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.
Multiple bomb explosions rock Kano: Zonal Police headquarters, several police stations, Immigration office hit
On 20 January, multiple explosions and gunfire rocked Kano, capital of Kano State and the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, destroying several government buildings and turning the city into chaos.
Among the buildings hit were the Zone 1 police headquarters at Kofar Dan Agundi, along BUK road, Sharada; several other police stations and the Immigration office at Farm Centre. There were fears of substantial casualties, but no figures immediately available.
Local sources report huge smoke rising from the zonal police headquarters, after the building had been severely damaged by the blast. The building includes the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of the zone, which comprises the police commands in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States.
One account said the bomber of the police headquarters came close to the building on a motor cycle, got down and then made a dash inside, clutching a bag. The account said police tried to stop him but he forced his way through, and then the blast went off.
Soon after that first blast, several other explosions went off in different parts of the city. Some residents report that another explosion hit the police station on Zaria Road while a third hit the Immigration office. Others suggest that up to eight police stations may have been hit. Some residents said the attackers had freed detainees from about six police stations.
One report said another bomber also tried to attack the office of the State Security Service (SSS) but was shot down before he could detonate his bomb. A second attacker is said to have been arrested, but this is yet to be confirmed by security authorities.
There are yet no official or comprehensive reports of casualties, but some sources say they could be “substantial”. Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Kano, said they were having a hard time trying to reach the scenes of the major explosions, as police and army teams had cordoned off most of them and also set up many roadblocks across the city.
The Al Jazeera correspondent quotes one witness as having seen at least seven dead bodies, including five immigration officers and two civilians.
Police have declared a 24-hour curfew in Kano metropolis, but there were sounds of gunfire, apparently from gun battles between the attackers and security operatives, beyond sunset.
The Islamist militant group, widely known as Boko Haram, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks.
The group says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northernmost third of Nigeria’s 36 states. It had claimed responsibility, or had been blamed by security authorities, for several bomb and gun attacks, especially in the north-eastern Borno State, since late 2010.
On 16 June 2011, it claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack inside the premises of the Nigeria Police headquarters in the federal capital, Abuja. On 26 August, it also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations office complex in Abuja, in which 25 people were killed.
Most recently, it said it was responsible for the Christmas Day bomb attack on a church in Madalla near Abuja, in which over 40 worshippers were killed. In the first week of January, it gave all Christians and southerners a two-day ultimatum to leave the northern parts of the country, but government and security authorities urges citizens to ignore that ultimatum.
On 25 December – Christmas day – an ambulance conveying some victims of the bomb blast which occurred near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla earlier in the day, to a hospital in Abuja, was involved in a road accident.
A statement by the Head of Media and Publicity at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yusha’u Shuaib, said three officers of the agency were transferring 27 persons wounded in the Madalla blast, from the National Hospital to the State House Clinic, both in Abuja, when the ambulance crashed.
The ambulance somersaulted after the crash, but information on the circumstances of the accident remains sketchy.
On 25 December – Christmas Day – bomb explosions in three cities – Madalla (Niger State); Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), left dozens dead or wounded. Some estimates said the blasts killed over 35 people.
In Madalla, a market town near Suleja in Niger State, a powerful explosion near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church killed about 30 people and wounded more than 50. The blast destroyed or seriously damaged several cars, with some of the occupants burnt inside.
Security sources said the explosion occurred after members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, threw improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from a moving vehicle. Some sources report that the attackers threw the explosive after failing to gain access to the church during the Christmas morning service.
A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the casualties at 16, but local residents and other rescue workers said the toll was significantly higher. The French news agency, AFP, quoted a local priest, Father Christopher Barde, as saying rescue officials told him they had counted 27 bodies.
Some of the wounded were rushed to hospitals in the Federal capital, Abuja, for treatment, but died before getting there. Madalla is about 30 km from Abuja.
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, two blasts targeted the Mountain of Fire and Miracles church, as some young men reportedly threw bombs at the building. No one was killed by the blast, but a police officer was mortally wounded, after security operatives engaged the attackers in a gun battle. The officer was rushed to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for medical attention, but died of his wounds.
After the firefight, the attackers fled into a crowd, but the Police arrested four suspected persons. Military and other security personnel also recovered and disabled some explosive devices at a nearby building.
The blasts mark the second Christmas that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in Jos. Five churches were attacked in the city, on and around Christmas Day 2010, with dozens killed. Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In Damaturu, capital of Yobe state, a State Security Service (SSS) building was attacked by a bomber. Sources said a suicide bomber seeking to run his car into a military convoy in front of the agency’s office, killed himself and three security agents. Only hours earlier, on Christmas Eve, an explosion had targeted a church in Gadaka, a town near Damaturu. Local sources said many people may have been wounded, but there were no figures of any casualties.
