By Taye Obateru
Just when residents of Jos were beginning to thank God for the seeming success in preventing another attack by the Boko Haram sect on churches in the Plateau State capital, the sigh of relief was again truncated last Sunday as there was another suicide bomb attack, this time at the Christ Chosen Church of God, along Rukuba Road.
Notwithstanding the blast, however, many residents believe there is still cause to glorify God as contrary to what was expected, the fatality was minimal. Initial reports said only the suicide bomber was killed in the church while others numbering over 50 had varying degrees of injuries. However, there were reports of reprisal killings numbering about seven in different parts of the state capital after the blast.
Last Sunday seemed another peaceful day until the blast. With the sun shining brightly after the rain of the previous night in some parts, many worshippers thronged their various churches for the usual services. The tight security which followed initial bomb attacks on two churches in the city were still in place as vehicles were subjected to serious search by stern-looking security men.
Unknown to many, danger was again around the corner. Determined to beat the heavy security presence within the vicinity, the attackers targeted churches along Rukuba Road which though densely populated, may not have the kind of heavy security barricades in most other churches. At least so the planners must have thought.
From the accounts of eye witnesses, the suicide bomber made for the Christ Chosen Church of God when he found it difficult to access the bigger churches around which were initial targets. Learning from previous experience, most churches have mounted iron barricades some distance away from their churches to frustrate any plan to crash into them and cause devastation if such barricades were close to the church.
It was speculated that the suicide bomber having been frustrated by his inability to drive close to the targeted churches and conscious that time was running out, made for the church which was close by and rammed into one of the pillars of the building at top speed.
The impact cut the suicide bomber into two spilling his entire bowels on the ground and brought down the church building. “We thought the end had come because many were trapped in the collapsed church as fire began to spread”, a church member who preferred anonymity said. The bombing generated angry reaction from youths who took over the streets and venting their anger on perceived enemies, smashing cars and rough handling people. Journalists were not spared the anger as some of them got battered by the irate crowd.
A member of the church who simply identified himself as Emeka and who is on admission at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital and (BUTH) told Saturday Vanguard that their service was still on when they noticed a car drive into the premises at top speed shortly after which there was an explosion adding, “the church building collapsed on people, there was fire everywhere.” Although there were initial speculations that many people were buried in the rubbles of the collapsed church, it turned out that they mostly sustained injuries such as fractures and wounds.
Francisca Peter, a housewife who had burns all over her body as a result of the blast said the church building did not only come down on them, but they got engulfed by the fire that followed the explosion. In a rare demonstration of motherly love, she, on the hospital bed, despite her pains, kept lamenting about the wellbeing of her six-year old only daughter who she said was at the children’s section of the church when it collapsed. The explosion did not spare other residents of the area close by.
Many were either injured or had the window glasses of their abodes, car windshields and other property damaged by the impact. Twenty-nine year old Randy Odey who sustained injury on the leg said he was returning from where he went to buy provisions when he noticed a car drive at top speed into the church premises. He later found himself in hospital. He appealed for government’s assistance for victims of the blast.
Reacting to the latest blast, the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) warned the Boko Haram Sect which claimed responsibility for the attack to stop targeting churches and Christians in the interest of peace. The Chairman, Reverend Philip Dafes at a press briefing described the latest bombing as regrettable and unacceptable warning that while Christians favoured the use of dialogue to resolve issues, constant attacks on innocent Christians should stop.
According to him, “The activities of these dare devil people who pride themselves in causing havoc by inflicting pains, sorrows and sadness on innocent Christians call for urgent attention from the appropriate authority to permanently put an end to these dastardly acts.
“The church is gradually losing count of number of lives lost, number of Christians (women and men) with permanent disabilities, number of women turned widows, number of children made orphans, number of churches, properties and business premises destroyed by the various attacks and also relationship and business opportunities that eluded us because of the ridiculous attacks”.
Dafes alleged that it had become obvious that Christians and churches in the Northern part of the country were being targeted by a coordinated team of terrorists out to islamize the nation and called on government not to negotiate with them.
He also urged government to compensate all victims of Boko Haram attacks as many have either been rendered homeless or incapacitated by injuries suffered.
At as Thursday, many of the about 50 people who were rushed to various hospitals for treatment had been treated and discharged while those who had complicated cases like fractures and burns were still recuperating. Some of their friends and relations who were on hand when Saturday Vanguard visited one of the hospitals openly wondered why innocent people were being continually killed and maimed through suicide bombing and why it was difficult for government to curtail the menace of the Boko Haram sect.
“You are not safe in your house, on the road you are under constant threat of one attack or the other and even churches which were seen as sanctuaries have turned into targets of blood spillers. Who will protect us if government cannot”, a visitor to one of those hospitalized was heard lamenting. Many around agreed with him.