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Tanker explosion in Lagos, 3 killed, 39 vehicles burnt

On 18 February, three people were killed and 39 vehicles burnt, as a fuel tanker exploded at about 1 am, causing a massive blaze at the Mile Two area of Lagos.

The tanker, with registration number XB 370 ATN and fully loaded with 33,000 litres of fuel, was said to have lost one of its tyres. Its driver thereafter lost control and the tanker fell on its side and exploded. A mighty fire spread fast through the entire area.

Three people who were fast asleep in nearby structures were trapped in the inferno and burnt to death. One of them was a local official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who was sleeping inside the union’s office; the other two were a driver and an attendant in the park. The charred remains of all three were taken to a mortuary in an ambulance at about 3 am.

The fire also razed many vehicles, mostly commercial cars and buses parked by their operators at the close of work the previous day. These included eight Toyota Hiace mini buses (each estimated at N6 million), two Space wagons, eight LT buses, a towing vehicle and 16 salon cars. It took several hours before a team of the Lagos State Fire Service, with nine fire-fighting trucks, eventually subdued the inferno.

The General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, confirmed that three people died. The Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Jaiyeoba Joseph, a Superintendent of Police, said 39 vehicles were burnt.


Ajayi Crowther University shut, following violent students’ protest

On 6 February, the authorities of Ajayi Crowther University, a private institution owned by the Anglican Communion in Oyo town, Oyo State, ordered the immediate closure of the school after its students had gone on rampage. The students were protesting the death of a colleague who passed away at the institution’s health centre.

According to local sources, Elvis Abu Paul, aged 22, a 300-level Computer Science student, was rushed to the health centre on Sunday 5 February, after he had suddenly taken ill. The doctors on duty immediately placed him on oxygen. The accounts said Elvis allegedly died after men of the Works Department mistakenly switched off the generating set which was powering the oxygen machine at the health centre.

Another source further claimed that attempts to rush Elvis to the general hospital in town were frustrated by security men at the main gate, on the contention that the university’s ambulance that was taking him out had no exit pass.

The university management was yet to issue an official report on the circumstances in which the student died.

However, alleging that Elvis’ death was caused by the “carelessness and negligence” of the institution’s management, hundreds of students trooped out on a street protest. Chanting war songs, they barricaded the entrance to the institution and set up bonfires on the Oyo-Ogbomoso highway.

The students then destroyed the university’s health centre, pulled down part of the perimeter fence by the main gate and burnt down the Accounting and Economics Department, including research materials, books and vehicles belonging to some lecturers.

Alarmed at the destruction, the university management hurriedly ordered an immediate and indefinite closure. The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mrs Wale Ademowo, said students had been directed to leave the campus for their homes. Armed policemen from the Oyo Division were drafted to Oyo town to prevent further breakdown of law and order, while students evacuated the campus.

Sources said this breach of peace and order on the campus is unprecedented in the seven years since the university was established.

Police kill two robbers amidst fire-fight in Rivers State

On 11 August, two members of an armed gang who were robbing vehicles and passengers on the road between Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and Owerri, Imo State, were fatally shot in a gun battle with a police rapid response team. The two robbers were confirmed dead as they arrived at a hospital to which they were taken by the police.

According to local sources, the criminals had blocked the Omagwa-Ozuoha road in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, and were robbing villagers and traders travelling to Imo State in the early hours of the night.

The Police Public Relations Officer in Rivers State, Mr. Ben Ugwuegbulam, told newsmen that: “The police got information from some vigilance groups that a gang of robbers had blocked the road and was robbing passengers”. He said as soon as the robbers saw the police patrol vehicle approaching, they fired at it, and a gun battle instantly ensued.

Ugwuegbulam said two of the robbers suffered fatal injuries and were rushed to hospital where they were confirmed dead. He further stated that police recovered the rifles that were used by the two robbers.

Ugwuegbulam said the manhunt for the other members of the gang, who fled the gun duel, was in progress.

Spring Bank manager Emeka Ohazuruike stabbed to death in Lagos

On 6 August, Mr Emeka Ohazuruike, manager of a Lagos branch of Springbank Plc, was stabbed to death in Lagos. Springbank is one of the three – along with Afribank and Bank PHB – that were taken over by the Central Bank of Nigeria the previous day.

Details of the circumstances in which he was killed are still being pieced together.

