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 25 December – Christmas morning – an explosion near a church killed at least 20 people, in Madalla, near Suleja, in Niger State. Madalla, largely a market town in Niger State, is about 30 km from the Federal capital city, Abuja.
The blast went off near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church. The Public Relations Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Yushau Shuaib, said the incident was a “suspected bomb blast” and that 10 persons had been confirmed dead. Local sources and other rescue workers initially reported 15 corpses being evacuated in three vehicles (ambulances), but feared the toll would be significantly higher. The French news agency, AFP, quotes a local priest, Father Christopher Barde, saying rescue officials told him they had counted 27 killed.
While the rescue effort was underway, angry youths from the town set up bonfires and threatened to attack the local police station. One of the youths claimed the police had failed to provide adequate security. With the area degenerating into chaos, the vastly outnumbered policemen had to shot into the air to disperse the angry youths. They also barricaded the highway which runs through the town.
AFP later reported that Abul Qaqa, a spokesman for the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, had called on phone, claiming responsibility for the blast. AFP quotes 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”.
Over the last few days, the army and other security forces had been battling members of the sect in Damaturu, Yobe State. The chief of army staff, Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, told newsmen that soldiers killed 59 members of the sect and destroyed one of their major arms depots in Damaturu between Thursday and Friday.
This is the fourth bomb incident in the area since this year, following three previous incidents in nearby Suleja – about 10 km away – and the second specifically targeting a church.
On 3 March, an explosion went off at a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally, just after Niger State governor Babangida Aliyu had addressed supporters; at least 12 people were killed and about 20 injured. On 8 April, another bomb exploded at the local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Suleja, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens of others, mostly young graduates who had been recruited as ad-hoc staff for the general elections. On 10 July, a third bomb explosion near two churches – the All Christian Fellowship Mission and the Faith Mission Church – killing three persons and wounding seven others.
On 25 July, the police reported it had arrested a seven-man group found with explosive materials believed to be used in making bombs locally, in Suleja, Niger State. (Suleja is only about 40 km out of the federal capital city, Abuja).
According to the Public Relations Officer of the Niger State Police Command, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Richard Oguche, law officers closed in on the men following a tip-off last week, and discovered the explosive materials while searching their house.
Oguche said: “The police raided the house of the leader of the group, who it refers to as Alhaji Bature, and sophisticated explosive devices used in making bombs were found in his house”.
He explained that the bomb-making materials in Bature’s house were similar to those that had been found during investigation and analysis of materials from the scenes of previous bomb blasts in Suleja, since March.
He said other checks by the police further revealed that the materials recovered from the suspects were the type that only licensed users of explosives are authorized to use. He said that while the suspects claimed they used the explosives for mining purposes, they were not licensed users.
The PPRO said the police had already established a link between the suspects and a company in Kaduna, but that investigations were still continuing.
On 12 July, a Muslim rights group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), condemned the 10 July bombing of All Christian Fellowship Church, Suleja, Niger State, and urged security agencies to arrest the attackers.
In a statement by its Director, Dr Ishaq Akintola, MURIC said it “totally and unreservedly” condemned the attack on the church and “all violent attacks”.
MURIC observed that: “There is nowhere in the scripture of Islam where Muslims are enjoined to violently attack Christians. The Qur’an forbids the use of force except when Muslims are attacked (2:190). There is no evidence that the Christians inside the Suleja church had attacked Muslims”.
Denouncing “the recklessness and audacity of those behind the bombing of churches”, the group said they “cannot be genuine Muslims”, but “anarchists who are out to throw Nigeria into an orgy of religious killings”.
It therefore charged the security agencies to “unveil the identities of these blood-thirsty extremists” and also take steps to “secure churches from future attacks”.
Stressing that “Christians and Muslims are from one Father of Faith (Abraham)” and that “religion is designed to link people in love”, MURIC called on all Nigerians to be “law-abiding, peace-loving and forgiving”.
This is the second condemnation of the on-going violence to come from a significant Muslim organisation in the last two weeks. It will be recalled that on 2 July, the widely-known organization, Nasirullahi Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), had also described the series of bombings as “reprehensible and against Islamic injunctions”, calling on government to act decisively against those responsible for the violence.
