BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
PORT HARCOURT: A commercial bus exploded Thursday at Rumukoro road about in Port Harcourt, killing a young man and injuring about three others. The incident which occurred about 10.30 -11pm caused tension in Rivers state as people speculated it was Boko Haram that had invaded the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Mohammed Indabawa who spoke to the Vanguard at the scene of the explosion ruled out terrorism, stressing that occupants of the vehicle were probably going for a robbery operation when the explosion occurred. Though he could not explain how the explosion came about but he said he was sure they were on a robbery mission because some riffles and huge catch of ammunition were recovered in the bus which burst into flames immediately after the explosion.
The Police boss said he would come out with a comprehensive report of findings after the bomb disposal unit of his command had concluded scanning of the area and thorough search of the vehicle. He further assured that the state was safe, urging residents not to panic.
The explosion occurred barely forty eight hours after the state Police Commissioner met with media men in the state on how to protect their offices from threat of attack by the dreaded Islamic set, Boko Haram. When reminded of the meeting and the coincidence during the chat at the scene of the explosion the Commissioner said at the time he convened the meeting he had no iota idea that an explosion could occur in any part of the state.
Excerpt of the chat with the Commissioner at the scene of the explosion
Good afternoon Commissioner of Police. Kindly let us know your observation sir
My Divisional Police Officer, DPO called me that there was an explosion in a Bus, that one dead body was lying dead on the ground. I came, the initial report was that it was an explosion but we suspect they were robbers going for operation. We have seen huge catchment of arms and ammunition in the vehicle.
What is the quantity like sir?
I can’t quantify now but we have seen about four riffles. But when the bomb disposal unit gets through they will come up with more information.
Where was the bus going?
We don’t know. But I suspect they were armed robbers.
The one that died was in the car
How do you feel that it happened barely a day after you met with media men on how to guide their offices from attack
I did not know this will happen. But what happened was different from the things we talked about.
How long will the area be cordoned off from motorists
Immediately after the bomb disposal unit get through with their scanning.
At the time of the report, the area was cordoned off and there were crowds on all sides of the road discussing the ugly development.
Governor Chibuike Amaechi who arrived the scene later with the state Commissioner of Information, Mrs Ibim Semenitari and some top security officers also ruled out terrorism. While addressing the media on the development he aligned with the position of the state Police Commissioner that they were robbers.
It was clear the Commissioner had briefed the governor with his observation before he arrived the scene because during the chat with the media the Police boss got a call from the governor which made him hurry out of the scene. He later drove into the scene with the governor.
Meantime, some eyewitnesses believed it was a terrorist’s act. According to one of them who gave his name as Emmanuel Okon, the two occupants in the bus disappeared unhurt. He said they had tesbih ie chaplet. He said the bus got to the point where it exploded and suddenly stopped. The occupants had to beckon on some pedestrians to assist push the vehicle. He said he was among those they called but he refused.
According to another eyewitness account, the man who died instantly was not in the bus, he was one of those that came out to assist in pushing the vehicle. “He was pushing it when we noticed smoke under the bus and we raised alarm. Before we knew what happened next there was a bang”.
This source said the man that died was a regular face at the motor park in the area. But he could not comment on the identity of the injured
There had been different accounts to the incident. At press time the portion of the road had been blocked to motorists.
This incident came barely a month after a similar explosion occurred at a residence on Woji part of the state. The Nigerian Air force claimed it was an accidental missile from their helicopter that was on overfly.