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blood joss again

• How over 150 people perished in bomb blasts

• Tragic end of mum, 2 kids

• Survivors’ tales of horror

The scope of destruction by the deafening explosion that ripped through the Terminus Market in Jos,  is widening. Emotions are beginning to run deeper while sentiment is on the rise. Reason: More bodies and mutilated human parts are being discovered on daily basis, many strewn all over the place. Most of the original features of the buildings surrounding the market were ripped out.

Perhaps the carnage and the ocean of blood that flowed on that day in the Plateau State capital would have been averted should police acted on an alarm some residents claimed they raised minutes before it happened. A witness who resides close to the market told this paper that policemen on duty close to where the first blast occurred were informed of the presence of a vehicle they suspected might have been parked there for a purpose. “The ones here ran away immediately the explosives went off”, another resident confirmed. Hadi Ibrahim, one of the eyewitnesses who claimed he was one of the few people who arrived the scene and started helping victims said, with obvious show of frustration, mingled with anger, that 20 minutes after the blast, no security man was in sight. “Some of the policemen wey dey here before, run when bomb blow. I no see them again. All of dem don run. I dey here when the first bomb blow, gbam. I run go there, but no policeman come. Na two people don come join me help the people wey wound. But the fire no make us go inside to help the people”, he said in faulty English.

Few days after the blasts, residents are still very angry about what they said was the shoddy way security officials handled the incident. While some youths of a particular ethnic and religious group are questioning government’s existence in the face of all they described as “calamities” befalling the governed, the youths of the opposite ethnic and religious group are threatening reprisals..

But in all this, a three-year-old toddler, Deborah and her mother, Ruth who were blown apart by the explosion and rescued from different spots have now been re-united and recuperating at the Plateau Specialist Hospital.

From what happened, the Terminus Market in Jos has borne the greatest brunt that is spewing sympathy for the dead, injured and traders who lost fortunes during the blasts. Said one of the traders out of frustration: “Last month, they abducted more than 200 girls in Borno State; on Thursday, they attacked two schools in Bauchi State; on Sunday, they bombed Kano. Today, (Tuesday), it is the turn of Jos again”.

In street corners, market places and offices, collective reflections on the blasts usually begin with arguments, then end, occasionally in mouthy abuses. Worse, the economic life of victims is believed to be receiving adverse effect.

 

How it happened

It happened suddenly. But everything looked peaceful that sunny Tuesday morning, 20th May, 2014. Buying and selling was going on under an atmosphere devoid of suspicion. It is a market where residents of all hues and colours empty into to eke out a living in their thousands. It has been the central market since the Jos Central Market, the biggest in West Africa, was burnt down in 2011. Efforts by the Governor Jonah Jang administration to relocate the traders to the Rukuba Road new Market proved abortive.

This Tuesday, however, many traders have either erected tables to lay their wares or lay them on the ground with nylons first spread to prevent their goods from getting dirty. The market, which stretches from the terminus round-about to the old site of the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), main gate on the right side of the Murtala Mohammed Way to the Jos Railway station, has always been a beehive of activities. There was the outburst of joy and praises with sing-song intonations, intermittently in unison by a group of second hand clothes sellers. Irregularly, tricycle riders clashed with people because of the narrow width of the road compared with the population in the market.

Hours later, precisely at about 3.13 pm, trouble flashed. A car bomb had been detonated by a suicide bomber. The bomb had gone off, blowing traders and their customers nearby off their positions. As others rushed to rescue those injured, another one went off within a space of 20 minutes, causing more death and injury than the first.

Ripples of the blast caused more injury as residents were running for safety. Movement of vehicles became chaotic as their owners manoeuvred to free themselves from the gridlock. At this time, the traffic jam had affected many of the intersections so that traffic was unable to move in any of the directions. It assumed a situation where everything anyone does or says took an urgency. Conversations were out of the question; answers to enquiries came in monosyllables.

The ray of hope for the injured was brighter after a few minutes. As others rushed to rescue those injured, another one went off within a space of 20 minutes, causing more death and injury and sending helpers running for their lives. The land around the terminus market trembled and quivered. The bomb had roared in a deafening outburst. The jolt shook the buildings near the market almost to their foundations and a few of the fences, including that of JUTH crumbled within seconds of the blasts.

The epicentre of the explosion was the centre of the market where second hand clothings and other things offered for sale are always on display. And worst-hit are humans, buildings, sales booths, tables, counters and compartments set to display goods for sale. Even the crises between arch-foes in the city did not visit such colossal destruction to lives and property within such a space of time.

The vibration from the blasts ripped open the abdomens of two pregnant women, forcing their unborn offsprings to fall off. It was a horrifying spectacle captured only by those who survived the blasts and eyewitnesses.

