By Taye Obateru
That it was a bleak Christmas for residents of Jos, the Plateau State capital is hardly news any longer. No thanks to the seven explosions which sent over 30 people to their early graves, amputated limbs and other human parts and ensured that many others spent the Christmas on hospital beds with the conditions of many still uncertain.
Like the reverberation caused by the multiple explosions at Kabong and Angwan Rukuba areas, the ripple effect has enveloped the state with no one certain of what would happen next.
It was an unusual Christmas as, rather than share rice and other goodies as is customary on such a day, people shared worry, tears and sympathies. The scanty number of worshippers in most churches and the deserted streets bore tell-tale signs of the situation in the city. No visitor or passer-by needed to be told that all was not well.
Plateau State has been in the news for the wrong reasons for some years now as a result of repeated ethno-religious violence which has resulted in loss of several lives and property. However, the introduction of bomb as a weapon of attack jolted many, instilling fears in the people, what with the manner those behind it chose crowded places for maximum effect.
It all started at about 7.30 of the fateful Friday. As people made last minute purchases for Christmas at the popular Gada Biyu market in Kabong area, they suddenly heard an explosion which was followed almost simultaneously by six others in different parts of the community.
Limbs and other human parts flew across the streets as confusion ensued. Just at about the same time at Angwan Rukuba another part of the city, an explosion occurred at a relaxation bar known as Sauki Relaxation Centre which was crowded by patrons there to celebrate the Christmas Eve.
Within minutes a second blast which shook most of the buildings around was heard. All the people around fled for dear life, unsure of where the next explosion would occur.
The blasts threw the whole city into confusion and as usual, text messages and phone calls flew around to announce the latest happenings thereby heightening tension in parts not affected by the blast. As a result of the darkness the enormity of the blasts was not apparent until the following morning when the corpses of those killed by the blasts were removed to hospital. Official figures gave the number of those killed as 32, while 74 were injured.
One of the victims, Iliya Stephen who is receiving treatment at the Jos University Teaching Hospital was injured on both legs. He told Vanguard Metro that he was somewhere along the Ring Road at Angwan Rukuba when he was hit by the explosion.
“We heard an explosion and we were trying to go and see what happened when another one went off. I just found myself on the ground and in serious pain with my two legs covered by blood. I think I must have lost consciousness at one point because I just found myself in hospital when I woke up. It was bad,” he said.
The Police is yet to announce any arrest in connection with the blasts but the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Abdulrahman Akano said they already had some leads which he is hopeful would take them somewhere. He admitted that the introduction of bomb into the recurring crises in the state was novel but said the Police and other security agencies were working hard to unravel those behind it. He, however, said he believed the bombings had more political than religious or ethnic undertones.
His position was shared by the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gregory Yenlong who told journalists that the fact that some people had vowed to make the state ungovernable and that there were rumours of plans to disrupt the Christmas celebrations weeks before the incident justified such thinking. According to him:
“Government is amazed. About 10 days or so ago today, we got rumours that Christmas was going to be disrupted in Jos. The attention of security agencies was drawn to it and to the best of my knowledge, the State Security Council met and the security heads were told of the alleged plan to blow up certain areas within Jos metropolis,” he said.
“Something is fundamentally wrong. I believe there is political undertone to the whole thing. Enemies of the state are at work; people who don’t wish us well are at work. Those who feel they are losing out in the scheme of things politically are at work. We expect that drastic measures would be put in place and government is not resting on its oars to unravel those behind this gruesome murder of innocent citizens of this state”, he added.
The blasts have created new tension in the city sparking off reprisals from angry youths from both communities which have resulted in more deaths and loss of property. Governor Jonah Jang, elder statesman, Chief Solomon Lar and many others have appealed for calm and against reprisals so that the situation does not degenerate into another full-blown crisis as happened between January and March of the out-going year.
In its appeal for calm, the Igbo Democratic Forum through its President, Chief Chidi Ndu said nothing should be done to worsen the situation on ground urging all to work for a restoration of normalcy. “We condemn the bomb blasts in very strong terms and call for calm for peace to reign.
We are also calling on government to as a matter of urgency, investigate, ascertain and expose those behind the bombings and their sponsors and bring them to justice as we believe this to be an attempt to breach national peace and security as elections are around the corner,” he told Vanguard Metro.
As the appeals for calm continue and as the security agencies struggle to restore normalcy to the troubled city, many are wondering if the investigations will not end like previous ones which remain unresolved. For now, residents literally sleep with their two eyes open for fear of the unknown. A bleak Christmas it was for residents of Jos.