Our close shave with death — Abuja blast survivors

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BY SAM EYOBOKA, OKEY NDIRIBE, BEN AGANDE, FAVOUR NNABUGWU, IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI, VICTORIA OJEME LAIDE AKINBOADE GABRIEL EWEPU,  FUNMI OLASUPO

ABUJA—As outrage from within and outside Nigeria continues to trail last Wednesday’s bomb blast in Abuja, which claimed 22 lives and left 50 others injured, some of the survivors have narrated their close shave with death.

The Department of State Service, DSS, on its part disclosed that security agencies actually obtained intelligence reports two weeks ago that the terrorists planned to attack a busy shopping mall or market in Abuja. Major markets in the city were virtually deserted, yesterday, following the bomb blast.

Taxi driver cheats death
A taxi driver, who identified himself as Malachy Odo, said he was caught up in the midst of the ravaging fire after the bomb exploded at the car park of Emab Plaza.

He said: “I had arrived at the plaza in my cab minutes earlier. After the last passenger alighted from the cab, I was reversing when I heard the explosion. My car went up in flames, and I struggled to pass through the window and in the process my left hand caught fire.  As I was running for my dear life, broken glasses pierced my feet. I was later rushed by rescuers to Maitama General Hospital.”

Another survivor, Mrs Mary Andrew, said she was lying on the ground beside her groundnut tray, while waiting for buyers at the entrance of Emab Plaza, when the blast occurred.

 VICTIMS OF ABUJA BLAST—Vice-President Namadi Sambo and SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim (top left) visit victims of the Abuja bomb explosion at Maitama General Hospital, Abuja, yesterday.

VICTIMS OF ABUJA BLAST—Vice-President Namadi Sambo and SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim (top left) visit victims of the Abuja bomb explosion at Maitama General Hospital, Abuja, yesterday.

According to her:  “I was lying down when the bomb exploded, and my baby was also with me. After the blast, I discovered that three of my fellow groundnut sellers were dead. I was very lucky, I was not hurt, and I thank God for saving my life.”

I was covered with broken glasses —Olasupo

Samuel Olasupo, who sells and repairs mobile phones at Emab plaza had this to say: “I was about to take step out of my shop to the gate to buy corn, when the bomb exploded. I was thrown to the floor and my body was pierced by pieces of glass. When I recovered from the impact of the blast, I gave glory to God.” He said the bomb-laden car was said to have been parked at the entrance of the plaza for more than 30 minutes with nobody inside.

Daniel Itodo said he was still searching for his cousin, 24-year-old Bassey Bassey, who hails from Cross River State. Bassey, who was said to be the first child of his parents was working with a pharmaceutical shop at the plaza.

“I was at home when I heard about the bomb blast at Wuse II, and I remembered that my cousin, Bassey  Bassey was at the shopping plaza. I rushed to the pharmacy where  he was working at Emab plaza, near Banex. I was told that about three minutes before the bomb blast, my cousin left with a customer that came to the pharmacy to  buy some drugs. Since then his phone has been switched off and he is nowhere to be found. I have gone to University of Abuja Teaching Hospital and National Hospital, where I saw health officials attending to some injured people brought to them, and I learnt four persons were in the intensive care unit.  But I was not allowed to have access to them. I went to Garki Hospital and I could not see him there.”

He continued: “I went to Maitama General Hospital where I  saw up to 10 dead bodies. Four could not be identified because the bodies were charred. One of the bodies was without a head, with intestines packed on one side.

“The parents are yet to be informed because we have not seen him dead or alive. We are still searching for him. I will meet with the manager of the pharmacy to know whether the customer was alive or both of them died and for the management of the pharmacy to tell us the exact story about our brother’s whereabouts.

“I want the government to step up security, because it is very painful as innocent Nigerians are daily becoming the objects of attacks. The security agencies should improve on their strategies because these terrorists are spreading fast across the country.”

Another eyewitness who spoke to Vanguard identified himself as Joseph Okonkwo. Okonkwo who said he is a journalist said his office was located at Emab Plaza. He said he writes for Legis Magazine based in Abuja.

Said he: “As I was  entering Emab Plaza, yesterday (Wednesday), I  walked past a particular shop I normally go to which is close to the gate. I later saw the person I went to visit and discussed with him after which I suddenly heard a big bang. A lot of things flew into the air. I saw a lot of smoke.