SECURITY AUTHORITIES BLAME BOKO HARAM, SECT CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
The National Security Adviser to the President, Gen Owoye Azazi (rtd), in a statement, blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The statement said: “The latest mindless and cowardly attacks by Boko Haram members, specifically directed at churches, were pre-meditated”.
AFP later reported that a Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, had called on phone, claiming responsibility for the blasts. The news agency quoted the spokesman as saying: “We are responsible for all the attacks in the past few days, including today’s bombing of the church in Madalla. We will continue to launch such attacks throughout the north in the next few days”.
Eyewitnesses said the mishap occurred at about 8pm, and that the boat was carrying between 40 and 47 passengers, mostly traders and market women, between Eagle Island and Mgbuodohia. Local divers led the rescue operation, but their efforts were hampered by the darkness.
By the next morning, Chima Amadi, a community leader in Mgbuodioha, said only 5 of the passengers on board had been rescued. The five included a child and a pregnant woman who reportedly gave birth hours after she was rescued. Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), later reported that 20 bodies had been recovered, but their identities were still not known.
On the possible cause of the mishap, Shuaib said the boat was overloaded with passengers, with some standing. It also had bags of foodstuff and other goods, as well as live goats on board.
However, some community members have blamed the tragedy on the poor state of roads which had forced people to use the Mgbuodohia water route in getting from one part of the sprawling city to another. Amadi told the French news agency, AFP, that the boat was the only reliable means of transport to central Port Harcourt, because of the bad condition of roads.
Only two days earlier, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi had said he was acutely aware of citizens’ complaints over the state of roads in the metropolis, many of which are currently being reconstructed or repaired by the state government.
Speaking at a Thanksgiving Service organised for him and for Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili by the Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt on 11 December, Amaechi said: “I hear your complaints, and I know you are angry about roads. For the Ada George Road, it will be completed. The contractor is slow, he gave us March, let us be patient. The only thing I will assure you of is that (the next) rainy season will not meet us on that road again. Another road you people complain of, is the Rumuepirikom road. It is being worked on”.
However, while the state government is visibly working on improving the roads, Mr Francis Bruno, chairman of the Rivers State branch of the Maritime Workers Union, said the government should also pay necessary attention to marine transportation, in order to avoid further mishaps. For now, many observers say marine transportation across the Niger Delta is very poorly governed by local authorities.
On 7 December, an explosion in a motor parts market left several people dead in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State.
The explosion occurred a little after 9am, along Danmusa Road by Ori Akpata, an area housing mostly non-indigenes, many of them vehicle spare parts dealers. Local sources said the blast went off near cylinders of highly inflammable natural gas.
The spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yushau Shuaib, said at least seven people, including a three-year-old child, were killed. But other sources have reported casualty figures between 10 and 15. The severed head of one of the victims was flung about 100 metres away from the point of the blast. Several other persons were severely wounded. About 10 shops and property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
The blast caused panic in many other parts of the metropolis. Personnel of the Kaduna State Emergency Agency, soldiers, police, the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps all rushed to the area, battling to evacuate victims and put out the fire.
The cause of the explosion has not yet been established – indeed it is not yet clear whether it was one explosion or several. The Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State, Mr Bala Nasarawa, said investigations are underway, but that he suspects it could be an accident caused by items within a shop.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Aminu Lawan, also said the police initially thought it was a bomb explosion, but that “our preliminary assessment has shown that it was an accidental explosion from a repair shop dealing in car batteries and gas cylinders”.
However, shop owners in the area insist that none of the wares in their shops could have caused such explosion. Some of them believe the blasts were detonated by suspected members of the militant Islamist sect, widely known as Boko Haram. One of them claims two bombers came riding on a motor-cycle, that one was consumed by the blast while the other was severely injured; but this is yet to be officially confirmed.
In recent months, there have been series of bomb and gun attacks in several northern cities, mostly in the north-east zone. Some of the incidents had been blamed on Boko Haram, while the sect had in fact claimed responsibility for others.
On 16 November, two fuel tankers exploded in the federal capital of Abuja, sending massive black smoke over parts of the city, as frightened workers and residents scampered to safety.
Residents report that around 3.30pm, the two tankers laden with fuel, caught fire at different filling stations, in different parts of the capital city.
One happened at the ASCON fuel station on Adetokunbo Ademola Street in the upscale Wuse 2 District, opposite a popular fast food shop known as Chicken House. The other occured behind the old Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) building, at Area 11 in Garki District.
