Being the first working day of the week, a trader Mrs. Rebecca Okafor was fullÂ of expectations. She was to follow her husband to the market to sell some farm produce, a business that has been the source of livelihood for the family for years. Unfortunately, an unforgettable incident put paid to her optimistic expectations and at the end of it all her husband was left almost bleeding to death.
That was last Monday in Warri, Delta State, whenÂ an explosion rocked the venue of a post-amnestsy dialogue leaving a motorcyclist dead and seriously injuring several others as they scampered for safety.
Mrs Okafor was in the company of her husband in a private car they boarded from Igbudu Market to Rubber Plantation when the explosion occurredÂ about 200 metres away from the Delta State Government Annex, Warri, venue of a two-day post-amnesty dialogue organised by Vanguard Media Limited.
The dialogue which has as its theme: â€œPost-Amnesty Dialogue – Restoring Hope in the Niger Deltaâ€, was said to be aimed atÂ promoting peace and development in the Niger Delta region and to ginger governments into action. The media organisation also explained that the essence was not to misconstrue the current amnesty as the final solution to the Niger Delta agitation for equity and justice.
The explosion occurred barely 30 minutes after the commencement of the programme which witnessed some notable faces in the country, including three governors: Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and Emmanuel Uduaghan who was the host.
The blast shook the venue of the dialogueÂ shattering some of the window panels, just as the entire vicinity was enveloped by thick black smoke which hung over air for a long time. TheÂ Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) subsequently claimed responsibility for the blast. Apart from the dead and those injured, the blast also damaged three cars.
The event started with a welcome address by the chairman of the occasion, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Andrew Owei Azazi (rtd). The Chairman/Publisher of Vanguard Media Limited, Mr. Sam Amuka had thereafter taken over and was explaining the consideration that informed the Vanguard initiative for the dialogue when the first bomb was detonated. The second bomb, reportedly planted inside a car across the road on Effurun-Nigeria Ports Authority Expressway near the Government House, Warri, exploded 30 minutes later, forcing the stakeholders to leave the hall
Giving account of the incident that almost claimed her life and left her husband with a shattered arm, Mrs Okafor said: â€œIâ€™m a trader in Igbudu market, here in Warri, but I live in Rubber Plantation by Cemetery Road. We boarded a car in order to avoid the traffic jam of that day. I was in the car with my husband when we suddenly heard a very loud noise. ItÂ was a big shock to us, especially as my husbandâ€™s arm was brokenâ€.
Asked how it all happened, she said: â€œOn getting to that particular spot, all we heard was gbooza (a bang) which came with dark and thick smoke all over the place. The explosion left everybody panicking and confused. We started running in order to escape. I donâ€™t know how the driver escaped because he was physically challenged. My husband was in front of the car while I was occupying the back seat when it happened,â€ she narrated.
Continuing she said: â€œTheÂ car that exploded was parked at the corner of the expressway. I started searching for my husband not knowing he was injured by the explosion and had been taken to a nearby hospital by a staffÂ Uvwie Local Governmentâ€.
Meanwhile, the Delta State Government, in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djeba had said that in order to protect lives and property, the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, ordered an immediate evacuation of participants to a safe location.
â€œThe peoples of the Niger Delta will not be intimidated nor deterred by the cowardly act of a few opposed to a peaceful and non-violent approach of resolving the historic grievances of the region. We assure all that we will not be deterred in our determination to fast-track the development of our people,â€ he said
Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji who spoke through his media adviser, Ugochukwu Emezue said those behind the act were enemies of progress. He maintained that governors from the zone would not be deterred in their efforts to better the lot of the people.