MURIC was formed in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1993, in response to the denial of certain rights to Muslims in some parts of Nigeria and elsewhere around the world. The group describes itself as “an Allah-given rights organization”, which projects, promotes and protects the rights of Muslims. Its foremost objective is: “To defend the legitimate and fundamental rights of Muslims in Nigeria and beyond”. The group says it is committed to employing “peaceful means to resolve conflicts affecting Muslims and redress wrongs committed against them, either by authorities or groups of people”. It is based in Iba, Lagos State.
[THE COMPLETE VERSION OF THE MURIC STATEMENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE ON THIS WEBSITE].
A bomb exploded at the All Christian Fellowship Church on Church Road, Suleja in Niger State on Sunday, 10th July, 2011. Two people died in the attack while several others suffered different degrees of injuries. This explosion inside a church is not the first of its kind as it has been preceded by several others in the northern part of Nigeria.
We, of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), totally and unreservedly condemn this and all violent attacks. We assert that violence is antithetical to the true teachings of Islam. The Glorious Qur’an advocates dialogue between Muslims and Christians on issues of common interest (Qur’an 3:64). There is nowhere in the scripture of Islam where Muslims are enjoined to violently attack Christians. The Qur’an forbids the use of force except when Muslims are attacked (2:190). There is no evidence that the Christians inside the Suleja church had attacked Muslims.
It is also instructive that Muslims are not allowed to use any other method of attack except the type used by the enemy (famani’tada alaykum, fa’tadu alayhi bimithli ma’tada alaykum Qur’an 2:194). Have Christians bombed any mosque in Nigeria? Why then are their churches being bombed?
Even when there is real attack on Muslims, the Qur’an draws a limit to the extent that Muslims can go. It says Muslims must stop all attacks once the attackers have also stopped (2:193) and urges forgiveness once the attackers have stopped (2:192). Why then are these faceless attackers throwing bombs instead of forgiving their perceived enemies?
MURIC is irked by the recklessness and audacity of those behind the bombing of churches. We roundly denounce them and we authoritatively, clearly and unequivocally dissociate ourselves from such perpetrators. These people cannot be genuine Muslims. They are anarchists out to throw Nigeria into an orgy of religious killings. Their target is war between Christians and Muslims.
We charge the security agencies to unveil the identities of these blood-thirsty extremists. Steps must also be taken to secure churches from future attacks. We appeal to all Nigerians to be law-abiding, peace-loving and forgiving. Christians and Muslims are from one Father of Faith (Abraham). Religion is designed to link people in love. There is no religion that teaches violence.
Is-haq Akintola (Ph. D)
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
Yahoo Group: groups.yahoo.com/group/muslimrights
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), quoting the spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Malam Yushau Shuaib, said the explosion occurred at a place close to a recreational spot at about 9.32 p.m.
Local sources however report that the bomb exploded near the fence of an ECWA Church. The sources said shortly before the blast, a woman had sighted an unknown man by the fence, and that residents of the area attempted to interrogate him, but he ran away. A short while later, the bomb exploded. However, nobody was killed by the explosion.
This was the second bomb explosion in the area in two days. Madalla is only few kilometres from Suleja where unknown persons had bombed a church the previous day, killing three people and injuring seven. Investigations are still going on, but security sources believe the bomb attacks are being organised by members of the militant Islamist sect, popularly known as Boko Haram.
On 10 July, a bomb explosion near a church killed three persons and left seven injured in Suleja, Niger State, about 40 km from the federal capital, Abuja.
According to some local sources, the explosive was apparently thrown towards the church premises from a nearby refuse dump, by unknown persons. They further said the blast affected two churches – the All Christian Fellowship Mission and the Faith Mission Church – and five other houses on the street.
Narrating the incident, the resident pastor of the All Christian Fellowship Church, Pastor Barrister Phillip Ekwueme, said the incident occurred at about 3pm. He said several churches had ended their main services for the day, but some members stayed back for meetings.
He said: “We were having the meeting of the leadership of the church and immediately we finished, we came out while some other people were still around, putting things in order. Barely ten minutes after we left here, the whole thing happened”.
The senior pastor, Rev. Joseph Olowosagba, confirmed that two people died instantly. One of them was 51-year-old Mrs Theresa Ogbor, a mother of four, as confirmed by her husband. The pastor also said one other person, who lost his two legs, had been rushed to the Specialist Hospital in Gwagwalada – about 30km away – while other church workers suffered eardrum damage due to the blast.