Some initial accounts had said Ohazuruike, manager of the Ebutte-Metta branch of Springbank, had gone to the home of a man (names withheld), resident in the Agboju area of Lagos and indebted to the bank, to prevail on him to pay up his well overdue debt, also in view of the sudden nationalisation of the bank by the apex bank. The accounts had said it was while there that a dispute arose and the debtor’s  in-law, identified as Kenneth Oji, stabbed the banker to death.

However, a later and more definite account says the banker and the debtor were family friends and also neighbours at Finiger Estate, Satellite Town, and that the banker was stabbed to death inside his own house.

According to this account, the debtor had come with his brother-in -law, Kenneth, to Ohazuruike’s apartment and had breakfast with him. It is further said the banker, not suspecting that anything was amiss, left the visitors in his siting room and went inside to take his bath. The account says it was while he was in the bathroom, that Kenneth went in and attacked him with knives.

Thereafter, Kenneth escaped through the kitchen door, scaled a high fence and fled. However, neighbours alerted the police, who immediately swung into action; they tracked the fleeing Kenneth down at a motor park at Mazamaza, where he and the debtor were about to board a bus to Anambra State.

Meanwhile, the fatally wounded man had died before he could get to a hospital.

Some sources said the debt at the centre of the incident was over N11 million (about 73,400 USD), and that the debtor had previously issued three dud cheques to Springbank, but this could not be confirmed from the bank.

The Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Samuel Jinadu, confirmed the incident to newsmen. He said the police had taken both Kenneth and the alleged debtor into custody.


Bank robbery in Uromi, Edo State: Two killed, 7 wounded

On 2 August, two persons were killed and at least seven others wounded, when armed robbers raided a bank in Uromi, Esan Northeast Local Government Area of Edo State.

Local sources report that the robbers stormed the bank in a mini-bus at around 8.30 am, and forced their way inside amidst gun fire. The sources lamented that the robbers were not challenged by the police during their operation which stretched for over one hour.  They said the robbers carted away a huge sum of money, but there had been no estimate of the amount.

The Police had not issued any statement, but the Public Relations Officer of the Edo State Police Command, Mr. Peter Ogboi, confirmed the incident to newsmen; but he said he was yet to be properly briefed by the Divisional Police Officer in Uromi.

The incident has renewed concerns over the security of banks in the town. It will be recalled that banks in Uromi and its environs had previously been closed for more than two months, on account of serial violent robberies.

Two polytechnic students killed amid protests in Nekede, Imo State

Students' demonstration Nekede, Imo State

On 27 July, two students were reported killed and property worth millions of naira destroyed, during a demonstration by students of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, near Owerri, in Imo State. To prevent further violence, school authorities shut down the institution indefinitely.

The cause of the violence is not clear. The students said they were protesting an alleged increase of their Tuition Fees from N35,000 to N45,000, and also of their Acceptance Fee from N10,000 to N15,000. Thousands of them trooped out to the streets of the nearby state capital, Owerri, marching to the Governor’s Office and the State House of Assembly, to register their protest.

While that march was underway, a mob apparently including members of some student cult groups and armed with AK-47 rifles, shot guns and other dangerous weapons, stormed the school premises. The armed invaders chased workers out of the premises and attacked school property. Among other targets, they destroyed the office of the Rector and some lecturers’ offices, set ablaze the Students Union Government (SUG) secretariat and damaged over 20 vehicles belonging to the school and individuals. Amidst the destruction, two students were shot dead by unidentified persons.

Reacting to the incident, the school’s Public Relations Officer, Nze Obinna Okafor, denied any increase in fees. He said the school’s management had actually reduced fees to N25,000 per semester and was not contemplating any increase. He said the riot must have arisen from the Student’s Union Government election which was scheduled to hold in a few days’ time, speculating that students who were disqualified from contesting the election may have masterminded the crisis to disrupt the polls.

To prevent further violence and allow room for investigations, the institution’s management ordered all students to vacate the school and proceed on break, with immediate effect.

Mobile (anti-riot) policemen, undercover security personnel and soldiers from the 34 Artillery Brigade at Obinze, were subsequently drafted to the campus to keep the peace.

Robbers kill 2 policemen, snatch bullion van in Nsukka, Enugu State, later caught by police

On 22 July, an armed gang numbering between 10 and 15 men, killed two policemen who were escorting a bullion van conveying a large sum of money, and hijacked the van in Nsukka, Enugu State. However, the police intercepted and apprehended them, about four hours later, as they attempted to escape into Ebonyi State.

Narating the incident, local sources said the robbers had apparently trailed the cash-laden van and the police escort vehicle from the Opi-Nsukka road up to the Fen Park junction. They then suddenly blocked both vehicles with their Mercedes Benz car and a Toyota Sienna Space Wagon, and opened intense fire at the policemen around 10.20am.