The cause of the explosions has not yet been established conclusively. One resident said they appeared to have been caused by “accidents with the tankers off-loading fuel”; but this was yet to be confirmed by security authorities.
There was yet no comprehensive report of injuries and no indication of casualties, but witnesses said at least one man suffered serious burns. A police spokesman said the blasts were being investigated.
The explosions caused serious traffic problems in Wuse and other areas of the city.
BY NNAMDI OBASI
The flood disaster in Ibadan, Nigeria, which has now claimed over 100 lives, has been described as “one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s recent history”. Unfortunately, it occurred while Nigerians were still in shock, following the bombing of the United Nations House in Abuja – and it didn’t come with a bang. It has therefore been under-reported in the media.
With the flood waters gradually receding, the worst days of the nightmare may have passed; yet major challenges remain. This document presents some basic facts about the disaster, the response so far and the pressing needs.
What happened and where?
Between Friday 27 and Sunday 29 August, massive rainfall produced flash floods in and around the city of Ibadan, in southwest Nigeria.
The city, located about 150km (90 miles) north of Nigeria’s former capital, Lagos, is a mighty metropolis with an estimated population of seven million. One of Nigeria’s largest cities, it is also overcrowded, with its predominantly low-income residents living mostly in haphazardly constructed slums.
After a massive tropical rain had pounded the city for several hours, the Odo Ona River overflowed its banks and the Eleyele dam apparently collapsed. Water from the swollen river and dam swept settlements, leaving many dead or displaced from their homes, and a lot of property destroyed. The areas most affected are Elebu, Oluyole, Apete, Apata, Odo-ona, Odo-ona Elewe, Ologun-eru, Challenge-Orita and Yemetu Alawada.
How many people were killed?
On 31 August, the Nigerian Red Cross reported at least 102 people dead since the rains and floods started. Many of the victims were washed away by the floods; others trapped in collapsed buildings. Most were children; in one case, seven of them from the same family all died!
However, officials cautioned that the reported 102 may not be the final figure. They said a final figure will require more time, as the rains were continuing in some areas, water levels remained high in some neighbourhoods and some victims may still be trapped in collapsed buildings whose rubble were yet to be cleared. They said more victims may also be found in remote areas that rescue teams had not yet reached.
How many people were displaced?
The earliest media reports had estimated about 1,500 residents displaced, but this was soon found to be a gross under-estimate and the figure has been revised as the full scale of the tragedy became evident. On 28 August, an official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said an accurate head count of the displaced many not be possible but that it was “definitely in the thousands”. More recent estimates report about 15,000 people may have been displaced.
How much of infrastructure and property was destroyed?
The floods swept off fixed structures including three bridges, houses and electric poles, as well as mobile assets like cars and motorcycles. Many vehicles were submerged. Many residents, who were away from their homes when the flooding started, returned later to find such homes turned into lagoons. At the University of Ibadan, the nation’s premier university, some lecture halls were overtaken by water. One source reports over 200 houses.
Why was the damage so severe or extensive?
The rains have been unusually heavy this year. Although flooding is common in Nigeria during the rainy season, meteorologists say this year’s rains have been well above the average.
The settlements surrounding the city were developed largely informally. The Nigerian poet J. P Clarke once described the city and its settlements as a “running splash of rust and gold, flung and scattered among seven hills, like broken china in the sun”. Like in most other cities across the country, Ibadan had grown, over the years, with scant regard for town planning regulations. Zoning laws were rarely heeded or enforced, and there had been inadequate considerations for drainage, flood management and public safety.
Many homes, built by low-income residents, were poorly constructed: they were so feeble that they were easily washed away when the water rushed through.
The flooding was exacerbated by rubbish and debris clogging drains, in a city where drainage systems are often poorly maintained.
How else has the disaster affected lives in the city?
The collapse of bridges has created difficulties for human and vehicular movements in some parts of the city. In such areas, people now have to walk long distances while trying to get from their homes to other places. As some roads are presently out of use, there are serious traffic gridlocks on some of the usable roads, with workers facing greater challenges in getting to work and back. Fallen electricity poles, submerged transformers and flooded offices have prevented the restoration of electricity to many neighbourhoods.
Was there any early warning ahead of the disaster?
It was generally known that flooding could occur in any part of the country, as it sometimes does during the rainy season typically running from May to September. Last year, an estimated 500,000 people were displaced by several flooding incidents in various parts of the country.
For this year in particular, NEMA had warned that rains will be heavier than last year. The agency had alerted state and local governments that floods were particularly likely in areas with inadequate drainage and improperly disposed trash. But many governments did little or nothing in response to those warnings.
What has been the response?
Various governments and agencies have responded to the disaster, with the Oyo State government and NEMA – a federal government agency – on the frontline.
