From Madu Onuorah, Daka Terhemba, Nkechi Onyedika (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Iyabo Lawal (Ibadan), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Wole Oyebade, Michael Orie, Odita Sunday (Lagos) and Tunji Omofoye (Osogbo)

 


Six die, 19 injured in blasts at ThisDay, The Sun, others

President, govs, others condemn explosions

How offices were bombed, by SSS

Media houses vow to fight on

THREE media organisations were yesterday hit by suicide bombers in Abuja and Kaduna. The two incidents were the first attacks on the Nigerian media since the Boko Haram insurgence started. The affected newspapers are ThisDay, The Sun, and The Moment.

The blasts were roundly condemned by Nigerian leaders, President Goodluck Jonathan, governors, the Senate President David Mark, political parties, the Nigeria Guild of Editors, The Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (MPAN), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and media rights groups. Jonathan, who received the news of the bombings at the Extra-ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Mali and Guinea-Bissau in Abidja, Cote D’Ivoire, described the attack as “ignoble, misguided, horrendous and wicked.”

The death tolls from the blast at the Abuja office of ThisDay was put at four and two in the Kaduna explosion. Nineteen people were injured in the twin-blasts.

The Abuja structure went off in ruins at 11.09 a.m. yesterday when a lone suicide bomber in a black vehicle struck.

The gates to the office, which houses both the newsroom and the printing press hall were blown apart. The giant generator was smouldering. The roof was blown off. The walls of the building crumbled. The fence walls were levelled. A tree by the left side of the entrance gate was uprooted. Debris covered the office whose glass windows and doors were turned into shreds. All the vehicles parked inside the compound had their windscreens destroyed.

The only thing standing is the imposing gate and the pillars opposite the ever-busy Jabi main motor park. The gate has been locked since the threat of insecurity surfaced in Abuja. The other entrance to the compound, whose sidewalls were destroyed, had its imposing walls intact but the iron gate was burnt and mangled. The imposing wall still had the ThisDay logo and name standing tall, amidst the ruins. But don’t bank on its stability as security operatives had warned that it be kept off as it could crumble because of the impact of the explosion.

The six-storey building adjacent the ThisDay office had all its windows destroyed. While some were hanging on the windows, most of the window glasses were blown off.

The impact of an explosion shook The Guardian office and others about one kilometre away from it. Most people in the area trooped out to see what caused the booming sound. A call came in: “ThisDay office in Jabi has been bombed.”

At the scene of the bomb blast, confusion reigned. Personnel, ambulance and other vehicles belonging to the Fire Service, the Police, Federal Road Safety Commission, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other security agencies arrived.

Initially, there were no coordination. Crowds from the Jabi motor park and the adjourning Utako market and other plaza poured into the premises. Armed with cameras, they were recording the uncoordinated rescue efforts by civilian volunteers. They were also blocking the trained personnel from carrying out their duties as they also moved into the premises and sometimes inside the destroyed building to look for materials.

The spokesman of the State Security Services (SSS), Marilyn Ogar yesterday gave a vivid account of how the suicide bombers carried out the attacks in Jabi, Abuja and Kaduna.

Ogar, a Deputy Director and Public Relations Officer of the SSS said yesterday in a statement that:

“On April 26, 2012, about 1100 hours, a dark green coloured Isuzu Jeep wired with bombs, forced its way into the premises of ThisDay and it detonated killing the suicide bomber.

“Meanwhile, two persons and the suicide bomber are confirmed dead while 13 persons were injured and are currently receiving treatment.

Also, at 1100 hours, two persons in a cream coloured Honda Accord (Academy) car with registration number AL 306 MKA, drove into SOJ Global Communications and Investment Limited Plaza, located at R9, Kontagora Road, Ahmadu Bello Way, Kaduna, which houses correspondents of The Sun, Thisday and Moments Newspapers.

One of the assailants, Umaru Umaru Mustapha, an indigene of Maiduguri, Borno State, alighted from the car with a container of Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He was challenged by two persons following, which he threw the bomb at them and it detonated killing them instantly, Ogar said.

She added that Mustapha pulled out a pistol and fired several shots in the air in an attempt to escape but was “caught and subdued by brave members of the public who refused to be intimidated and handed him over to security forces. Nine persons were injured and are receiving treatment.”

At 11.45 a.m, a NEMA team and the Police moved in and took charge of ThisDay premises. They cleared it of all onlookers and started the rescue efforts.

NEMA spokesman, Mr. Yushau Shuaib, said “security agencies are yet to determine whether the explosion in the office was a case of suicide bombing or a planted device within the area. Relevant offices will soon brief the media.”

Shuaib tasked Nigerians “to be security conscious whether in the media or other professions and institutions.”

But unofficial reports said four people were said to have died instantly while some people sustained injuries and were hospitalised.

An eyewitness, who gave his name as Malam Jamil Abubakar said: “A man drove a Honda car very dangerously into the office complex. I was coming from the other end. I saw it. He crashed on the wall. He came out of the car and started chanting, “laila inlala u…”  He started shouting, ‘bomb! bomb! bomb! People ran at him and grabbed him. They started beating him.”

The Kaduna police command confirmed the incident. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Malam Aminu Lawan said: “Yes, we are already heading to the area.”

The state Governor, Patrick Yakowa, in a statement, said he received “the news of the deadly attack on the building housing three newspaper houses in Kaduna (with great shock and disbelief.”

He expressed worry over the attack. “

In the statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Reuben Buhari, the governor argued: “Globally, Journalists have always been protected in times of war and conflict; but to become a target of attack now is uncalled for and against the spirit of our two major religions.”

Also, governors of the six South-South states have condemned the twin bomb attacks on the media houses.

