By Tony AKOWE, Kaduna
Kontagora Road in the heart of Kaduna metropolis is a busy commercial area.One of the more visible buildings in the area is SOJ Plaza which came under attack from Boko Haram on Thursday.
A few metres away from the building stands what has become to be known as newspaper’s centre. It is where all newspapers and magazines published in the country are distributed to agents and vendors in Kaduna and surrounding towns.
The plaza houses the Kaduna offices of The Sun, ThisDay and Moment.
But Kontagora Road is not all about business.Residential houses also abound.
Thus,residents,workers and traders were engrossed with one business or the other on the fateful day when an explosive went off ,tearing into pieces everything ,including human beings,within its deadly range,and its impact felt even up to a kilometre away.
Danjuma Sarki, a youth leader in the state, was just a few metres from the scene.He told The Nation that the explosive went off right in his front.
“We were very lucky,” he said.
“The bomb exploded right in front of us. In fact, we were just about five metres away from the scene of the explosion. We had to make a quick turn.
“ In fact, if the impact was as much as the Easter Sunday explosion, there is no way we would not have been affected”.
Thirty-two year-old Danlami Abdulmalik was not as lucky as Sarki,but he survived all the same.
The welder told The Nation at St. Gerard’s Catholic Hospital where he is receiving treatment that he was attracted to the scene of the explosion by his friend’s mother.
He said: “I went to see one of my friends who works in Daily Trust. He said he was going to supply papers to somebody and so, I stayed in his house waiting for him to return. Suddenly, we heard some noise outside and the mother told me that someone had been caught while trying to plant a bomb in the area.
“When I came out, I saw so many people outside and they were beating the man who was already bleeding. He was beaten from Jos Road down to Ahmadu Bello Way and some people were saying he should go and remove the bomb he planted in the plaza.
“Some people were taking pictures with their phones and I joined them in taking pictures. They took him to Kontagora Road and he entered the compound to go and remove the bomb. He was the only one that went in.
“So, I started looking at the pictures I took with my phone and suddenly, I heard a loud sound. And before I knew it, I went temporarily blind , the entire area having been enveloped by smoke from the explosion.
“Pandemonium soon ensued. A boy who was standing close to me had been thrown to the ground,covered by blood.
“Some people brought their motorcycles to take the injured,including me, to the hospital those injured to the hospital and I was brought to this place.”
A street trader, Abdullahi Sirajo,is another survivor.The 22-year-old from Zamfara State said he was on his way to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium roundabout where he sells Gala when he ran into a crowd.
He overheard them talk about a man bringing a bomb to the area.Sirajo was not interested in the unfolding development.His preoccupation was to go and earn his living for the day. But within seconds,not enough to get himself out of the area,an explosive went off.
“ I don’t know where it came from and could not see anything. I felt something hit me and I think it was fragments of the bomb that entered my body. I fell down, and I saw other people lying on the ground too.
“There was also fire.Walahi, I did not see what exploded. Then I heard Police and Civil defence’s siren. I was among those they brought here.
“Since I arrived here, I have been well treated. I was given injections and placed on drips. Last night (Thursday), they took an x-ray of my body, and they said that there are some objects inside. “They said I should not worry, that they will remove all of them.
“Please, if you have a way of reaching the people doing this to us, tell them that if they have a problem with government, they should find a way of resolving it. They should leave us alone because we are only looking for our daily bread.
“These are the things we usually see on TV or hear over the radio. Now it is with us. This is very strange indeed. I can’t still believe that I am passing through this. May the Almighty Allah bring everlasting peace to Nigeria and protect the poor.”
An eye witness, Usman Umar , said he and some friends were sitting opposite the SOJ building when the incident happened.
According to him, “I saw one huge man in a blue caftan speeding into the SOJ building.His action raised curiosity and in no time, people had descended on him beating him. He ran into a building but the crowd followed him and brought him out.
“All the while,I was watching from afar. The next thing I saw was the man throwing the bomb into the crowd that had formed.Several people fell down, some with their limbs gone and some dead.
Another eye witness, who would not disclose his name, said when the man identified by the State Security Service (SSS) drove into the building, people initially thought that his car had a break failure and wanted to help him out because he did not come out of the car immediately. Some of the people went to the passenger’s side and tried to open the door of the car only to see three gas cylinders wired to the steering and they raised the alarm.
“That was when he came out shouting bomb, bomb, bomb. People started beating him, but he fought back. He even brought out a pistol, firing into the air and was able to run into the building again. But unknown to him, the place had been surrounded and some boys entered to fish him out.
“ They forced him to remove the bomb. He said if he removed it, it would explode. He eventually removed it and threw it outside the building and it exploded, killing some people”.
The state Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar Jinjiri, said at a news conference in company of the state Commissioner for Information that three people died from the explosion, while 25 others were injured. Jinjiri paid tribute to the three persons who lost their lives, saying it was their efforts to keep the suspect alive for interrogation that led to his arrest. The Police boss described the suspected bomber as huge and very strong.
“Even with the bad state of his health, he still fought back. But we have chained him and placed a heavy security around him. We are not going to parade him because we no longer parade suspects. If we will do that, it will be with the permission of the Force Headquarters, which is very unlikely,” he said.
The SOJ building incident was soon followed by the news of another explosion on the outskirts of the metropolis.
The Police Commissioner confirmed that two men were conveying the IED to an unknown destination when it exploded on them. The suspects were riding on a motorbike and are currently at the 44 Armed Forces Military Hospital where they are undergoing treatment.
The explosion injured Mrs Immaculate Ezeji, who was in the company of her friend. Mrs Ezeji, who is the Chairperson of Nkpor Development Association (Women wing) in the state, said she and her secretary were on their way to Kurmi Mashi when the explosion occurred. She said: “I got a message that one of our members lost her husband and we were on our way to go and commiserate with her.
“Before then, we had heard about the explosion in town and my husband said I should not go. I told him that since I am the chairperson, it would not be wise for me not to go since the woman who lost her husband is our member. So, he agreed with me and I called my secretary. We met at the Textile Workers House where I joined her in her car and we started going.
“ At Angwan Muazu, we just heard a loud sound. I could not see or hear anything for some time. “My secretary came out of the car and since the door on my side was not opening, I had to come out from her side. When I came out, I felt my face was covered by sweat and when I touched it, I saw blood. Blood was just gushing out like water and one man now said they should take me to the hospital otherwise, I would die there.
“So, I was taken to an hospital at Kabala junction where they gave me first aid and stitched the wound before my husband came and brought me here”.
The mother of six said she still feels as if there are glass particles in her eyes while her ears still hum.
The Public Relations Officer of St. Gerard Catholic Hospital, John Ali, said apart from the two persons still on admission as a result of the attack on ThisDay and The Sun offices, one was transferred to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika, near Zaria because of the nature of his wound.
“The intestines were out and the doctors had to manage to push them in and bandage the place. I had to call them to bring an ambulance so that he could be transferred to Shika. His wound was first degree and only God can say whether he will survive or not”, he said.
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