“I began to run and  when I was about to jump a fence, I  saw some people  whose skin had been peeled by the heat generated by the blast. They were trying to jump too. Everybody ran to the back side because the explosion occurred at the gate.  Some people who were close to me were affected by the blast. The impact of the blast is still disturbing me. I was psychologically affected but physically okay.”

Speaking to news men at the scene of the blast yesterday, the FCT Commander of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr E.C.Ewurum confirmed that some suspects were arrested by security operatives at the scene of the explosion. He said they had been taken away for interrogation. He also said three ambulances involved in rescue operations had already taken the  dead and injured victims of the blast to different hospitals within the city.

My close shave with death

“My name is Ikechuku Iba, aka Ogbologbo. I am a taxi driver in Abuja,  my park is at Emab plaza and everybody in the plaza knows that I always stayed at the exact spot where the bomb went off yesterday. That was where I usually parked my car, waiting for passengers. But thank God, on Wednesday, 30 minutes before the bomb went off  my sister phoned me to come. I was reluctant at first because it was the peak of activities but I later decided to go. Just 30 minutes after I left the Plaza, the bomb went off.  Thank God I wasn’t around and thank God  I went to Asokoro to see my sister. A lot of people were calling me to ask whether I was involved because they all know I was always there.

“There was a particular boy I saw being taken to the hospital and I knew the mother as a banana seller, I used to buy banana and groundnut from her but she was caught up in the blast and she died. I knew so many others who died. When I went to Maitama hospital yesterday to check people, I recognised about four people but some people were badly burnt”.

Emab-plaza2

On whether there was any of his friends missing,  he said: “There was one Mallam Shehu who used to sell fruits at Emab plaza; we have been looking for him since the blast but we are yet to locate him, and  Saheed, who sold provisions had his two legs cut off; the woman that used to sell banana, who we called Mama Bobby died in the blast. One Mama Charity also died as well as one Hausa man that used to sell  guava. So many other people  died.
“We are still looking for one of our drivers whose car was completely burnt in the blast, his name is Ukpu.  We have checked Maitama Hospital, he is not there.

We got intelligence report of plans by terrorist to attack— DSS
24 hours after the bomb blast, the Department of State Services, DSS disclosed, yesterday, that security agencies got intelligence report two weeks ago showing that terrorists planned to attack a busy shopping mall or market in Abuja.

Deputy Director Information, Department of State Services (DSS), Marilyn Ogar, who made the disclosure, said “when we got the report we had to go from one shopping complex to another telling people to be more security conscious and vigilant. Every day since the report, our surveillance teams went round the motor parks, markets, supermarkets, trying to ensure that the instruction we left behind were strictly adhered to.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), the surveillance team was here (Emab Plaza) up till about 12:30pm observing, monitoring. When they discovered that the security people here were enforcing what they were told, the team retreated.” She urged Nigerians to continue to give security agencies information that will help them stop the terrorists in their track.

Also speaking, Force Police Public Relations Officer, ACP Frank Mba advised managers of big companies and owners of cinemas and busy shopping malls to help by instituting a strong access control regime and also install CCTV cameras.

Mba reiterated the importance of shielding hawkers from entering shopping malls saying, “it’s also good to keep away hawkers from busy places, because hawkers attract people which make the target softer”.

We’ll defeat the terrorists — Sambo
Meanwhile Vice President of Nigeria, Namadi Sambo, yesterday, condemned in strong terms, the activities of terrorists saying “this cowardly and unjust act will be defeated; evil can never be sustained”.

The Vice President, who was accompanied by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Senator Ayim Pius Ayim; the Minister of FCT, Sen. Bala Mohammed; the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro and the Minister of State for FCT, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide spoke when he visited the scene of the bomb blast.

Reiterating Government’s commitment towards fighting terrorism, Sambo said: “Mr. President will not leave any stone unturned until we defeat this terrorism. Terrorism cannot survive in Nigeria or any part of this country. We are doing everything to ensure that within the shortest possible time, this will become a matter of the past”.