The Oyo State governor, Chief Abiola Ajimobi (1) procured the services of a helicopter for rapid assessment of the affected areas, rescue of trapped victims and distribution of relief materials; (2) ordered immediate establishment of two camps at the Apete and Odo Ona areas of the city to shelter displaced persons; (3) ordered immediate procurement of blankets, mattresses, drugs and food for affected persons; (4) enlisted the support of the GOC, 2nd Mechanised Division, in providing bailey bridges across the two rivers whose bridges were swept off.
Alarmed by reports of the flooding, in addition to the Abuja bomb blast, NEMA’s Director General, Mohammed Sidi (1) cut short his annual leave in Saudi Arabia and flew home to coordinate the response to both incidents; and (2) ordered all staff of the agency’s Ibadan zone office that had been on annual leave back to work immediately, and (3) drafted Search and Rescue officers in Lagos to Ibadan, to complement the efforts of the zonal office.
Furthermore, NEMA, in collaboration with the Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Red Cross and other voluntary organizations conducted assessments of the flooded ares and the number of dead, displaced and at risk persons.
The agency, along with its state counterpart (the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA) and the Red Cross, has also been involved in providing relief materials to about 1,500 displaced persons being sheltered in centres established by the state government. Relief materials being provided include emergency food rations, mattresses, blankets and rubber mats.
What needs to be done now?
The materials which the Oyo State government and NEMA are providing, in efforts to stabilize the conditions of injured and displaced persons, are not enough. Th quantities of these materials being provided need to be sharply increased to meet the crying needs.
Beyond the most pressing needs, there are also longer term requirements for the resources which impacted communities need to ward off health risks and which displaced persons need to rebuild homes and livelihoods.
The Deputy Governor, Chief Moses Adeyemo, has said the state needs federal government help to resettle displaced persons, and to rebuild the bridges and water channels that were destroyed by the flooding.
NEMA is urging the Oyo State government, as well as the local governments, to strengthen and enforce regulations on waste disposal, particularly stopping the indiscriminate dumping of refuse, in order to forestall a recurrence of the flood.
Is there any risk of further flooding?
NEMA warns there could still be more flooding in Ibadan and other urban areas before the end of the rainy season, particularly if drains remain blocked by un-cleared waste.
On 29 July, a helicopter crashed killing three people, near Ife-Odan in Osun State. The three casualties were the male pilot and two women.
The aircraft, rented from OAS Helicopter Services Nigeria, a leading private charter services provider, was flying from Lagos to Ilorin, Kwara State. Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said it crashed in a very hilly area, “on a hilltop more than 1,000 feet above sea level”. The cause of the crash is not yet known, but NEMA officials say they suspect poor visibility could have been a factor.
It took till early the next morning before rescue workers were able to reach the wreakage. The workers said their efforts were impeded by the difficulty of the terrain, as the crash site was inaccessible to emergency response vans or even motorcycles.
Shuaib said the search was further slowed by the fact that a device, the emergency locator beacon, which could have sent a distress signal to NEMA’s Mission Control Centre (MCC) had not been activated when the helicopter crashed. This is the second incident in which the device was not activated – in the first incident on 24 May, a Beechcraft crashed in Kaduna killing its two crew members.
Shuaib said NEMA’s Director General, Mr Mohammed Sani-Sidi, will be convening a meeting of all airline and aircraft operators to discuss the use of the device, next week.
[Please see also our follow-up report titled: Top businesswoman Josephine Kuteyi dies in helicopter crash, also on this website].
On 18 July, at least 14 people died instantly, in two multiple road accidents along the Nyanya-Karu road, in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Some unconfirmed reports say the casualties may have subsequently risen to over 30.
Local sources said in the first accident, which occurred around 2.15pm at Furniture Market, Kugbo, a trailer ran into a Toyota Corolla car, crushing its two occupants to death instantly.
Shortly after that, another trailer lost control around Mechanics Village, also in Kugbo, and ran into eight other vehicles, comprising three private cars, four commercial buses, and one taxi cab. Twelve people died on the spot. Ten others, suffering various degrees of injury, were rushed to hospitals in the Asokoro and Maitama districts.
Apart from those who died instantly, several others wounded are reported to have died as they were being rushed to hospitals or shortly after getting there. One source reports that the casualties may have exceeded 30, but this has not been confirmed.
Rescue workers from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the police rushed to the scene to help survivors and recover bodies from the wreckage of the many vehicles that were involved in the accident.
As the second accident drew large crowds of rescue workers and other onlookers, it caused a massive pile-up of traffic for several kilometres in both directions of the highway.
[THIS REPORT WILL BE UPDATED AS MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE LATER TODAY].