Gombe State, hitherto adjudged the most peaceful in the North East Region of the country is gradually drifting to become a danger zone for its residents. No thanks to Boko Haram insurgency. The multiple explosions that rocked the state capital penultimate week have put the state on the edge as Saturday Vanguard’s JOHN BULUS in this analysis chronicles the history of major attacks in the recent time.
For the second time in two months, Gombe metropolis is being hit in the fiercest manner. Each of these attacks by dreadful gunmen left behind some terrible, pathetic stories that agitate the mind: Pools of blood, litany of dead bodies, a snake of burnt vehicles, motorcycles, buildings, and then, many critically injured persons whose full recovery cannot absolutely erase the indelible scars that form the relics of the tragedy.
And even when the crises appear curtailed later, palpable fear of the unknown takes over, plunging the people in most exasperated mood.
But just as terrorism is a novel development to Nigeria, so are the attacks to Gombe State. Prior to now, the state does no know terrorism. It was only some occasional disturbances caused by area boys called “Kalere Boys” that were witnessed in the state capital.
But now, the situation has completely changed giving rise to sophisticated attacks. The once a docile community that provided succour for many people in the wake of the religious and ethnic rivalries that had engulfed cities of Jos and Bauchi had suddenly become vulnerable for terror attacks.
The first attack that readily comes to mind which happened with a bang was the raid carried out by gunmen at the Mobile base of the Nigerian Police in the State in September last year where the armoury was broken and some ammunition carted away.
Though, it was an illegal action, analysts are of the view that the circumstances of the raid revealed that human beings were not the main target even though there were casualties and this made it a little milder than the contemporary violence which the state has been exposed to.
January 5, 2012 was the day the people of the state cannot forget in a hurry. The day witnessed the brutal murder of over 10 persons in a coordinated shooting spree at a Deeper Life Bible Church in Gombe. The shooting also left many in different critical states. The dreaded Islamist Sect, Boko Haram which has put the Northern region on the edge was later to claim the responsibility of mayhem.
George Onyemaechi, an Igbo trader in the state, a member of the church and victim of the circumstances told Saturday Vanguard that the incident has left his lower abdomen shattered, fiercely threatening his private -part; his chest badly wounded with bullet wounds and his left upper arm broken as well as several other parts of his body. His wife was not spared in the attacks either, as she also sustained critical injuries. Though Onyemachi is recuperating now; the thought of the attacks still haunts him.
The clergy in charge of the branch, Pastor Johnson Juaro was not left out. He was also plunged in a mourning mood as his wife was shot dead in the attack.
But just when the people had thought that the siege in Gombe was over, another attack occurred in the metropolis on Friday, February 24, 2012. Those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said they thought that a civil war had broken out in Nigeria starting from Gombe State.
At about 7:30 pm, gunmen invaded Gombe Divisional Police Headquarters, shooting indiscriminately in the air amidst over 40 explosives which had been successively planted in and out of the compound which were going off simultaneously.
Exchange of fire between police and the gunmen lasted for about 3 hours. The sound of the gun fire echoed the length and breadth of the metropolis and further instilled fear in the people and created the impression that a civil war had ensued.
The gunmen also made an attempt to break open a Prison located adjacent the Police formation but met a resistance from the police who engaged them in a gun duel.
The smokes that emanated from the scene of the incident billowed and covered the sky as vehicles, motorbikes and in fact every combustible material within the rays of the fire that accompanied it got burnt.
Suffice it to say that no group had claimed responsibility of the attack as at the time of filing this report but all fingers are seemingly pointing at the Boko Haram. This is because; similar incidences had been traced to the sect.
More so, speculations are rife that letters and fliers supposedly emanated from the Islamist sect, warning of an impending attack similar to that of Kano State if their member who was alleged to have been detained in Gombe was not released.
The State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Gandhi Orubebe had long confirmed presence of the explosives, saying “there were several explosions. They wanted to break open the prison, but the policemen on guard there repelled them”.
Also, the Police Public Relations Officer of the State Police Command, ASP, Ahmed Mohammed in a statement after the attacks said “Gombe State Police Command wishes to inform the general public of the unfortunate incident in Gombe metropolis in the evening of Friday.
There was an attack at Gombe Division. Twelve casualties have been confirmed, including two policemen, the hoodlums and civilians. Attempts by the hoodlums to attack the prison were repelled. The police have commenced investigations and, therefore, use this medium to call for calm among Gombe residents as police are doing their best to bring the culprits to book. Security has been beefed up to further secure Gombe State. Therefore, there is no cause for alarm”.
Meanwhile, the State Government on the heels of the ugly event imposed a 24 hours curfew on the metropolis but later relaxed it between 6am to 5pm but at the moment, the curfew holds between 6 am to 8 pm.
Mr. Ismilia Mansur, the Special Assistant to Governor Ibrahim Hassam Dankwambo on Media and Publicity told Saturday Vanguard that the curfew was declared then, to enable the security agencies do their work without hitches.
Most eminent Nigerians who had visited Gombe State since the unfortunate occurrence roundly condemned the attacks on the state just at Governor Dankwambo of the state promised to improve on the security apparatus of the state to ensure adequate protection of the people and their properties.
The State government also declared Friday, March 2 and Sunday 4 2012 praying and fasting days for the state to help save it from the clutches of terrorists.
But since then, the present government in the state has made concerted effort to once again, restore peace and confidence in the people. One of the measures was the purchase of Amoured Personnel carriers for the security agencies.
But in quick succession, the state was yet to witness another brutal attack on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. This time, gunmen took the fight to popular Ashaka Cement Factory located in Bajoga, Funakaye local government area of the state around 7 30pm. Some commercial banks and a police formation in the area were also raided by the gunmen.
As at the time of filing this report, explosives and heavy shootings were still on-going between the police and the hoodlums. Sources said the shooting lasted over one hour. It was not clear however, if there were casualties in the attack as there was no official response.
Though calm is gradually returning to state capital after the Friday police attack, apprehension is still hanging in the air as no one knows what fate awaits the state.