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 2 June, two men were arrested in the process of collecting the ransom they had demanded, as condition for releasing the four-year-old daughter of a hotelier, whom they had kidnapped, in Ughelli, Delta State.
The two men were severely battered by an angry crowd which mobbed the police investigation team that had brought them for fact finding, at the hotel where the girl was kidnapped.
Local sources said the little girl was quietly taken away from the premises of the hotel last Wednesday by two men, one of whom was a staff of the hotel. When her parents raised an alarm at not knowing her whereabouts, neighbours said they saw the worker taking her away.
In the evening of the same day, the kidnappers who had taken the girl to their forest hideout a few kilometres from Ughelli township, contacted the girl’s parents, demanding a ransom of N4 million. The parents alerted the police who advised them to play along with the kidnappers. Once the negotiation had settled at the amount to be paid, the kidnappers then told the girl’s parents where to drop the money. The parents did as they were told.
However, when the kidnappers stepped out to pick what was supposed to be their winnings, they were shocked as policemen encircled them with blazing guns and handcuffs.
The hotel staff who identified himself as Jimmy Benson, said it was his colleague who conceived the crime and persuaded him to assist in bringing out the girl from the hotel, on the assurance that he would be paid N1 million at the end of the operation. The colleague who allegedly masterminded the kidnap, turned out to be a pastor in his 40s. He said it was the devil that led him into the crime.