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 8 April, at least 11 people were killed in a bomb blast at a local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Suleja, Niger State, on the eve of the National Assembly (parliamentary) elections scheduled for the next morning.
Security sources had initially put the number of the dead at between six and eight, but subsequent reports from journalists and locals suggest about a dozen killed. Eye witnesses said some of the victims were “severely mutilated” and “horribly disfigured”. Many more were injured.
Local residents said soldiers, police and other security forces had cordoned off most streets in the town; but there are yet no indications of who may be responsible for the blast.
Many of the wounded were evacuated to the General Hospital, Suleja, and other nearby medical centres. One reporter said he counted 12 persons critically wounded at the hospital, some of whom had lost their arms or legs. Another reported that 3 ambulances had taken away some of the most severely wounded to Abuja, probably to the National Hospital or other hospitals with better facilities.
A number of young graduates serving in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, but engaged in election duties, were affected by the blast. But it is not yet confirmed whether they are among the dead.
It will be recalled that on 3 March, a bomb thrown from a moving vehicle into a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rally in the same Suleja, left about 10 people killed and scores injured. The latest blast could discourage some voters from going out to cast their ballots at crowded polling centres. The National Assembly election is scheduled for Saturday 9 April, presidential elections for 16 April and governorship polls for 26 April.
THIS IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF OUR INITIAL POST