At least 55 persons were confirmed dead and 146 others seriously injured as Boko Haram suicide bombers descended on Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and carried out multiple bombings in various commercial areas, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
The Borno state police commissioner, Clement Adoda, confirmed the casualty figure to journalists who spoke with him on phone.
The suicide bombings occurred in four different spots in Maiduguri, while one other occurred at a military checkpoint at a town called Benisheik, 75 kilometres away from Maiduguri.
“We had multiple blasts today in Maiduguri and sadly about 54 persons were killed and many were injured,” the police commissioner said.
The Borno state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kaka Shehu, who was one of the visible government officials in town when the blasts occurred, said he was able to go round the hospitals to take inventory of those injured.
“We had 143 injured persons and 32 killed in the hospitals that we went to see the victims,” he said
He added that he was directed by Governor Kashim Shettima to ensure that all the victims of the attacks are adequately taken care of, while describing the attack as “heinous, barbaric and desperation by terrorists”.
“We condemn this act in its entirety and we extend our condolences to the victims. Based on the directive of his Excellency, Governor Kashim Shettima, who is on working tour in the southern part of the state, we have mobilized health workers to assist the victims.
“The terrorists are angry with the way they were sacked from towns and villages and are now venting their anger on soft targets,” he said.
Mr. Shehu said the Borno State government remain determined in ensuring that security agents are adequately supported to carry out the onerous duty of securing the lives of the people.
“Governor Shettima has directed that all the victims of the attacks should be treated immediately and the state government will foot the bills. We have directed all our doctors, including those that are not on duty to report to their places of work immediately,” the commissioner said.
Idi Idrisa, a local fish merchant, who witnessed one of the incidents, said “We were right inside the market when we heard the explosion erupt at the gate; we rushed there and I saw many dead bodies lying on the ground, many dead and several others badly injured.”
Governor Shettima cuts short campaign
Following the incidents, Governor Shettima immediately suspended his reelection campaigns that took him away from the state capital for days now, to return to Maiduguri in order to commiserate with the victims of the blasts, a statement by his spokesman, Isa Gusau, said.
The statement, emailed to journalists reads in part; “The Governor condemned the attacks in strong terms and those who perpetuated them while condoling with families and friends of those that lost their lives and commiserated with those who sustained injuries.
“Shettima who was in Hawul local government area earlier today stopped the APC from making campaign speeches and instead, led prayers for repose of victims of the bomb blast before he launched a free feeding programme to ease hardships faced by residents there arising from insurgency crisis across Borno State.
“The Governor has immediately after getting information about the incidence, directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice whose Ministry deals with citizens rights, to visit all affected areas and ensure speedy evacuation of victims to hospitals and mobilize medical doctors for emergency treatments that will be shouldered by the State Government. The, Governor directed that all necessary steps be taken to safe lives where possible no matter what is required .
“Shettima expressed agony over the latest attacks and others in recent and previous times, describing them as acts of evil that have no justification in Islam”
“Shettima said he will be holding an emergency meeting with different stakeholders in markets, motor parks and other public places to take new measures aimed at enhancing security in public places while he called on residents to patiently support whatever measures that will be taken in collective interest.
“Governor Shettima urged citizens to be calm but security conscious and to report suspicious persons and movements to security agencies and youth volunteers around them.”
Power minister calls for global condemnation over Maiduguri blasts
The Minister of state for Power, Muhammed Wakil, has also condemned the incident.
Speaking via a statement by his spokesman, Olawale Rasheed, Mr. Wakil said the “renewed bombings of civilian targets in Maiduguri should be documented by the international human rights organisations and indict Boko Haram leaders for crime against humanity.
“The targets of Boko Haram are women, children and the elderly. Bombing civilian targets is a crime against humanity. I call on Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch and other similar groups to deploy resources towards documenting for indictments the leaders of Boko Haram. Boko Haram leaders should face trial at the ICC,” the minister said.
While commiserating with the families and victims of the bombings,the minister appealed to civilains to be extra vigilant as defeated insurgents may have infiltrated some areas.
“We must be extra vigilant. We must be on guard all the time . All suspicious movements and objects should be reported to the police and other security personnel immediately,” the minister said.
According to Mr. Wakil, the indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets is a confirmation that the Boko Haram sect is defeated in conventional field and is now resorting to cowardly attacks on soft targets.
“As I commend our gallant military and security personnel over ongoing successes, I again call on them to redouble their efforts towards blocking access to soft targets even while routing the insurgents in conventional battle,” the minister said.
Borno PDP candidate condemns attacks
Reacting to the incidents, the Borno state governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Muhammed Imam, condemned the attacks even as he empathised with fellow citizens for the losses and pains being inflicted on them.
According to him, the attack was coming at a time citizens hopes were beginning to rise “that the end to the mindless carnage is coming to an end, it is really sad that some sadists are still bent on keeping the fire burning”.
The PDP governorship candidate spoke in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES by the Director of Media of his campaign organisation, Inuwa Bwala.
“It is rather curious that such explosion occur only when the PDP is planning a visit, as was the case in Biu recently and Maiduguri.
“While we have our reservations to the effect that there may be a deliberate sabotage of Federal Government efforts in ending insurgency in the state, we must condemn all efforts at further prolonging the sufferings of the people.
“We wish to condemn the attitude of the Borno state Government to such developments where it seeks to maximize political benefits from such unfortunate incidents rather than work to cushion its effects on the citizenry. It is callous and the height of insensitivity for the Governor, Kashim Shettima to remain busy politicking in other parts of the state while Maiduguri burns.
“We urge the Governor to immediately cut his political misadventures in the southern part and return to Maiduguri to face his job as the chief security officer of the state, now that there is no state of emergency in force.
“At this point we call upon security operatives to intensify intelligence gathering on some characters who we have always suspected of being the brains behind some of these dastardly acts”. Bwala stated in the statement.