By Umar Yusuf, Yola
The relative peace enjoyed in Adamawa State in the last one year was truncated, on Friday, following twin suicide bomb blasts that rocked Madagali Local Government Area of the state.
No fewer than 50 lives were lost, even as 80 others were said to have been injured in the attack that happened in the Madagali Market.
The last insurgency attack in the state was in the same Madagali when, in October 2015, Boko Haram unleashed an attack on the town, killing many and abducting many more.
Madagali, about 250 kilometers from Yola, the state capital, is the border local government between Adamawa and Borno States and shares common border with Sambisa forest, the dreaded hideout of Boko Haram.
The latest attack in Madagali came barely 24 hours after the military began aerial and land bombardments to dislodge insurgents from their base.
Madagali is among the seven local governments in the state overran by the insurgents in 2014 before they were reclaimed by the military six or seven months later.
Even after the reclamation of Madagali and its neighbouring local government of Michika, the two local governments have remained volatile due to common problems.
The long occupation of the two local governments by the insurgents and their proximity to Borno State polarized the people along religious and ethnic divides.
The polarization was so pronounced that adherents of the two major religions have their separate market days.
Muslims have their market days, so also are their Christian counterparts as one group dares not attend the market day designated for the other group.
This situation has led to the non-conduct of local government election in Michika.
Instead of the people of these two local governments to join hands and fight the Boko Haram insurgents, who have infiltrated their areas, they are pre-occupied with accusations and counter accusations of aiding and abetting the insurgents.
The attitude of the people to their common problems can pave the way for the insurgents to wreak havoc. Aside that, there were allegations that it is the insurgents within the two local governments that are attacking now.
As one cannot completely dismiss these allegations, on December 9, twin suicide bombers struck in Madagali Market, killing 50 persons and injuring over 80 others.
The attack came barely two weeks to Christmas and a time Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, have started returning home en-mass to observe the yuletide after being sent packing from their homes for close to six years.
Eyewitness accounts recounted how the incident occurred. Mama Bulus, a popular grains dealer in the market, gave her own version as a well planned and co-ordinated attacks that took everybody by surprise.
According to her, the suicide bombers took their time, watched buyers and sellers to commence full business at about 12 noon that day before the blasts went off.
“The grains section of the market is where buyers and sellers gather most now in this market. This is because it is the season of harvest and farmers from far and near are bringing in their goods for prospective buyers”, she spoke in tears.
“Four or five people that brought their grains to the market were my customers. I bought grains worth over N500,000 from them.
“I was yet to evacuate the bags of the grains before the blast. All of them are dead and the goods were burnt to ashes”.
“But, I am lucky to have survived the incident, because I left the venue to see other customers and the vehicle that will convey my goods not quite twenty minutes before the incident occurred”.
The chairman of the vigilante group in the market, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, disclosed that security agents were very observant in detecting members of the insurgents, but wondered why and how they were beaten hands down by the suicide bombers.
“When the first suicide bomber detonated his bomb, there was complete pandemonium in the market. People ran in all directions even as they were confused of the exact venue of the blast. Vehicles in the market, compounded the confused atmosphere as drivers attempted to escape with them”, he stated.
“While the confusion and the melee lasted, the second blast occurred just in an interval of ten to twelve minutes and at different locations. The military and members of the vigilante were on hand to salvage the situation and the entire market was deserted and cordoned off.
“The suicide bombers and their collaborators capitalized on the relative peace being enjoyed in the area to wreak the havoc. Since peace was returning, nobody expected such a thing to happen, even though thorough checks were being conducted on human and vehicular traffic into the market.
“We are complimenting the work of the military in safeguarding lives and property, but how the bombers beat our security checks to wreak the dastardly act still beat our imagination”, the local security boss lamented.
He maintained that a new dimension had to be introduced to the security surveillance in the area as the yuletide gets closer.
“But, we can only do this if those in authority give us the necessary logistic and moral support for us to do this task. This is because of recent, our members have been grappling with the little we have for us
to provide the needed surveillance as government has not been forthcoming as before”, he regretted.
Another version of the incident has it that the two female suicide bombers had surveyed the market for hours before detonating their missiles.
A local revenue collector in the market disclosed that he saw the two girls in their early tens moving from one place to another undetected.
“In fact, I met with them several times in the course of my duties as they pretended to be buyers. And you know in the market, you can’t question somebody of what he or she is looking for, more so that the
two girls were looking innocent. The duo moved from one section of the market to the other surveying the most populous part and they ensured that the market was at its peak before they detonated their deadly wares”, he revealed.
“It was after the blast that I realized that the two girls we met severally might be responsible”, the revenue officer added.
Mr. Ezra Simon, an opinion leader in the area, told Sunday Vanguard that the co-ordinated suicide bombers which went off simultaneous occurred when the Madagali market was full to the brim.
“All of a sudden, we heard a loud bang. And before we could know what actually happened, another bang occurred in a different direction”,.
“There and then, there was complete pandemonium in the market and the local government as people ran in all directions”.
“The army formations and other security outfits in the area became beehives of activities as everybody sought for protection from the military”, he regretted.
“The military immediately cordoned off the area as humanitarian bodies and the security operatives moved the dead and the injured to hospitals”, the opinion leader added.
A spokesman for the 28 Task Force Battalion Mubi, Major Badare Akintoye who also confirmed the incident, stated that the area was however calm now.
Adamawa State governor, Senator Muhammed Jibrilla, immediately condemned the attacks describing them as an act of cowardice.
Jibrilla, who is away on official visit outside the state, spoke through his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ahmed Sajoh.
He explained that any act of terror targeting the grassroots was an act of ungodliness.
Meanwhile, the injured were being treated at the Michika General Hospital and other hospitals in the northern senatorial zone of Adamawa.
In a related development, Senate President Bukola Saraki, yesterday, commiserated with victims of the bomb blasts.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the incident showed that “evil continues to fight back” , adding:”But we will not be deterred.”
He assured Nigerians that the government will do all it takes to defeat the insurgents.
“The news of Friday’s bomb blasts in Adamawa shook us with great pain and sadness,” Saraki said. “My heart cannot but cry out for the families and friends who have lost their loved ones to terror and violence. I send them my sincerest condolences.
“As our men and women on the front lines in the North East continue to gallantly defend our freedoms and rout out the insurgency, today’s attack demonstrates that evil continues to fight back. But we will not be deterred.
“Nigerians must be rest assured that this government will continue to do all that it takes to defeat and decimate the Boko Haram resistance that is left.
“The Nigerian legislature will continue to work and support the executive to ensure that we end the insurgency, restore normalcy to all parts of the North East.
“I pray that the souls of the dear and departed may experience peace. And may all the injured recover speedily”.