In a joint statement issued on the sidelines of the 2nd South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, the Delta State capital, the governors described the attacks as barbaric and cowardly.

While wondering the motive of the attacks, which coincided with its ongoing regional summit where the newspaper’s Publisher, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena is playing a pivotal role, the governors urged the security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of the attacks are apprehended and made to answer for their heinous crime.

“The statement was signed by Governors Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State; Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State; Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State; Liyel Imoke of Cross River State; Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State.

Similarly, Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, in a statement by his Director, Bureau of Communications and Strategy, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, said the attacks on the media houses represent another tragic dimension to the onslaught on the peace and tranquility of the entire country.

He said the development had sent wrong signals to Nigerians and indeed, the international community about the abysmal level to which the country had sunk in the spate of violence.

His Anambra State counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, also condemned the bombing of the media offices, describing the act as the worst form of man’s inhumanity to man and the society.

In a message made available to The Guardian in Awka, yesterday, Obi wondered why any person who loves peace and progress should resort to attacking that vital sector or any sector for that matter.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, said the attacks were unwarranted.

In a statement in Abuja yesterday, he re-assured that the FCT Administration would continue to work with the security agents to ensure safety of life and property of the residents of the nation’s capital.

Chairman, ThisDay Editorial Board, Segun Adeniyi, said two security personnel and the suicide bomber had been confirmed dead while five other support staffer were seriously injured.

He said none of the newsroom official was affected in the incident as the news department was far from the entrance of the building where the blast took place.

Meanwhile, the management of ThisDay Newspapers, has reinstated its commitment to fundamental principles on which the newspaper is founded.

While it regarded the bombings as attacks on journalism and free speech, it assured its readers and advertisers that it remained committed to principles of democracy, free enterprise and social justice. “We will not be deterred in our pursuit of truth and reason. No amount of threat or intimidation will weaken our resolve.”

In a statement signed by the Managing Director, Eniola Bello, shortly after the twin attacks, ThisDay confirmed the death of one security man by name Christopher Sadiq; three passers-by and the suicide bomber.

“Eight of our members of staff, who sustained injuries are receiving treatment at the National Hospital. The roof of the building was blown off, the power generator burnt and the printing plant damaged.”

The media house recounted that at about 11.05 a.m. yesterday, “a suicide bomber drove a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) into the premises of our Abuja office, rammed his vehicle into the building housing our printing press hall, igniting a massive explosion and fuelling speculations it was a suicide bomber.

“About the same time our Abuja office was under siege, the building housing our office, along with two other newspapers in Kaduna, came under another bomb attack.”

While thanking all the government agencies, particularly the police, fire service, VIO and FRSC that rallied to put the situation under control and restored normalcy, the firm urged the security agencies to thoroughly investigate the obvious co-ordinated attacks and fish out the masterminds.

The management of The Sun newspapers, which confirmed the attack in the organisation’s office in Kaduna, said the incident occurred at 11.30 a.m. yesterday.

In a statement last night, the management said the explosion occurred at the premises of The Sun’s North-West Zonal headquarters in Kaduna.

The company’s version of the incident differed from that of the SSS, as it said the “explosion occurred when a suspected suicide bomber, driving a gold coloured Honda Academy, with registration number AL 306 MKA, rammed into the building.

“However, the bomb-laden vehicle failed to explode on impact with the building. But when the driver of the car jumped out and began to shout that there were bombs inside the vehicle and that they would explode any moment, angry residents and on-lookers seized him and forced him to begin to dispose off the bombs. In the process, one of them exploded killing three people and injuring several others.

“The angry youths then turned on the driver, and would have lynched him, but for the timely intervention of the policemen who had by then been invited to the scene by our North-West Bureau Chief.

“Although there were casualties, no member of staff of The Sun died or suffered any physical injury.

“Despite this seeming set back, The Sun Publishing Limited, remains undeterred and refuses to be intimidated in its quest for a better and safer Nigeria. We will continue to report without fear or favour and with utmost sense of responsibility and patriotism,” the statement said.

The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, has expressed shock and sadness over the bomb blast that rocked ThisDay office in Jabi, Abuja, describing it as the height of callousness by those determined to throw the entire country into panic.

Moro condemned the bomb blast, wondering why a newspaper house committed to fighting injustice in the interest of the masses would become the target of brutal attacks by any terrorist organisation, no matter their grievances.

In a statement by his Special Assistant (Media), Sunday Orinya, the minister expressed shock at “this horrendous attack on a media house considering the selfless commitment of media men and women to the entrenchment of democracy to ensure equal opportunity for every Nigerian regardless of religion or ethnic background.

A group, HURIWA noted that considering the significant role the media plays in the sustenance of democracy and respect for the fundamental rights of Nigerians, the Federal Government should provide effective and efficient protection for media houses in Nigeria.

In a statement in Abuja, the National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko, said that perpetrators of the atrocious acts were emboldened by the total lack of commitment on the part of the judiciary to quickly bring those arrested to justice even as it canvassed invitation of the United Nations.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the attacks were a grievous affront on the Nigerians.

He however urged Nigerians to unite in their resistance against all acts of terror.

The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko, has ordered tight security for all head offices of newspapers and television houses in the state.

The commissioner warned Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers and patrol vehicles that they would be held responsible should any media organisation be attacked or bombed in Lagos.

Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, also condemned the bomb attacks, stating that the bomb attacks, which he said were getting to an absurd crescendo, were an attempt at curtailing rising national anger against the unfavourable rebranding of the country as a terrorist outpost by the bombers.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, said the mere fact that the bombers, whose periodic attacks were against innocent people and churches, decided to carry the attack to newspaper houses, shows that they are incensed at the popular anger against their nefarious activities which is daily reported by the media.

 

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