“I could not tell if I was still on fire. All I knew was that my whole body was so hot and for a second I was restless.”
Michael Anyanacho woke up in the early hours of Wednesday morning to go to EMAB Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja, where he works to earn extra money for school.
The student of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, works as a phone repairer at the plaza, visited by hundreds of Abuja residents daily.
“When (school is) on break I repair phones so I can earn little to take back with me but, presently, school is in session. I just came home for a little break and decided to work as usual because I don’t depend solely on my parents,” Michael explained.
However, on that fateful Wednesday, towards the close of work, Michael found himself running away from EMAB Plaza, his body on fire.
“My legs and hands were on fire,” he narrated to PREMIUM TIMES from his hospital bed at the National Hospital, Abuja. “I had to run as fast as my legs could take me, to put out the fire on my body and also to prevent my whole body from burning up.”
Michael was repairing a customer’s phone when the bomb explosion occurred at about 4:00 p.m.
“A customer of mine brought his hardware for repairs so I told him to wait at my stand while I take the phone to my colleague on the other side of the plaza who repairs software to help with the repairs,” he said. “The repairs were taking too long so I headed back to ask my customer to wait a bit longer. I was just two steps away from the plaza when I heard a loud sound. Before I could turn around, my hands and legs were on fire.”
He said that as he ran, he was no longer aware of the fire on his body.
“I could not tell if I was still on fire. All I knew was that my whole body was so hot and for a second I was restless. It was a friend of mine that held me and took me to the street were a man helped and took me to Maitama Hospital before I was referred to National Hospital,” he explained.
No hospital bills
Michael was one of the 52 people, according to the Nigerian Government, who escaped from the bomb explosion at the plaza with burns and other injuries. At least 21 people were not as lucky; they died either at the scene or in the hospital.
Alphonsus Anyanacho, Michael’s father, told PREMIUM TIMES that at the time of the explosion he, like millions of Nigerians, was about to watch the match between Nigeria and Argentina at the World Cup.
“I was at home but went out around that time to watch the Super Eagles match. When I saw on the television screen breaking news about the bomb blast at EMAB Plaza, I remembered my son because he goes there every morning to hustle,” Mr. Anyanacho said. “I then called his number immediately but someone else picked the phone; a friend of his that helped him to the hospital.”
He said he left for the National Hospital immediately and got there to find his son “wrapped up.”
Based on the Abuja administration’s resolve to foot medical bills of victims of such incident, Mr. Anyanacho confirmed that he was not charged a dime as hospital bills for his son’s treatment.
Sitting beside his son’s hospital bed, the father said the doctors had not told him when his son would be discharged.
“All I was told was that he is responding to treatment,” Mr. Anyanacho disclosed.
Every day, thousands of people leaving in Abuja go to Wuse 2, where EMAB Plaza and other plazas like it are located, for various activities ranging from phone repairs to shopping for household and office equipment. Outside the plazas, street vendors sell everything from fruits and confectionaries to books and wrist watches.
On the day of the explosion, several witnesses lamented that many of the dead were petty street traders who hawk fruits like bananas and mangoes to visitors at the plaza.
Arriving about 20 minutes after the blast, fire service and emergency officials rushed victims to the Maitama Hospital from where some, like Michael, were taken to the National Hospital.
The National Hospital spokesperson, Tayo Haastrup, explained that seven of the survivors were rushed to the National Hospital while seven corpses were taken to the hospital mortuary.
Mr. Haastrup explained that two of the corpses were transferred to other hospitals as there was no space in the mortuary, while one of the survivors, later died at the hospital
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that unlike Michael, the other five other patients were still in critical condition at the hospital and were not allowed to talk to journalists.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, although the Boko Haram, which has carried out similar attacks in the Nigerian capital and other northern states, is suspected. The military, however, said it chased and eventually killed one of the two attackers, who tried to escape on a motorbike.