Another victim dies, 52 injured, 34 vehicles damaged
One of the injured, who was at admitted at the Intensive Care Unit, ICU, of the National Hospital is dead. Vanguard investigations across the major hospitals in Abuja, yesterday also revealed that the number of those injured was 52.  The police told journalists at the scene of the blast that only 17 people were injured.

Specifically, the Director-General of the FCT Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Alhaji Abbas Idriss said the 52 injured victims are spread across five hospitals in the FCT: Maitama has a total umber of 36 victims, Wuse Hospital, 7; National Hospital 6; Garki Hospital 2 and Turkish Hospital 1. It was equally learnt that while 17 vehicles were completed destroyed , a total of 34 were damaged.

Major markets deserted
A visit by Vanguard to major markets in the Abuja metropolis showed that they were virtually deserted as very few traders ventured to open their shops. Customers also preferred to shop at neighbourhood shops. Most affected were: Wuse, Garki, Utako.

The Head, Corporate Affairs of the Abuja Market Management Limited, AMML, Mr Innocent Amaechina, who spoke to Vanguard on phone yesterday, said the scanty market activities in the FCT was quite natural because of the explosion  the previous day.

But he advised that rather than panic at the development, residents should be reassured that government was on top of any possible security breach in the markets.

“The fact is that people are afraid naturally because of what has happened and people are becoming more security conscious especially after the bombing of Emab plaza.”

He said the agency is in close collaboration with security agencies to see that markets in the FCT are safe for Abuja residents.

US, EU condemn Abuja bomb blast
The United States (US) and the European Union have also condemned the bomb attack at the Emab Plaza, Abuja, describing it as heartless act.

The US in a statement issued yesterday, by its embassy in Abuja, said:
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and call on all Nigerians regardless of region or religion to join in and support efforts to put an end to this evil against humanity,” it enjoined.

The US said it remained committed to supporting Nigerians in their struggle against violent extremism “and to helping the Government of Nigeria as it works to counter these threats to citizens and its national called on the Federal Government to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The EU in its statement said, “We condemn in the strongest terms the bombing of a shopping centre in Abuja, killing 21 people. This attack is the latest in a long series of violent acts terrorising the Nigerian population.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims. As demonstrated by the increased support we have provided recently, the EU stands with the government of Nigeria in its fight against terrorism and violence, and for the rule of law and human rights,” it said.

NBA asks FG to step up efforts to end terrorism
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in its reaction yesterday, urged the federal government to intensify its efforts towards ensuring an end to the current reign of terror in Nigeria.

The association, in a statement it issued in Abuja yesterday, signed by the National President of the association, Chief Okey Wali, SAN, read: “The Nigerian Bar Association received with shock the sad news of bomb blast in Emab Plaza, located at Wuse II area of Nigeria’s Capital, Abuja on June 25, 2014 which resulted in the unfortunate and untimely death of 22 persons and left many more injured.

“This latest bomb explosion in Abuja is only part of a series of sporadic bomb blasts in some parts of Nigeria.
“The NBA outrightly condemns this bomb blast, which has caused deaths and grievous bodily injuries to many Nigerians.

“There can never be any justification for these dastardly and brazen acts of carnage.
“This latest bomb explosion brings to the fore the need for the Federal Government of Nigeria to intensify efforts in bringing these acts of terrorism and insurgency to an end.”

CAN, Catholic Church condemn blasts
THE Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN and the Catholic Church has also condemned the bomb blast, saying that these activities of Islamic fundamentalists have brought untold embarrassment to the nation.

In two separate reactions last night, Secretary General of CAN, Rev. Musa Asake and the Director of Social Communications at the Lagos Archdiocese, Monsignor Gabriel Osu were unanimous in pleading with the Federal Government and especially the security agencies to fashion tactics in dealing with themenace, admonishing that the leadership of the Church has been restraining Christian youth to avoid plunging the nation into a huge conflagration we may be able to contain.

Asake maintained that the Federal Government has done a great deal to stamp out the renewed wave of terrorism in the country, “but they still need to do more since these Islamic jihadists have refused to respect the sanctity of human life.”

According to him, there is the urgent need to effectively monitor the nation’s borders and stop these foreign muruaders because “I am yet to believe that Nigerians will mindlessly bomb their fellow brothers in these dastardly manner and still able to sleep at night.”

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