Written by Monday Osayande:
Eight persons who were travelling in a Mercedes Benz car were burnt to death while six others were seriously injured when two bombs suspected to have been planted by militants exploded at the Delta State Government House Annex in Warri just as the Post Amnesty Dialogue organized by Vanguard Newspapers and sponsored by the Delta State Government got underway yesterday. The police however confirmed only one death.
Three governors, namely Emmanuel Uduaghan, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo were present at the venue, as were Minister for Niger Delta Ufot Ekaete, former Chief of Defence State Gen. Owoye Azazi, Professor Patrick Utomi, PFN President Ayo Oritsejafor, and the Olu of Warri.
The dialogue came to an abrupt end after the second successive explosion went off, shattering the glasses at the hall and causing pandemonium. The first bomb exploded when the governors and other top dignitaries’ convoys were arriving at the venue, which had over a thousand dignitaries seated. Though the impact of the explosion shook the whole venue, the arrival of the dignitaries who were looking worried however calmed the situation.
Chairman of the occasion Gen. Andrew O Azazi took his address immediately after the national anthem, but barely two minutes after the host Mr. Sam Amuka took his turn, another bomb went off, this time a few meters away from the Government House. The impact this time around shook the whole hall, shattering all the glasses and even that of the governor’s main office.
Confusion enveloped the scene as all the dignitaries, governors, other invited guest and even security operatives ran helter skelter, not knowing where to run to. There was confusion everywhere. Security sources later said that the explosives were planted in two cars and parked along the NPA express way, the route leading to the government house and very close to the venue of the conference.
The first explosion was apparently targeted at the convoy of the arriving dignitaries. Two cars that were passing by shielded the convoy and took the direct hit, killing the occupants and injuring a commercial motorcycle rider and his passenger. The second explosion also affected another car and injured four persons who were close to the spot.
Though men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) were not seen at the venue, the men of the anti- terrorist squad who were present in every corner took to their heels on hearing the explosion but were to later come back to give protection to the dignitaries who were scampering for safety.
State information commissioner Mr. Oma Djebah later quoted Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan as saying he ordered the evacuation of all participants at the conference to a safe place while the event has been postponed. He however said the state will not be deterred by this action and will continue to deliver the dividend of democracy to the people. According to him, “The people of the Niger delta will not be intimidated nor be deterred by the cowardly act of a few opposed to a peaceful and non violent approach of resolving the historic grievances of the region”.
Meanwhile, a group of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has dissociated itself from the current violent act saying they are committed to peace.
According to the group believed to be loyal to Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, they have no hand in the incident as they will continue to support peace in the region, but many feared that a splinter unit of MEND may be responsible for the explosions.
Mr Charles Muka, the Delta Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) said police headquarters in Asaba had received the report of the death of a woman in the explosion, which also injured an undetermined number of persons.
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