BY: Misbahu Bashir, Abubakar Yakubu & Ronald Mutum
At least eight people died yesterday and scores of others were injured when a vehicle laden with explosive devices exploded inside the visitors’ car park of Louis Edet House in Abuja, headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force. Police authorities later explained that the car’s driver, who died in the explosion, was trailing the convoy of Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim.
Thick black smoke from the explosions could be seen from far away and the police quickly cordoned off roads leading to the area while ambulances from around the city rushed to the scene.
The explosions occurred at about 10:45am when most police officers working in the headquarters located on Shehu Shagari Way in Garki Area 11 were in their respective offices. The tremor resulting from the explosion shattered the glass windows of the 7-storey police headquarters.
Force Public Relations Officer DCP Olusola Amore said a Mercedes 230 car, known as V-Boot, had chased the Inspector General’s convoy when Ringim was on his way to the office. When the convoy entered the Louis Edet House, the car sneaked in behind them, pretending to be part of the convoy, and it passed the main gate of the police headquarters and headed to the frontage of the building where the IG’s car and escort vehicles are normally parked. However, before it could get there, officers on guard detected the car as not being part of the IG’s convoy.
They stopped the driver and began questioning him about his mission.
Amore said, “The officers exchanged words with the suicide bomber and eventually one the traffic wardens in the headquarters, ASP Nangor, said he suspected the vehicle to be carrying suspicious items and asked the driver to move the vehicle to the car park for searching. Nangor then entered the vehicle, sat on the front passenger seat and forced the suicide bomber to veer into the car park. As soon as they got there, the car exploded and both the bomber and ASP Nangor were killed.”
The police spokesman said only two people were confirmed killed, but a police corporal who was at the premises told Daily Trust that many people were killed by the blast and that some were burnt beyond recognition. He said there were many people in the car park, including some who were inside their vehicles waiting for their partners or superiors who had gone into the headquarters.
Charred remains of human parts were found around the scene while many policemen were injured, he said.
Force PRO Amore said the body of the bomber has been recovered and forensic analysis had begun to ascertain his identity as well as his accomplices. He said no one was arrested by the police in connection to the blast but security has been intensified within the city centre.
A total of 36 vehicles in the car park and around the building were either completely destroyed or badly damaged by the blast. The materials used in making the home-made bomb included gas cylinders, electronic devices and some rubber pipes, some of which were recovered from the boot of the car that exploded. They were alleged to have been made in an unconventional way and triggered either by the driver of the car or by some people outside.
Amore said both the government and security agencies will not give in to the demands of those behind the explosion and that they will be identified. He said the police are beaming their searchlight on the Boko Haram sect. When asked if the IG was embarrassed by the episode, he said it was a crime that can occur anywhere and the police are ready to fish out the perpetrators.
Later yesterday, security outside the force headquarters was taken over by armed soldiers led by a brigadier, while officials of the Road Safety Corps and civil defence assisted the police in controlling the crowd.
Fire fighters assisted by military water tankers fought the fire caused by the blast, while bomb squad police officers combed the parking lot for forensic evidence. Electricity in the building was cut off and people had to climb the staircases from the first to the seventh floor.
Majority of the occupants of the building stayed outside, while some policemen were mobilised to remove glass pieces caused by shattered windows on all the floors.
Occupants of office complexes near the police headquarters, including the Appeal Court, where the presidential election petition tribunal is situated, all fled their offices when the buildings shook from the blast.
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