The reports said after they had killed the policemen, the robbers ordered the bullion van driver to move ahead of their van towards Queen’s College, Nsukka, while they fired indiscriminately in different directions. The reports said when they got close to the College, the robbers stopped and brought out a gas cylinder.  One account said they also brought out a welding machine with which they then ripped open the roof of the bullion van.

Another said they used the gas in igniting a fire, which then activated an explosive with the blast of dynamite. This account said after blowing the bullion van open, they then carted the bags of money it was conveying over to their own van and sped off.

The reports said one of the slain policemen was an Inspector who hailed from Enugu-Ezike in Enugu State, while the other was a Constable. Another policeman and three other persons were injured by stray bullets.

News of the incident brought commercial activities in Nsukka to a standstill for about one hour, and most banks and major shops in the town remained shut for most of the day. One report said police stations in the town were also on high alert against possible attacks, with barricades on their access roads.

However, the police later caught up with the fleeing robbers. The Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Enugu State Police Command, Mr Ebere Amarizu, told newsmen that once alerted of the incident, the Command immediately dispatched several patrol teams to the Nsukka area, in pursuit of the fleeing robbers. He said the pursuit yielded result at about 3.50 pm, when the patrol teams, aided by soldiers, intercepted the hoodlums along Ehamufu-Nkalagu road, as they attempted to escape into Ebonyi State. By this time, they had snatched and changed the vehicles in which they were fleeing at least three times, in the effort to shake the police off their trail.

The police spokesman said: “A general purpose machine gun (GPMG) and the stolen money were recovered, but the actual amount has not been ascertained for now”.

Clashes in Jos, Plateau State: At least 5 killed, many wounded

Map of Nigeria highlighting Jos city

On 19 July, clashes between opposing youth groups left at least five people dead and 12 seriously wounded in Jos, capital of Plateau State.

According to local sources, trouble began on Monday, after a carpenter named Dahiru Musa was invited to do a repair job for a resident of Angwan Rukuba district. He was later found dead, killed by unknown persons.

The killing of Dahiru, a Muslim, in the Christian-dominated Angwan Rukuba, led Muslims in the nearby Nassarawa Gwon and Bauchi road areas, to believe that he must have been lured to his death by a gang of Christian youths. Muslim youth mobilized for reprisals. The next morning, they took to the streets, marching towards Angwan Rukuba and attacking anyone they thought to be in the opposite camp, including passers-by who knew nothing of Dahiru’s death.

Captain Charles Ekeocha, Public Relations Officer of the military special task force in charge of security in the area, reports that five people were killed and 12 others seriously wounded in the clashes.

The city of Jos is located in the convergence belt between various ethnic and religious communities in Nigeria. Usually one of Nigeria’s most pleasant cities and officially tagged “Home of Peace and Tourism”, the metropolis and its environs have witnessed recurrent episodes of ethno-sectarian violence in recent years, with several hundreds killed since late 2009.

Sustained efforts, especially by security agencies, had calmed the violence in recent months, creating opportunities for long-term conflict resolution by governments and civil society groups. However, this most recent flash of violence underscores the unresolved tensions in the area and the challenge of building peace on an enduring basis.

Armed robbers raid bank, shoot policeman and 3 others in Misau, Bauchi State

On 10 June, armed robbers attacked the First Bank of Nigeria Plc’s branch in Misau, headquarters of Misau Local Government Area of Bauchi State, wounding a policeman and three civilians.

The Public Relations Officer of the Bauchi State Police Command, ASP Mohammed Barau, confirmed the incident to newsmen, but said he was still awaiting details from the Divisional Police Officer in Misau. Misau is approximately 150km from Bauchi city, the state capital.

Local sources report that the robbers shot indiscriminately at the security personnel that were guarding both the First Bank, which seemed to be their main target, and the neighbouring Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. They said it was in the course of the shooting that a policeman and three civilians were wounded. The four were later rushed to the General Hospital in Misau, where doctors extracted bullets from their bodies.

There are no indications of how much money the robbers took away from the bank. However, the reports also said that once alerted, a unit of the anti-riot (Mobile) police deployed to the area since the general elections in April, went after the robbers but the criminals escaped.

The bank manager’s car, which the robbers had snatched during their operation, was later found in Beti, a border town in the convergence zone between Bauchi, Jigawa and Kano States.

Explosion, blaze destroy major vaccine store in Maiduguri, Borno State

Map of Nigeria highlighting Borno State

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.

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