Niger State Governor Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and other top Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) officials were lucky yesterday when bombs exploded at the flag-off of the party’s zonal campaign rally in Suleja.
There was an explosion that threw up a huge, thick black smoke and dust. By the time the scene became clear, 10 people lay dead. Twenty were injured.
President Goodluck Jonathan vowed last night that the perpetrators will not go scot free.
One person has been arrested, presidential spokesman Ima Niboro said in a statement last night.
The first explosion occurred at about 1:30p.m. The second went off 20 minutes after the governor had been whisked off the scene at the spot where his convoy’s vehicles were parked.
The explosions occurred at the Government Secondary School, Kantoma, venue of the rally, after unknown persons threw a hand – held grenade through the fence.
Witnesses said the grenade was thrown from a white 18-seater bus onto the rally grounds immediately after the national anthem when the governor was about leaving the venue. The explosion threw the town into pandemonium.
The governor who was about entering his official car when the blast occurred, attempted to go back and ascertain the cause of the blast when his security detail forced him into the black SUV and whisked him away to an unknown place. Other party officials scampered to safety.
Though details about the victims were unknown, it was gathered that a middle age school teacher was among the dead. His remains were buried in Kantoma, in accordance with Muslim rites. Other victims we learnt were mostly party supporters.
Seven bodies were found littering the rally ground, as a result of the impact of the explosion, while three others died at the hospital from the injuries sustained from the blast.
At the Suleja General Hospital where victims were taken, 21 people were found critically injured. Majority of the injured were from the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps who were by the school fence controlling traffic flow, at the time of the explosions.
It was also gathered that four of the victims with serious injuries were referred to the Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, in the Federal Capital Territory. The bodies of the dead were deposited at the Suleja Hospital.
The second blast, 20 minutes after the first, occurred right at the spot where the governor’s convoy cars were parked.
The police cordoned off the area, forcing motorists travelling from Minna to Suleja to divert to the town through Maje and Diko. Parents rushed to schools to pick their children and wards. Shops and stalls were closed.
The Director-General, Media and Public Affairs to the governor, Mallam Bala Abdulkadir, said the police were on top of the matter and that the government was awaiting police investigation.
Police spokesman Richard Oguche said the Commissioner had directed the Area Commander to begin investigation into the incident immediately.
Governor Aliyu declared a three-day mourning period to pray for the repose of the souls of those who died.
The governor stated this in Suleja when visited on the victims at the Suleja General hospital said the state government would foot the medical bills of the injured.
The governor also pledged to support the family of those who died.
Former Military President Ibrahim Babangida condemned the explosions.
Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) presidential candidate Nuhu Ribadu also lamented loss of lives “on account of security lapses”.
Babangida said recurring bomb explosions are eroding the beauty and attraction of political campaigns.
He asked the Federal Government to ensure enhanced intelligence gathering so that security agencies would be a step ahead of the bombers.
Babangida, who made his feelings known in a statement last night in Abuja by his Spokesman Kassim Afegbua said the bombers were callous.
The statement said: “Bomb explosions are gradually removing the beauty and attraction of political campaigns from being a platform where issues are presented to the electorate to being one that is dominated with fear, apprehension, suspicion, intimidation and threat to humanity.
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Bombs kill 10 at PDP rally