It was time for counting losses, Monday a day after terrorists launched coordinated bomb attacks on three churches in two of the largest cities in Kaduna State—Kaduna and Zaria.
But as residents in Kaduna were coming to terms with the coordinated suicide bomb attacks and reprisals on Sunday, Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, came under gunfire last night by suspected members of Boko Haram. Many people were trapped in their homes following the attacks which began at 5.30 pm.
Damaturu residents told THISDAY that the siege on the town started at 5 pm and was still on as at 8.30 pm. The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Salihu Adamu, could not be reached by press time.
Although nobody was certain as to the source of the attacks, many believed they were launched by Boko Haram, which in May attacked a cattle market in Potiskum, killing about 50 people.
A resident stated: “My brother, I was caught up in this thing and I don’t know how long it is going to last as you can hear sporadic gunshots and bomb blasts as we speak. The whole of Damaturu is on fire. Please pray for us.”
Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Yobe State, told journalists, “For now, nobody knows what is going on because gunshots and bomb blasts were heard everywhere. I cannot tell you anything my brother; it is terrible.”
As suspected terrorists attacked the Yobe State capital, additional soldiers and policemen were deployed in Kano, following the Sunday bomb attacks in Kaduna State. THISDAY observed there was a large security presence, with new roadblocks mounted at strategic and sensitive areas of the commercial city.
Heavy security presence was also noticed at routes leading to Sabon Gari area, Bompai where the state Police Command headquarters is located, St Louis Church, as well as government buildings, banks and other offices.
The state Police Commissioner, Ibrahim Idris, said the command was on high alert in order to maintain normalcy in Kano.
In Kaduna, survivors, including the injured, recalled their ordeal in the bombing and the reprisals that followed the attacks in which the death toll has now climbed to 74. Despite the 24-hour curfew imposed on Kaduna State immediately after the attacks occurred, which was relaxed Monday with a dusk-to-dawn curfew, security concerns and tension remained high in the state.
Gunshots were heard in Barnawa, Kaduna, in which two people were reportedly killed while there was a bomb scare at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
Hundreds of people yesterday besieged hospitals in Kaduna and Zaria in search of their missing relations. Security was also beefed up in the capital city as a combined team of the army and police patrolled trouble spots in the metropolis.
However, shortly after the Kaduna State Government announced the relaxation of the curfew from 6 pm to 6 am, many residents restricted their movements to their neighbourhood, as the situation remained tense.
The government, in a statement by Governor Patrick Yakowa’s media aide, Mr. Reuben Buhari, said the curfew would commence from 6 pm to 6 am today.
There was also massive withdrawal of money at ATM machines while many people trooped to the petrol stations to fuel their cars.
Also, Monday, there was pandemonium at the Kongo Campus of the ABU, Zaria following a bomb scare which forced staff and students to scamper to safety.
It was learnt that an object suspected to be a bomb was found near the Pentecostal chapel at the campus, prompting staff and students to hurriedly evacuate the campus while the police immediately cordoned off the place before inviting the bomb disposal unit.
A source told THISDAY that the object was discovered at almost 9 am causing fear among the students and staff. According to Dr. Andrew Akume, a senior lecturer in the Department of Commercial Law in the university, students were asked to evacuate the hostels and campus.
The police anti-bomb squad which was brought in, however, discovered that there was no bomb anywhere. The Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mallam Mohammed Abubakar Jinjiri, while reacting to the incident in a telephone interview, said it was a hoax.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the Sunday bombing of churches in Kaduna and Zaria and described the reprisals that followed as irrational.
In a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the party expressed dismay over the relentless terrorist activities which have resulted in the death of many innocent Nigerians.
The party said that the level of killings and attacks that took place last Sunday were more than enough to cause despondence in Nigerians but assured them that the country would certainly overcome its present security challenges.
According to Metuh, “We survived the civil war, we survived the military dictatorship and we have over the years overcome several challenges which would have brought a weaker country to its knees. Nigeria will remain strong and united until this too passes.”
The Northern State Governors’ Forum, however, said Boko Haram might not be behind the spate of bombings in the North as widely believed, adding that the attacks might well be part of a coordinated attempt to cripple the economy of the region.
The Northern state governors, through their chairman, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, in reaction to the attacks, said: “Given the level of sophistication involved in the activities of the perpetrators of the bombings, it is easy to conclude that some oblique forces are behind the violence in the North and not Boko Haram alone as widely believed.”
Aliyu, in a statement by his spokesman, Danladi Ndayebo, described the targeting of churches as a diversionary tactic used by the perpetrators of the dastardly acts, knowing that religion is a very sensitive tool that could be easily used to cause disaffection in the region.
“If progress must be made, security agencies must deal decisively with all those arrested in connection with terrorist acts, particularly bombing of churches and schools claimed by Boko Haram, to serve as deterrent to others,” he said.
The governors warned that the continued existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity depends largely on the quick resolution of the security challenges currently confronting the nation.
The National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on his part called for a collective response to the spate of bombings to arrest the security challenge.
“Now that it is clear the present government cannot tackle it alone, it should not shy away from inviting peace-loving political and community leaders to brainstorm in search for solutions,” he said in his reaction to the Kaduna bombings. Describing the bombing of churches as condemnable, he warned that Nigeria was slipping, adding that the country needed all the help it could get.
“Nigeria is sliding and we must act now. Our country is going through a trying period. We should all join hands to say no to religious violence. No one religion can eliminate the other,” he added.