By end of day, however, Red Cross officials reported that three people died while seven were injured.
The Suleja Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr Effiong Bassey, said: “No arrest has been made yet and there is no information as to who was behind the attack, but investigation has commenced”.
This is the third bomb incident in Suleja since this year. On 3 March, an explosion went off at a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally in the city, just after Niger State governor Babangida Aliyu had addressed supporters; at least 12 people were killed and about 20 injured. In the second incident on 8 April, another bomb exploded at the local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens of others, mostly young graduates who had been recruited as ad-hoc staff for the general elections.
Reacting to the latest incident, the Niger State Government appealed to residents to remain calm as the security agencies will fish out the perpetrators. That assurance now sounds very familiar. After the 3 March blast, the government gave a similar assurance, but a key suspect (Mr Zakariyahu Garba) who was arrested on 5 March, soon escaped from custody! Also, after the 8 April blast, President Goodluck Jonathan, in a statement signed by his then spokesman Ima Niboro, assured the families of victims that “the Federal Government will do everything possible to bring their murderers to justice”. There has been no update on that assurance since then.
[THIS IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF OUR FIRST REPORT ON THE INCIDENT].
On 12 May, unknown gunmen killed two policemen attached to the residence of the Chairman, Caretaker Committee of the Suleja Local Government Council, Alhaji Mohammed Umar Maddalla, in Madalla town, Niger State. The town is about 40 km from the federal capital, Abuja
The victims were identified as Sergeant Yakubu Musa and Constable Akogu.
According to local sources, the gunmen arrived at the residence of the chairman on a motorcycle at about 9 pm and instantly opened fire at the unsuspecting policemen. Once they confirmed the policemen dead, they grabbed the service riffle of the slain sergeant and sped off, amidst the pandemonium that had ensued. The Caretaker Chairman, Alhaji Madalla was not at home at the time the incident happened and the gunmen took nothing from his residence.
Confirming the incident which he aptly described as “sad and barbaric”, the Niger State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Richard Oguche, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the attackers might have overpowered the policemen because only the sergeant was permitted to be armed. He also gave the number of the service riffle that was taken away as FNC 98054624, adding that the weapon contained 20 rounds of ammunition.
He said no arrest had yet been made, but that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Michael Zuokumor, had mobilized the anti-robbery squad to raid hoodlums’ hideouts in the entire area.
On 18 April, at least four people, including a policeman, were feared killed as bands of youths, apparently supporters of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) protesting their party’s defeat at the 16 April Presidential election, clashed with security and law enforcement agents, in Minna, Niger State.
At least 5 churches were also razed and an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) had his hands cut-off by the rampaging youths.
In the election, judged by both local and foreign observers as one of the freest and fairest in the country’s history, President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Deomcratic Party (PDP) won by a convincing margin, with the CPC candidate, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, coming a distant second.
The pro-Buhari rioters, alleging that the election was rigged, started the violence on the evening of 17 April while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was still announcing the results, and continued the next morning. They burnt several public and private buildings as well as vehicles. In the Sabon Gari district of the city, where many low income migrants from the southern parts of the country live, traders who were not dressed in the traditional Hausa/Fulani kaftan were attacked. Many of their shops were looted and destroyed. The disturbances marred public and private business, not only in Minna but also in some other towns in the state.
Reacting to the violence, the Niger State Commissioner of Police, Mr Bala Hassan, told journalists in Minna, that the police had arrested many youths, taking the rioters off the streets. But he insisted he could not make any definite statement on casualties until he receives comprehensive reports on the disturbances.
The Niger State governor, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (also of the ruling PDP) called for calm and peace. In a broadcast to residents of the state, the governor urged all citizens: “We should also remember that in every contest, there must be a winner and a looser where some people will be happy and some people will not be happy. I therefore use this opportunity to appeal to those who feel aggrieved as a result of the outcome of the Presidential election to accept it in good faith, bearing in mind that it is God who gives power to whomsoever he desires”.
The state government also declared a curfew from eight in the morning to six in the evening in Minna, Bida, Suleja, Kontagora and New Bussa.