 

Survivors and eyewitness account

Another eyewitness, who gave his name as Damian, said he was in his shop when he had the explosion. “It shook the whole place and the next thing I saw were glasses flying in my direction. Not too long, smoke covered the whole place and made it difficult to assist the injured as we became afraid when we saw people, some covered with blood; others were screaming. So, we ran for our safety”, he explained.

A trader, James Mokwunye, who survived the blasts with minor injuries, vowed to relocate his family from Jos where he had lived for two decades. According to another eyewitness, the detonation was dramatically done by the suicide bomber. He said the bomber stopped the Fiat car in which he was driving abruptly along the busy Murtala Mohammed Way, close to the old site of JUTH. He disembarked and left the car for minutes to cause enough traffic build-up before he returned to detonate the explosive in the car.

This account was confirmed by Plateau State Commissioner for Police, Chris Olakpe when he said, “at about 3:00pm, the first explosion was heard and about 30 minutes later, the second one came up. He said: “By the time we got there, we discovered that a suicide bomber moving in a bus along the terminus central business district abandoned his vehicle, probably to check the cause of the hold-up, came back to the vehicle and detonated it.  He died on the spot with a lady seated with him. Thirty minutes later, along the same axis, about 100 metres away from the scene of the first explosion, there was the second explosion in a Sienna bus which driver parked off the road, also to check the source of hold-up and then the car exploded.

However, some of the traders, who spoke to Saturday Sun, revealed that the Sienna car was parked at the spot for hours, making them to become apprehensive.

The eyewitness said although he was not close to the scene of the second blast, the story was that a Toyota Sienna car was parked at some distance and “some people wanted to vandalise it and the bomb inside exploded”.

At the Plateau Specialist Hospital where most of the serious cases were referred to for attention scores of women wailed and cursed the bomber who deprived them of their loved ones.  A long queue of anxious looking family members searching for their loved ones took turns to enter the mortuary for identification. Most of the mortuaries were overstretched and corpses were kept on the floor for families to identify.

Hospital authorities would not allow newsmen to speak to the injured. However, Anne, one of those at the Plateau Specialist Hospital wept uncontrollably over the death of her neighbour, a mother of six and a tomato trader at the terminus market whom she said had right through her life had been struggling to cater for her children. Three of the children were at the mortuary to pick the corpse of their mother. The woman, who resided in the Lamingo area of Jos, had her body almost burnt beyond recognition.

A father of two undergraduates was still searching for his ward said to be walking along the street with her daughter when the bomb went off. Three of them died. Now, he could only find the corpse of one of his daughters. Agnes, a mother of two kids in a school near the market, went to pick her children from school. She had driven a few metres from the market when she suddenly realised that the children had earlier in the day requested for a seasonal CD to watch at home. She made a detour and was purchasing the CD when the first car bomb exploded. She and her children were blown off by the blast. Cynthia, her daughter at home, had just finished writing her last paper for the attainment of the Senior Secondary School Certificate.

A nurse with JUTH was lucky to be alive, but she would have to spend the rest of her life with one leg as the other had been amputated due a twist to the leg by the explosion. Arrangements were being made on Wednesday to move her from Jankwano Hospital to JUTH where she is expected to be treated further.

 

Miracle baby

There is also a three-year-old baby, Deborah who survived the blasts. Baby Deborah was found at the scene of the blasts after the vibration separated mother and child. Little Deborah was taken to the Plateau Specialist Hospital where she was re-united with her mother who is also one of the survivors with injuries. However, Deborah was wounded in the face and abdomen. Her mother, Ruth, was working in an Amala joint close to the scene of the blast when calamity struck.

Young Suleiman Samaila was sent by his parents to purchase yam from the terminus market when he was caught in the inferno which flared after the blasts. His face and legs were badly burnt. Suleiman is one of the victims of the car bomb still receiving treatment at the Plateau Specialist Hospital. When Saturday Sun visited the hospital on Wednesday, Suleiman was lying unconscious on his bed.

 

Conflicting figures of casualties

The death toll has remained on a steady rise. More than 150 deaths have been recorded with over 200 injured. But the figures are expected to increase as the days pass by with rescue operations continuing as at press time. Of course, the Police and NEMA officials are certain that the exact casualty figures may never be known.

Abdulsalam Abubakar, NEMA’s Coordinator for the North Central zone, couldn’t give the exact figure on Wednesday because “we are still evacuating bodies from the scene”, adding: “The only thing I can say is that the casualty is very massive” and that “it is a catastrophe”. He 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 peak period. So, you can only imagine what would have happened.” He said both dead bodies and mutilated bodies were being deposited at the old and new JUTH as well as Plateau Specialist Hospital. “There are also a massive number of those injured. We have conveyed some to various hospitals. 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”.

