By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, Ben Agande & Marie-Therese Nanlong
JOS—The relative peace enjoyed by residents of Jos, Plateau State capital for some time was shattered, yesterday, as two bomb explosions ripped through Terminus Market in the city, killing no fewer than 118 persons and injuring several others . The Police, however, said that 46 were killed while 45 others were injured.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), described the casualty rate of the blasts as catastrophic just as President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Jonah Jang and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal condemned it.
The first explosion was said to have gone off in the market, located at Jos Terminus, at the back of the popular Ahmadu Bello Way by 2.30pm, while the second explosion occurred about 30 minutes later.
The first blast, according to an eye witness, was said to have gone off in a Sienna space bus with number plate Plateau XB 146 BLD.
The second blast was said to have killed more people than the first, as many residents and traders, who had fled the scene following the first explosion, tried to join rescue agencies to save the injured and retrieve bodies of the dead.
At least five residents who were suspicious of a mysterious van parked in their area reportedly informed police officers but no police officer arrived at the scene, and nothing was done until the car exploded some hours afterwards.
Briefing journalists in Jos, the State Commissioner of Police, Chris Olakpe said the bodies have been deposited at the Plateau Specialists Hospital and the Bingham University Teaching Hospital, all in Jos.
Olakpe said: “At about 1500hrs, we heard an explosion but on getting there, a secondary explosion occurred along the same axis. In a situation like this, we don’t rule out high casualties but we are following up to check the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH and other places.
“Anyone with information should come forward with such as it will help us in our investigation”.
The CP who was flanked by heads of other security outfits appealed to residents to remain calm and steer clear of the scenes of the explosions as investigations were still ongoing.
He advised residents not to always rush to scenes of explosion as shrapnel could add to the casualties.
Bombing in Jos catastrophic —NEMA official
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has also declared that the casualty rate after the twin bomb blasts could be best described as catastrophic.
“I can’t tell you the figure of those killed by the blasts now, because we are still evacuating bodies from the scene.
“The only thing I can say is that the casualty figure is very massive. It is a catastrophe,” Alhaji Abdulsalam Abubakar, the NEMA Coordinator (North-Central), told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos.
Abubakar said both explosives were loaded in parked cars.
“The bombers parked the cars and left the explosives to detonate. It was in the market and at a peak period. So, you can only imagine what could have happened,” he said.
He said dead bodies and mutilated human parts were being deposited at the old and new Jos University Teaching Hospitals, as well as the Plateau Special Hospital.
“There are also a massive number of people injured. We have conveyed some to various hospitals,” the NEMA official said.
He said that an idea of the number of casualties was only possible after the rescue operation.
“We will have to first finish the operation and then visit the various hospitals. For now, we are only picking dead bodies all over the place,” Abubakar said.
Mr Chris Olakpe, Plateau’s Commissioner of Police, who also spoke to NAN, confirmed that it was difficult to confirm the figure immediately.
“We are still busy at the scene. We shall speak later,” he said.
An eye-witness, Peter Amine, said: “We were inside the market when I heard a loud explosion at about 3:28 p.m.
“Before I knew what happened, a vehicle part landed just by my legs,” a visibly shaken Amine told NAN. He said that a thick dark smoke engulfed the scene, thus compounding the already chaotic situation as horror-stricken persons ran in all directions.
However, the State Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Olivia Dazyem appealed to “all hospitals within the metropolis to accept those injured as the result of the unfortunate incident for prompt treatment”.
She added that though the details of the incident regarding “the extent of casualties and damages were yet to be ascertained, government appeals to the public to remain calm and law-abiding as security personnel are already working”.
Jonathan condemns Jos bomb blasts
In his reaction, President Goodluck Jonathan strongly condemned the bomb blasts in Jos, Plateau State. A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, yesterday, said the President described the perpetrators of “this tragic assault on human freedom as cruel and evil”.
According to Dr Abati, the President has directed all relevant agencies to mobilise support and relief efforts in aid of the victims.
The Presidential Spokesman said President Jonathan has also assured Nigerians that government was fully committed to winning the war against terror, and “this administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilization”.
The statement read: “President Jonathan has also expressed Nigeria’s deepest appreciation to the international community on the success of the recent summit in Paris on the security situation in Nigeria hosted by the President of France, H.E. Francois Hollande.
“He reaffirms Nigeria’s commitment to the implementation of the resolutions reached by the summit, in addition to existing measures already being taken by the administration to combat terrorism and ensure the safety of lives.
“President Jonathan states that the Federal Government of Nigeria is prepared to strengthen existing mechanisms to ensure the immediate implementation of the resolutions of the summit.”
On emergency relief assistance, the President said: “The intensification of on-going relief assistance programmes by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)) in partnership with donor agencies, will ensure rapid deployment of relief assistance to the affected local government areas and communities. This will include provision of food supplies, medical supplies, basic relief commodities, and conditional cash transfer programmes for affected households”
President Jonathan also reiterated Nigeria’s determination “to ensure the safety and security of schools in Borno and other parts of the country and also provide counselling services to any affected students to enable them return to school and continue with their academic work.”
On the abducted Chibok school girls, Jonathan said: “The Federal Government will rebuild the Chibok School and fortify security in schools. In collaboration with the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the private sector, the government will launch the “Safe Schools Initiative” which will address security issues; re-build the destroyed schools; and provide equipment and materials”.
Masterminds are agents of retrogression—Governor Jang
Governor David Jang of Plateau State who also condemned the two blasts described the attack as unfortunate and retrogressive.
The governor, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Pam Ayuba, regretted the renewed blasts, which reportedly hit the busy market area close to the University of Jos Teaching Hospital and Railway intersection.
Although the casualty figure was yet to be ascertained, Ayuba confirmed that scores had been killed and injured by the twin blasts, which hit the city.
“It is a renewed attack on Jos, the state capital and it means that security has to be beefed up,” Ayuba said.
“It is an unfortunate situation, which we condemn in its entirety because we do not believe this type of barbaric thing should be happening at this stage of our national development.
“We have been doing our best to tighten security in the state and protect lives and property,” he said.
While sympathising with the families of those who lost their loved ones, the governor said efforts were being made to secure the state for residents and visitors and asked the residents not to despair.
According to military sources, the two bombs were concealed inside a truck and a minibus.
The spokesman for the military Joint Task Force, told newsmen that the first IED (improvised explosive device) was in a truck while the second was in a minibus.
Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, reportedly had a tough time getting into the area to evacuate both the dead and injured due to large crowds.
The blasts in Jos are coming barely three days after a suicide bomber hit the Sabon Gari area of Kano on Sunday night, killing five persons.
Before then, two blasts had hit Nyanya, a suburb of the FCT, killing no fewer than 100 persons and leaving scores of others disfigured.
President Goodluck Jonathan has already ordered security agencies to urgently investigate the Kano blasts and find the masterminds.
These are happing at the time Nigeria and the world are united in the search for the over 200 school girls abducted from the college at Chibok in Borno State on April 14, 2014, the same day when the first blast hit Abuja.
Also condemning the blast, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described the attacks as acts of cowardice that have no place in civilised societies.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal urged security agencies to redouble their efforts so as to fish out perpetrators of the attacks. He equally appealed to members of the public to provide the security agencies with useful information that will help investigations.
He urged Nigerians not to despair, saying the current security challenges bedeviling the nation will soon be a thing of the past.
While condoling with the families of those who have lost loved ones in the attack, the Speaker prayed to almighty God to bless the injured with speedy recovery