By Taye Obateru &Daniel Idonor
TENSION, yesterday, enveloped Jos, Plateau State capital where 32 people have been confirmed dead and 74 others hospitalised following multiple blasts which rocked the metropolis on Christmas eve.
The gory picture of the bombings was painted just as President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to fish out the perpetrators and punish them according to the law.
Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang pointed finger at some highly placed people as the masterminds, calling on the Federal Government to bring her full weight to bear on investigations to fish out the culprits.
Briefing journalists yesterday, Plateau State commissioner of police, Mr. Abdulrahman Akano, said a total of seven explosives were planted in two parts of the state capital.
According to him, five of the explosives were planted at the Kabong area while two were planted at Angwan Rukuba. One of the bombs was planted in a busy market at Kabong where people were making last-minute purchases for Christmas while another was planted at a relaxation spot in Angwan Rukuba.
He said the police and other security agencies had swung into action to get to the root of the matter and had already got some leads which were being followed to unmask the culprits. He said dynamites and about 100 match boxes were recovered from one of the places combed by men of the bomb unit of the police and were being analyzed.
“We have our hunches, we have our leads. The modus operandi is also leading us to some directions. We pray we get to the proper destination in terms of investigations, but I can assure you that we are investigating”, the commissioner stated.
He, however, doubted speculations that the Boko Haram sect might have a hand in the blasts, pointing out that the manner the bombings were carried out were not the usual style of the sect members. The police boss added, “I don’t think Boko Haram would go and bomb a busy market place.”
Akano saw the incident as more political than religious or ethnic, saying, “Honestly, my own estimation of this is that it is political. Explosives have been introduced for the first time. When you understand, you know that the problem on the Plateau is more political than religious. When the dust settles, the people will know that this is not religious.”
An apparently jolted Governor Jang visited the bombed parts of the Jos metropolis and victims at the various hospitals, expressing dismay at the situation. He lamented the lack of control of the security agencies by state governments.
“This time around, government should take drastic actions; even if I am the one that is found guilty, I should be stripped of my immunity and prosecuted”, the governor said in an emotion-laden voice.
“I just want to call on the Federal Government; they control all the security bodies (I do not control anybody), to bring the whole weight of security here on the Plateau and unearth all these people.
“There are some very senior citizens who are behind these dastardly attitudes. Anytime such a thing happens, they move the people to Abuja and we never hear anything again”.
The governor, in a broadcast, appealed for calm, urging the people not to take the law into their hands or do anything that could worsen the already tensed atmosphere.
The blasts generated fresh tension in the city because they occurred in areas inhabited mostly by indigenous ethnic groups and Christians and there were reports of reprisal attacks on some people coming into the city.
Unconfirmed reports said about three of such innocent people were lynched while about three vehicles including a trailer loaded with detergents were torched by irate youth along old Zaria Road.
The streets were deserted for most of the day as most people stayed indoors for fear of the unknown. Some churches also cancelled their Christmas services so as not to endanger their members.
Security has been beefed up all over the city with security men stationed at many big churches and at other strategic points.
‘We’ll fish out perpetrators’
President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, vowed to fish out perpetrators of the bombings and prosecute them according to the law.
He said the Federal Government will take all necessary action to ensure that those responsible for the blasts are brought to justice.
Speaking at a Christmas day audience with residents of the Federal Capital Territory led by Vice President Namadi Sambo, Jonathan said “government will do everything possible to unearth those behind this unfortunate incident”.
The president expressed sadness at the explosions which killed many innocent Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, in Jos.
He also expressed his deepest sympathy with all families who lost loved ones in the bomb blasts.
Noting that the Christmas season should be one of peace and forgiveness in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, Jonathan said that Nigerians must imbibe the spirit of tolerance and forgiveness for progress to be achieved in all parts of the country.
Jos bombings, handiwork of terrorists – Army
The chief of the army staff, Major General Azubuike Ihejirika, yesterday, described the Jos bombings as a terrorist dimension to the lingering Plateau crisis.
Ihejirika, who fielded questions from newsmen in Port Harcourt before embarking on a tour of forward base operations of the army in Abia State, yesterday, said the development had made it necessary for the army to review its internal security operation in Plateau State.
He said soldiers were originally deployed to Jos to quell religious crisis but the Friday blasts had brought another dimension to security issues in the area and this had also informed the need for the army to review its strategy.
“The use of bomb is the terrorist dimension to it. This is why I said we need to enhance intelligence operations”, he said.
Noting that the bomb blasts were unfortunate, the army chief enjoined residents of Jos to be strong as the ugly development would not be taken lightly.
“I believe the series of bomb blasts was terrorism. Nobody is taking it lightly. The people of the area should be assured that they have not been left alone. They should be strong. I sympathize with the victims. And like I said sometime ago, all these challenges put us to task. We have to enhance intelligence to be able to nip these problems in the bud before they occur.”
The army chief also dismissed allegations that soldiers committed genocide in Ayakaromror community, Delta State when they invaded the area in search of John Togo, a wanted militant leader. Accepting that there was some level of damage he said the army was rebuilding the area.