By Emma Amaize, Emma Arubi & Akpokona Omafuaire
WARRIâ€”AN explosion occurred, yesterday, at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC’s office in Warri, Delta State, causing fresh panic in the oil city.
Shortly after, someone who claimed to be a militant kingpin and bomb specialist and identified himself as the â€œUdemegun of Niger_Deltaâ€ said he detonated a bomb at the scene.
The explosion occurred in the neighbourhood of the Warri residence of the former Military Governor of the defunct Midwest region, Major-General David Ejoor (rtd).
The explosive which shattered the administration office, equipment and air conditioner in the two-storey building, caused a stampede among residents in Efejuku Street and the neighbourhood. No life was lost as the explosion happened when the workers had closed for work.
Udemegun who was among the MEND operatives that disrupted the post-amnesty conference by Vanguard newspapers at Government House Annex,Â Warri, March 15, with two powerful bombs confirmed to Vanguard, last night, that he carried out the NDDC operation.
Before the bomb blast, the militant had warned that he would bomb NDDC offices, Government House, Yenagoa and a host of other places, but, his threat was probably not taken seriously.
He, in fact, said the governors of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states, as well as security agencies in the states should be on the alert and that he would give no further warning before his next attack, adding that the car bomb explosion in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State was just the beginning.
However, the NDDC Commissioner in Delta State, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi said the explosion was as a result of a faulty 2.5 capacity LG split unit air conditioner installed outside the office.
The Delta State Police Command, through its spokesman, Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, told Vanguard that information available to the police indicated that the explosion was from an air conditioner and not a bomb.
A text message to Vanguard about one hour, four minutes after the bomb blast stated: â€œI, the Udemegun of Niger Delta bombed the NDDC office in Warri at about 8.00 p.m. Itâ€™s just a warning strike to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Niger Delta Development Commission. The next target will be the NDDC headquarters, Port Harcourt. Government House, Yenagoa is not safe.
â€œEqually, Uduaghanâ€™s house is not safe, his campaign team is not safe. Uduaghan should allow Isoko or Ijaw man to rule, if not, I will make this state ungovernable for him.â€
He also said the homes of a member of the Delta State House of Assembly; Hon Solomon Funkeme, considered to be a strong supporter of Uduaghan and a serving commissioner, Mr.Â Frank Omare at Asaba and Warri, as well as the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Warri were not safe. He added: â€œI will never accept amnesty until the Federal Government, state governors, Ministry of Niger Delta and NDDC start to develop Niger Delta region. If not, there will be no peace in the region.â€
However, NDDC workers said, yesterday, that some aggrieved youths who had undergone skill acquisition but had not been settled many years after by the management carried out the bombing.
A resident of the area told Vanguard it must have been a bomb blast. He said: â€œThere was power failure, but at about 8.45pm, power was restored, moments later I heard a sound from the NDDC building followed by a heavy electric fire and this resulted in power cut moments later.â€
A staff of the commission who pleaded anonymity said: â€œTo be sincere, this was a bomb blast, the NDDC trainees have been saying that there was going to be a bomb blast in the office if they were not settled, but, to my surprise, this morning, we saw the blast, and yet, management is downplaying it. I am not going to stay in our office because there could be another bomb somewhere.â€
The Commissioner acknowledged the threat but said it was a past issue that had been resolved and absorbed the youths from the explosion incident.
Chief Ogidi said the commission actually went into partnership with a bank to finance the co-operative system through which these trained youths would access soft loans and be able to pay back with the supervision of the bank.
He, however, said the deal failed owing to the problems associated with the banking reforms, adding that the bank was to charge 200 per cent commission, which the commission declined, thus disrupting the good intensions of the commission for her trainees.
Findings by Vanguard at the NDDC office showed that contrary to the claim that the air-conditioner exploded as a result of power failure, the two compressor units were intact while pieces of six-inch nails were seen scattered about.
Also a sharp object pierced the outer cover of the air-conditioner, suggesting that something hit the air-conditioner before it actually exploded.
Divisional Police Officer, DPO, â€œBâ€ Division, Warri, Superintendent Christopher Luke who visited the scene said that it looked like the air-conditioner exploded but denied that it was a bomb. Men of Bomb Disposal Unit were also at the scene to carry out investigations.