By Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos
On Monday, Jos,the Plateau State capital, was agog as a mammoth crowd of various ethnic nationalities in the State gathered at the premises of the National Museum, Jos to showcase their cultural heritage during the 2014 International Museum Day.
The celebrants who were dressed in their ancestral attires, performed their ancestral dances to the admiration of the spectators. The happiness was palpable as the gathering celebrated the return of peace, a happy development repeatedly acknowledged by the different speakers at the event.
The following day, being Tuesday, residents woke up and as usual went about their businesses with no cause to suspect that danger was lurking in the city centre. Children were in school, workers at their places of work. Many also found time to reminisce on the event of the previous day.
Then tragedy struck between 3pm and 3.20pm. This came courtesy of twin suicide bomb attacks that left many people dead, several seriously injured and some survivors with chilling tales of their near-death experience.
With the deafening explosion, shrapnel flew everywhere, cutting down everything they came in contact with, including human flesh. The accompanying fire completed the destruction. And at the end of it all, many shops were reduced to burning faggot, while several charred bodies were dispatched to hospitals’ morgues. The ensuing confusion could only be imagined. Vehicles crashed into one another, panic-stricken people scampered for safety, even as security and medical personnel, the Red Cross, civil society organisations and other rescue volunteers went to work. As fear and panic subside, residents whose immediate response to the explosions had been an exclamation of “not again!” are presently counting their losses.
At day break on Wednesday, the search for missing relatives continued for those who could not account for their family members the day before. Others had gone to secure their business premises to prevent looters from having a field day. The town became a shadow of itself as residents who were not affected remained indoors, discussing the events of the previous day.
During a visit to the temporary site of the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH, Bingham University Teaching Hospital and the Plateau State Specialists Hospital, all in Jos, Vanguard Metro , VM, was shocked to see many charred bodies, including those of children and pregnant women, on the floor of the mortuaries.
The State Police Command through the Commissioner, Chris Olakpe, said a Fiat bus and a Sienna bus were involved in the twin attacks adding: “In a situation like this, we don’t rule out high casualties but we are following up to check the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH and other places to verify”.
But the State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs. Olivia Dazyem said: “Plateau State Specialist Hospital has 35 injured, 44 deaths; Bingham University Teaching Hospital has 30 injured, six deaths; Our Lady of Apostle Hospital has 10 injured and no death; Jos University Teaching Hospital has 45 injured, 25 death; FOMWAN Clinic has five injured and no death, while Yellow Clinic had oneinjured and the person later died”.
But while emotionally traumatised survivors recounted their near-death experiences, they were also quick to give God the glory for their survival, with Ladi Emmanuel who narrowly cheated death on the fateful day saying: “It was just God that delivered me”. Narrating her experience, she said: “I went to the bank to cash some money. After getting the money, I decided to get some things in the market.
”As I passed where chickens were being sold, I heard a loud noise and a log of wood fell on me. I was dazed. I saw people running, but I didn’t join them until I saw fire burning and people were shouting that I should run. As I started running, I heard the second sound and got more confused but I just knew I was alive by God’s grace. I decided not to run as I did not know what was ahead”.
Sprawling on the floor
To a woman who gave her name as Mama Funmi: “I did not know I was alive until I woke up in the hospital. My shop is at the spot that the first bomb exploded. I left the shop to at about 2.50 pm to see someone inside the market; I didn’t meet the person so I decided to come back. As I was approaching my shop, I heard a loud bang which sent me sprawling on the floor.
”People were stepping on me as they ran but I managed to rise and joined the crowd not minding the pains. I was okay until I saw the flame razing shops and goods and I passed out”.
She said a neighbour took her to a clinic where she got a First Aid treatment and was discharged.
As at Thursday, people whose loved ones are still missing wore long faces as they frantically combed different places in search of them.
Some banks whose offices are too close to the scenes of the incidents remained shut. A resident, Mr. Ezekiel Sunday who went to a commercial bank at about 9am on Thursday for transaction was turned back at the gate and told to “check back later in the day”.
Though the off-limit areas remained cordoned off at the time of this report, residents were seen going about their businesses, albeit cautiously, while discussing the recent incidents.
Meanwhile, reactions from individuals and organised groups continue to trail the incidents.
To Pwakim Choji, Programme Officer, Conflict Mitigation and Management for Centre for the Advocacy of Justice and Rights, CAJR: “Tuesday’s bomb blast in Jos was a shocker to the peace loving people because in the past three years there has been relative peace in Jos, as there has been no serious security problem that has been recorded in the heart of Jos, apart from attacks in rural areas.
”The attacks have again led to a terrible security blow to the nation as most affected victims were women who woke up in the early hours of the morning with the hope that they would either buy or sell at the market and return home in one piece, but the reverse was the case. We sympathise with the families of the affected victims and encourage them and other Nigerians to remain strong, especially in the face of this national challenging moment of our history”.
The member representing Jos South/Jos East in the House of Representatives, Bitrus Kaze said: “Citizens on the Plateau demand as of right, maximum security and welfare from their elected government. This is the primary essence of government. We demand action; the time for spewing statements in the face of terror is long gone.
Crime against humanity
Although we are no longer captivated by these press statements, we cannot help but define this crime against humanity within its proper context; it is despicable, callous and reprehensible.
“We know that on no account will any responsible government allow its citizens to take the laws into their hands, however it does not offend any law for the people to be vigilant with the view to defending their lives and properties. Against this backdrop, the demand for state police cannot abate; the inability of the Federal Government to effectively police over 150 million citizens is all too obvious. I urge all citizens in Jos and indeed the whole of Plateau to remain calm but very alert! The global trend in counter-terrorism is to prevent terror from happening in the first place”.