By Suzan Edeh, Bauchi
Memories of recent bomb attacks in Bauchi seem to be haunting residents of the State, creating fear and uncertainty in them. This is even as the victims of the latest bomb attack but who escaped death by whiskers, are presently recuperating at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital in Bauchi.
It will be recalled that a suicide bomber recently drove a car laden with bombs into the gates of the St. John Catholic Church while morning mass was in progress. The resulting explosion claimed the life of the suicide bomber, a woman and a child, while several others sustained injuries.
When Vanguard Metro, VM, visited the survivors at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital, they were only too eager and glad to tell the story of their lucky escape from death on that fateful day. Although the degree of their injuries varied from minor to critical ones, they were all responding to treatment, even as they intensified silent prayers to God to quicken their healing and recovery so that they can return home to their families.
Some of them who were strong enough to speak to VM said it was the worst experience in their lives, but gave thanks to God for being merciful in sparing their lives. They lamented the death of some of their friends and relations who were not fortunate to survive the attack and prayed for the repose of their souls.
One of them, Theophilus Nwankwo, narrated how the incident occurred that Sunday morning. According to Theophilus, he was trying to cross the road after the first morning service when saw the suicide bomber driving at high speed towards the church premises.
He said: “I saw when the suicide bomber driving towards the church at top speed, but I never thought he was coming to attack the church. I only wondered why he was speeding in that manner. That’s the only thing I can remember, because before I knew it, I found myself and other people shouting and everybody was injured. It was a very horrible experience I pray I will never have in my life again. I thank God for sparing my life that Sunday”.
Theophilus, however, called on government to come to their aid because, according to him, although they receive medical treatment free of charge, they suffer hunger because some of them have no money to buy food. He said they usually get food from well-wishers and sympathizers who come to greet them from time to time.
Another victim, Egwuaka Rufus, said he arrived the church to participate in the second service, but fainted and later found himself at the hospital bed. He said: “I can’t recall hearing the sound of the explosion, all I knew is that I just saw injuries all over my body. The attack happened just like lighting, because everything was in a split of a second. I usually hear stories of bomb attack, but I never knew I will one day be a victim. That day I saw death, it is just that God said it was not yet my time to die; if not I would have been like those who lost their lives that day”.
But Ogoma Osi, a student of the Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, disclosed that she lost her mother to the blast. “When I got the news that the church was attacked, I switched my phone off so that I would not receive any sad story because my mummy Mrs. Veronica Osi and my brother were at the church when the incident occurred. Later my father told me that my mother was in hospital and that she did not die but had only sustained injuries.
“He did not tell me my mother was dead for fear I would faint on hearing the news. It was only when we arrived at the hospital that I learnt my mummy was dead and my brother injured. I cried bitterly but I am glad that she died in God because she had never missed the church service due to the frequent attacks on churches,” Ogama lamented.
Narrating his own experience, another victim who pleaded anonymity, said that he was among those that attended the first service at the Church that Sunday.
According to him: “Since when suicide bombers started attacking churches in Bauchi, I told myself that nothing will stop me from serving my God. I believe, according to the Bible, that whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but anyone ready to lose his or her life for the sake of Christ will save his life.
“It is the part of the Bible that has been motivating me to be courageous. As I was coming out of the first service, I saw the car of the suicide bomber in front of the church gate; it seemed like the security men were interrogating him; that is all I can remember. The next thing I heard was a loud blast. I obviously became unconsciousness as I later found myself at the hospital”.
However, a source at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching hospital told VM that 18 of the patients have so far been treated and discharged.
“So far, 18 patients has been discharged. Fifteen of them who were seriously injured underwent surgery before they were discharged and more are still responding to treatment. Within the next couple of weeks, they will all be healed and fit to be discharged,” the source said.
Saint John’s Catholic Church Bauchi is the Catholic Diocese headquarters where Bishop John Golten Malachi presides. It is also the second church to have been attacked .The first was the Harvest Field Church next to Living Faith Church,Yelwa Tudu,on the outskirt of Bauchi the state capital which was attacked by a suicide bomber on July 3, 2012.
The Church which shares common boundary with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium was established in the 1970s outside the Bauchi City walls, and is located in the heart of the state.
Condemning what he described as a terrorist attack, Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, assured residents that security agents in the state were doing their best to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. He advised all law- abiding Bauchi people to go about their normal businesses.
The Governor who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary Mr.Michael Ishola Adeyemi in Bauchi assured that security will be beefed up at churches and other places in the state.
The bomb attack is coming barely a week after 10 people were shot and killed at Zango area of the state capital by yet- to-be identified and arrested gunmen.