May 6, 2010

Bayelsa blast: The lingering fear

By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa

THE use of powerful explosives   such as dynamite in settling political scores first reared its head in Bayelsa in 2001 when the state assembly complex was blown up by unknown persons in the wake of the power tussle between the then speaker and now senator and the erstwhile governor of the state.

But several years after this dangerous phenomenon was introduced into the politics of the state, the police is yet to fish out the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Several other explosions have been recorded in parts of the capital city, all following the same trend.

However, just as many Bayelsans had thought peace had finally returned to the state following the Federal Government’s amnesty to militants and the relative calm that followed,  the state was once again thrown into shock when  a powerful explosion on Sunday rocked the Kpanisa suburb of Yenagoa, causing panic among residents.

*Wreckage of the salon car after the blast

It took some time before residents recovered from the shock of the blast. And when some of them summoned the courage to venture to the scene of the explosion towards the INEC Road end linking the expressway, they found a badly damaged salon car but which rear registration plate number Rivers AH 394 DBU was intact.

The INEC Road is known for its large concentration of guest houses and other relaxation spots. But the incident occurred several distance away from the usually busy area. Though no life was lost in the blast which occurred at a mechanic workshop along the INEC Road at about 9.05pm when most of the workers around had closed for the day, the impact of the blast forced many night crawlers to beat a quick retreat to their homes.

A colleague who said he was in the next street whiling away time with his friend, heard the explosion and rushed to the scene. According to him, he had to hurriedly leave the scene for fear that another explosion might occur. “As I was leaving I saw a police patrol team coming,” he explained.

When Vanguard Metro visited the area Monday members of the anti-bomb disposal squad were sighted combing the vicinity with their bomb detecting machines ostensibly to recover any un detonated explosive and to also determine the type of device that exploded.

Government, Police react

Reacting to the blast, the state government, Monday, said it had uncovered plans by some politicians opposed to the Timipre Sylva administration to unleash mayhem in the state. While urging Bayelsans to be security conscious, the government said through the overseer of the state Ministry of Information, Chief Nathan Egba: “While we await the outcome of the police investigation into the explosive device that was detonated last night (Monday) at the mechanic workshop, we are calling on all Bayelsans to be extra-vigilant and report all suspicious activities to security agencies as government has received reports that some politicians opposed to the Sylva administration have perfected plans to cause havoc in the state”.

Also speaking on the blast, the state Commissioner of Police, Elder Onuoha Udeka said the command had requested for ballistic experts from neighbouring Rivers State to help uncover the type of explosives used in carrying out the blast.

Udeka, who expressed concern over the incident, said: “We are not fighting a war. Everybody should be careful. Whoever is behind the incident will be dealt with accordingly no matter how highly placed”.

Mr. Udeka, told journalists that preliminary investigations indicated that the vehicle was obviously driven to a mechanic’s workshop, adding that it was likely the explosive was detonated from another car that was on the other side of the main road near the workshop.

He, however, called on Bayelsans to go about their normal businesses, saying the command was on top of the situation.

A new twist to the blast
A new twist was, however, added to the unfolding drama when the police and anti-drug officials Monday evening swooped on Latik Hotel and cordoned off the place where they reportedly discovered a Mercedes Benz 190 planted with explosives.

An eye witness, Alex Apiama, told Vanguard Metro that the car, with Imo State number plate AG 198 TTK, was driven into the hotel parking lot between 10 and 11.00 a.m. by two unidentified persons. It could not, however, be ascertained how the car allegedly loaded with the explosives beat the security check point mounted on both extremes of the INEC road by men of the Nigeria police.

When Vanguard Metro visited the scene, six police patrol vehicles were sighted in front of the hotel while men of the Nigeria Drug Law and Enforcement Agency, armed soldiers, officers of the Police anti-bomb unit were deployed at strategic points.

Speaking to newsmen at the hotel premises during the search, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi whose relationship with the Governor had been frosty condemned the explosion, saying the impounded Mercedes Benz 190 was planted in his hotel premises.

Public fear heightened on Wednesday morning when security agents stormed the state house of assembly complex acting on a tip off that explosives had been planted there.