They said as soon as they noticed the smoke and flames, they alerted the fire service department, but before fire-fighters arrived, an entire section of the building had been burnt. However, the fire-men and neighbours eventually put out the fire.
The police public relations officer, Lagos State Police command, Mr. Samuel Jinadu, told newsmen that the cause of the fire was not yet known. He however confirmed that policemen had been drafted to Pastor Bakare’s residence to ensure security.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Islamic body, Alhaji Umar Zaria Ahmed, said the fire started from the main hall of the building, probably as a result of an electrical fault. It razed the main conference hall of the secretariat, completely.
As news of the incident spread, some youths alleged that the incident was politically inspired, and started a street protest, which soon turned into a rampage. They blocked the major highway leading to the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and the Kawo district, smashing vehicles and wounding some commuters.
Ironically, the youths, who said they were protesting the fire incident, initially barred men of the fire service department from entering the JNI premises to stop the fire. However, operatives from the state government’s security outfit, Operation Yaki, fired teargas to disperse the irate youths, which then enabled the firemen to arrest the blaze before it could ruin the entire JNI building.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Aminu Lawan, said the police have already begun investigation into the incident. The state governor, Mr Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, called for calm among Moslems in the state and beyond, assuring them that there was no external hand in the incident. He commiserated with the Sultan of Sokoto, who is head of JNI, as well as the entire leadership of Northern Moslems, and pledged the state government’s assistance towards rebuilding the secretariat.
Eye witnesses said the fire started around 9.55 a.m. from the ninth floor of the building. Before it could be brought under control, it had destroyed property worth millions of naira. The General Manager of the Jos zonal office, Chukwudi Okoli Ugbaja said: “All our cameras and entire studio equipment got destroyed in the inferno”. Mrs. Folashade Oshodi, a presenter who was on duty at the time of the incident told the News Agency of Nigeria that the station’s transmitter as well as the radio and the television studios were completely burnt. However, Ugbaja expressed relief that no life was lost, and commended the Fire Service whose prompt response saved the entire structure from being razed.
Governor Jonah Jang who was on his way home from Church service in company of his wife Ngo made a prompt visit to see the extent of damage. He expressed sympathy with the management and staff of AIT for the loss.
It will be recalled that AIT/Ray Power offices in Abuja, Lagos and Kano have been gutted by fire disasters in the past.