By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, Monday, heard how an alleged member of the Boko Haram sect, Mustapher Umar, bombed office of the ThisDay Newspaper in Kaduna State with 12 camp gas cylinders.
The revelation came to light on a day trial Justice Ademola Adeniyi issued an order barring members of the public from witnessing the trial, maintaining that henceforth, only lawyers in the matter and journalists would be allowed to attend the proceedings.
The order was made sequel to an application that was filed before the court by the Federal Government which is prosecuting the accused person.
Meantime, the government yesterday brought four masked witnesses that testified against Umar who was said to have on April 26, 2012, driven a white Honda Academy car with number plate AL 306 MKA laden with improvised explosives into the premises of SOJ Plaza occupied by three newspaper houses.
Aside ThisDay office, two other media houses affected by that explosion which reportedly led to the death of about 10 persons were The Moment and Sun Newspapers.
In his testimony, the star prosecution witness who was simply identified as “Mr XYZ” due to the sensitive nature of the case, told the court that he personally saw the accused person when he threw the first explosive device that looked like a fire extinguisher, adding that three persons died instantly.
He told the court that initially when the accused person rammed his car into the building, people who gathered to help him out of the vehicle thinking it was an accident, were shocked when he started shouting “I have brought bombs to this place, it will explode any moment, you people should run oo!
“At that time people started beating him, asking him to go and remove the bomb and he said if he tried to remove it the bomb will explode. It was then that I tried to call the police through a security phone number that was given to people in Kaduna for such emergencies. When I couldn’t get the police on phone, I quickly ran to a police station at Sabon-gari which is close to Kotangora road where the incident took place.
“At the station I saw that some other persons were already there, so some plain clothed detectives followed us and I paid for their Okada. As we got to the gate of the building, the accused threw something that looked like fire extinguisher and we heard a loud bang! Instantly, three persons died. In the pandemonium that ensued, he tried to escape through the fence but was caught by angry youths.
“By that time he had sustained injuries and was handed over to security operatives. However, the youths who were angry that the police prevented them from killing him at the spot, set his car ablaze, it was then that two other explosions went off.
“Shortly after, fire fighters arrived at the scene and were able to quench the fire, when the car was searched it was discovered that there were 12 camp gas cylinders inside it, three in front, three in the middle and six in the booth, and all of them were wired to the steering of the car,” he added.
His testimony was corroborated by the other masked witnesses among who were two police officers and the medical doctor that treated the accused person at the Police clinic where he was rushed to owing to the beating he got from the irate mob.
Meanwhile, the court yesterday adjourned till today to continue hearing on the case.
Umar is answering to a one-count criminal charge bothering on commission of an act of terrorism contrary to section 1(2) (c) (r) of Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, punishable under section 33 (1) (a) of the same Act.