BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
Okpella in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State has been in the news following the struggle in the area between two powerful investors, Dangote Group and the BUA company, which led to the closure of the Obu mining site by the Federal Government pending the time the issues at stake are resolved in court. However, tension heightened Tuesday after explosion rocked an apartment in Iddo community, Okpella, causing the death of one person identified as Sanusi. The explosion occurred after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was allegedly being manufactured by a gang led by one Idris Hassan from Kogi State.
The incident is creating panic in the area and the entire state as residents are scared that the perpetrators may have planted IEDs in unknown places. Meanwhile, residents feared that Boko Haram terror group may have grown a cell in Edo where it manufactures bombs and ferries them to the North-East. The immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had, in 2012, banned commercial motorcycle riders, popularly known as Okada, in Edo after he received security reports that Boko Haram terrorists, operating in the North -East, were ferrying their agents, through commercial motorcycles, to the state, particularly Edo North, to erect a base where they could launch attacks in the South of the country. Sunday Vanguard recalls that Oshiomhole and security chiefs in the state held an emergency meeting after which he banned Okada.
Though security agents in Edo made attempts to fish out some of the suspects identified then in Auchi and other parts of Edo North, the incident of Tuesday in Okpella was suspected to be an indication that some remnants of the terrorists still exist in some parts of Edo North which has boundary with Kogi. Governor Godwin Obaseki shared this perspective when he met with traditional rulers and elders from Okpella hours after the explosion. Obaseki said, “We cannot pretend that things are fine. We must move arms out of private hands in that community and ensure peace returns.
“Your royal highnesses, if not for the explosion that rocked the community where one person died, you would not have known that explosives of such nature were in private hands in your domain. In the last one year, Okpella has recorded the highest rate of incidents in Edo State. I cannot sit down without taking action. We will investigate this matter till we get to the root of it”.
One person, Sanusi, was reportedly killed in the explosion while three persons, including the wife of the leader of the gang, identified as Idris Hassan, who is currently on the run, were arrested. The state Police Commissioner, Mr Babatunde Kokumo, paraded the suspects and the explosive found at the site, while giving details of the incident. His words: “Edo State Police Command arrested some members of a criminal gang engaged in unwholesome activities of the assemblage of components of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Okugbe area near Iddo, in Okpella, Etsako East LGA of Edo state. On the day in question, one of the IEDs in the gang’s arsenal exploded by way of accident and severed one of the lower nibs of one of its members, the so-called local manufacturers of the IEDs. He was identified as Sanusi. The injured man died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the explosion. This caused panic and pandemonium in the area. The gang leader, named Idris Hassan, said to be an indigene of Kogi State, is on the run while another gang member, Idris Ibrahim, 22 years old; two females, named Zainab Ibrahim and Oyeza Abdul, all of Kogi state origin, were arrested. It will interest you to know that the fleeing member of the gang, Idris Hassan Abdulmalik, is of the same parent with Idris Ibrahim, the one currently in our net. The following items loaded in a Toyota saloon car with registration number Abj ABC, 371 HK were recovered
“Rocket propelled grenade (RPG), one Beretta pistol marked 53101466 with seven rounds of 9mm live ammunition, this one must have been snatched from security agents. Two riot gunners, four smoke pistols, and of course these are used by security agencies, particularly the police in dispersing rioters. 23 empty fire extinguisher cylinders, 18 plastic bottles of prepared borne IEDs,21 expended smoke cartridges, 17 pieces of pipes-part, two timer clocks, four remote control panel and four remote control switches, eight nine-volts batteries, eight live teargas cartridges and two smoke grenades. These are of course equipment used in the local manufacturing of IEDs. Others are two fire extinguisher borne IEDs, two electric junction boxes, two gallons of gun powder, one roll of cotton wool, five empty cans of insecticide, one pair of scissors, 20 small cans of assorted chemicals, three hydrometers used in measuring potency of the IEDs, eight pipettes tubes, two 50ml bottles of highly inflammable chemicals, three small bottles of highly inflammable chemicals, half bag of potassium nitrate, 65 litres of potassium nitrate, 200 grams of carbide and 30 pieces of syringes and needles. I want to strongly suspect that the hydrometers recovered were used in measuring the potency of the manufactured IEDs”.
Idris Ibrahim, one of the suspects, also spoke to Sunday Vanguard. “When I finished apprenticeship in Lagos, I had to go to Okpella to stay with my brother because he told me that when I finished I should come and he will help me open a workshop. So I came to Edo two months ago. I learnt welding. I didn’t know his business with the explosives because, most of the time, I am not at home. I am always going to Auchi or Jattu to look for shop”, he said
“That day, he asked me to burn grass in his farm. I was with Sanusi. I tried to put fire in the farm but I didn’t know how to do it. So I told Sanusi to help me as I wanted to go and eat. Sanusi came to do it but while I was inside the house, I heard the explosion and Sanusi died. My brother told me he was a driver because he always took people from Okpella to Abuja. He initially told me that someone gave him the car to use for transportation but I just confirmed from his wife today that the car belongs to him. When I became aware that my brother was building bombs, I started looking for another place to stay. I confronted him but he asked me to shut up. The only day I saw him with the explosives, he opened a room that nobody enters and brought out a bag. He took the bag away with one of his friends and, after the explosion, he escaped. I don’t know where he is now”.
Wife of the key suspect, Zainab Ibrahim, said when he confronted her husband, she was almost beaten. She said, “My husband is a driver. I have not seen him with bombs; he has a private room which I don’t enter. I have my own room. The day I saw the explosives, I asked him what they were meant for and he told me they did not belong to him. I wanted to raise the alarm but he held me and threatened that I should keep quiet or he will beat me. He was always taking the explosives out. That very day of the explosion, I was inside the house when I heard the loud noise and rushed out. I asked about what had happened and my husband’s brother told me that it was one of the explosives that went off and that Sanusi was dead”.