Police Commissioner Chris Olakpe also said the figure he gave were not definite as there are possibilities of it increasing. Olakpe and the Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Barr. Olivia Dazyam put the figure of those who died at 76 with 126 injured. She said at the Plateau Specialist Hospital, 44 corpses were deposited while it received 25 injured persons, at Jankwano six deaths and 30 injured, Our Lady of Apostle Hospital, 10 injured persons were received, at JUTH,  25 deaths were recorded and 245 injured, at FOMWAN hospital in Gangere, five injured persons were admitted while at a private clinic, Yellow Clinic, Nasarwa, one death was recorded and one person injured.

Olivia disclosed this on Wednesday at a press conference where she also told news men that the figures she supplied had been confirmed by NEMA. Although NEMA, Wednesday at a news conference agreed with the figures supplied by the commissioner, it had earlier given 118 as the number of people who lost their lives in the blasts.

However, Saturday Sun investigation revealed that 52 corpses were deposited at the Plateau Specialist Hospital, with 38 persons admitted for various degrees of injuries, out of which 20 had been discharged. Of the remaining, two were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) but by Wednesday afternoon one died from injuries in his brain tissues.

At Jankwano Hospital, according to the Director, Nursing Services, Mrs. Maria Goni, six corpses were received which were those of five adults and a child. She said 22 were on admission.

When the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar visited JUTH on Wednesday, the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Edmund Banwat revealed that 22 dead bodies, including that of two children were received while 48 persons were receiving treatment.

 

Scene of the blast

Security agents had since the bomb explosion took place, prevented people from plying part of the Murtala Mohammed way where the bombs were detonated. The police commissioner explained that the place would be condoned off for 24 hours. However, investigations going on at the scene may likely force the police chief to extend the closure beyond the stipulated time.

Apart from the bomb experts examining intensity of the bomb to ascertain the type of explosives used, state government workers were also at the scene removing all the illegal stalls built by the roadside. Trading by the road side in the market is likely to be banned by the state government. As at Wednesday, blood stains still adorn the floors in the market. At the two points where the vehicles exploded, deep holes were noticeable on the street.  An anti-bomb squad member explained that this was caused by the intensity of the blast.

Many of the shops close to the scene of the first bomb blast were razed. Windscreens of burnt vehicles had them broken into small brittle pieces. It became evident that dismembered bodies were flung metres away. Several limps and chunk of human flesh were still found on Wednesday.  It was also noticeable in some of the hospitals that some of the bodies dumped at the mortuaries were without heads as they had been blown off by the explosion.

Security personnel were placed in all the entrances to prevent people from getting in. The state police commissioner had advised residents not to rush to bomb scenes after a blast.

 

Bomb explosions in Jos

Bomb blasts are not new to Jos. On December 24, 2010, bomb blasts, apparently coordinated in Jos killed more than 35 persons and injured 80 others. The then Plateau State police commissioner Abdulrahman Akano said there were a total of 7 explosions with homemade devices; an unusual tactic.

One of the targets is a church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Kadong — a section of the metropolitan Jos.

Another target at Angwa Rukuba explosions killed 17 people, in Gada Biu 32 lives were eliminated. The bomb explosions continued in Nasarawa Gwom section of the Jos North Local Government.

There were two explosions on Sunday night at a drinking joint in Jos, Plateau State. The explosions occurred at 8.15 p.m on September 12, 2011, at the West of Mines junction where fun-seekers had gathered to relax.

A suicide car bomber killed at least three people on 26th February, 2012 at a church in Jos, sparking reprisals by Christian youths. Witnesses said the suicide bomber drove his car into the prominent Church of Christ during morning prayers. The radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram later said that it carried out the attack. The bombing sparked a riot by Christian youths, with reports that at least two Muslims were killed in the violence. The two men were dragged off their bikes after being stopped at a roadblock set up by the rioters, police said. A row of Muslim-owned shops was also burnt.

Earlier, the suicide bomber  had smashed his car through unmanned gates towards the packed church, killing a woman in the process. The explosives detonated close to where members of the congregation were attending a Sunday service, killing a father and his child.

The bomber was said to have driven at top speed, leaving in its trail a loud explosion. At least 38 people had to be taken to hospital for treatment, the National Emergency Management Agency said.

On 10th June, 2012, reports emerged of blasts in The Evangelical Church for West Africa (ECWA), Rukuba Road, Jos. Residents reported loud blasts. No mortalities were confirmed.

Where the next blast will occur remains a guess.

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