The relative peace which had pervaded Bauchi State was last Sunday shattered as a suicide bomber attacked Living Faith Church in the town. The suicide bomber died but not alone as he took nine others along with him. Saliu Gbadamosi reports.
WHAT started as a ‘mere’ rumour doing the round in Bauchi metropolis through text messages circulated that it was time for terrorists to attack the town was eventually given life last Sunday when the relative peace being enjoyed in the town, and indeed the whole of Bauchi State despite the security challenges being faced in its neighbouring states, was punctured by a suicide bomber whose prime target was the Living Faith Church, also known as Winners’ Chapel, at Yelwa Tudun in Bauchi.
Many people had received text messages that there would be multiple attacks at churches in Bauchi on Sunday, June 3, 2012. This, some took with a pinch of salt, while others, including security operatives took very seriously. Probably the messages, in a sense, helped as the number of the casualties could have been double what was recorded at the end of the attack.
The suicide bomber, said to have driven in a Honda Civic car, drove to the scene of the attack at about 9:20 a.m. when the Winners’ Chapel concluded its first service of the day and worshippers were coming out from the church, while those attending the second service were going in to worship their Lord.
The bomber, whose age could not be ascertained as of the time of writing this, according to eyewitnesses, was stopped by security operatives deployed in the church area as a proactive measure by the police and sister security outfits in the state but refused to halt and accelerated toward his target. But he was prevented from reaching the Winners’ Chapel as he hit the iron barricade leading to the church and had to detonate the harbinger of death and destruction in his car. Bang, it went and what followed were wailing and crying.
The impact of the explosion forced part of Harvestfield Church of Christ, which is located just two buildings away from the main target, to cave in on worshippers who were still having their service at that time, destroyed buildings in the environ, brought about a big conflagration, which burnt some cars parked in the vicinity, among other damage done.
And for some, it was goodnight in the morning as they were sent to their early graves, while others sustained varying degrees of injuries. For some others, they will live to remember the memory of the attack for the rest of their lives.
One of such is Samuel Itodo, a cameraman with the Africa Independent Television (ITV), who escaped death by the whiskers. But a security man with the church with whom he just had a discussion before the bomb blast was not that lucky to tell his own story. Itodo told the Nigerian Tribune that they finished service by around 9:15 a.m. that Sunday and everyone was going home, while worshippers who wanted to attend the second service were going in.
He said, “I really am very shocked. In fact, I don’t know what to say as I missed being killed by a split second. When I got to church today (Sunday), one of the church security people told me that he would like to see me after the service. I normally take the back door out after every service but because I wanted to see the man, I passed through the main door outside. I took my bike and went to meet the man who told me that they usually did not allow people to park on the particular spot. He asked me to move forward towards the main road, which I did and he came to meet me there and we held our discussion.
“As I was about to ride away from there with my younger brother, I suddenly heard a loud bang. There was pandemonium as everybody started to run for dear life. It was while the security man, Mr Adebayo, with whom I just held discussion, was returning to his post that the bomb exploded and he was caught in the conflagration and died.”
Narrating what he saw to the Nigerian Tribune, an eyewitness, who simply identified himself as Haruna, said, “the security men stationed here stopped the car the bomber was driving but he refused to stop as he accelerated in high speed, hit the barricade leading to the Living Faith Church. It was then that we heard a loud bang as the bomb in his car exploded.
“The bomber died instantly. We only saw half of his body from the waist to the leg, while the other parts from the head to the waist were completely burnt to ashes,” he said.
According to the witnesses, the explosion led to fire and destroyed part of the Harvestfield Church, which was only two buildings away from the Living Faith Church. They said that the building collapsed on the worshippers while many people got burnt while trying to run for dear life.
When the Nigerian Tribune visited the scene of the attack, men of the Nigerian Army, the police, the State Security Service (SSS), Nigerian Civil and Security Defence Corps (NCSDC) and officials of the Nigerian Red Cross were seen on ground trying to maintain law and order as well as evacuating the victims of the blast to the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), while the road leading to the scene was cordoned off.
The shattered half body of the suicide bomber was seen on the ground, while the Honda Civic car he drove in was completely mangled. Dead bodies were equally conveyed to the hospital mortuary. It was indeed a gory sight to behold!
Speaking on the suicide attack during a press briefing on Sunday afternoon at the police command headquarters, in Bauchi, the State Commissioner of Police, Mallam Mohammed Ladan, confirmed nine people dead in the attack, saying that this was inclusive of the suicide bomber himself, while 27 others were injured.
Ladan confirmed the rumour doing the round before the attack as he stated that there was an intelligent report received on Saturday, June 2, 2012 that there would be multiple attacks on churches in Bauchi metropolis. This, he said, prompted the security agencies in the state to deploy security personnel in all possible targets with a view to preventing a bloodbath of high magnitude in the state.
“On 2nd June, 2012 sustained joint internal security operation in Bauchi State revealed that there would be multiple attacks on churches within Bauchi metropolis. Based on this, there was visible deployment of security personnel around the likely targets,” Ladan stated.
“Today, Sunday, 3rd June, 2012 at about 0920hrs a lone suicide bomber in a motor vehicle Honda Civic attempted to force his way into the iron barricade at the entrance of Living Faith Church, but was denied entry. In the process, the suicide bomber succeeded in detonating his explosives at the barrier opposite Harvestfield Church.
“As a result of the blast, the suicide bomber died on the spot, while nine people so far have been confirmed dead and 27 are currently receiving treatment at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH).”
The attackers had planned to wreck great havoc on Bauchi metropolis, as, according to the police commissioner, they planted an improvised explosive device (IED) under a bridge at the Dass Motor Park area of the metropolis. The IED, Ladan informed, was successfully intercepted and diffused by the police anti-bomb squad.
While assuring the people of the state that the security agencies were on top of the situation, Ladan called on them to remain calm and go about their normal activities, saying that, “the police and other sister organisations are on patrol within the metropolis and other places within the state.”
He, however, admonished parents, guardians, religious and community leaders as well as members of the public “to eschew violence and avoid attacking innocent people.” He clearly told members of the public to be vigilant and give useful information to the security agencies, which would assist them in bringing the perpetrators of the dastardly act to book.
Also speaking on the incident, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Isa Yuguda, Mr Ishola Micheal Adeyemi; who had on the occasion of this year’s Democracy Day stated that the great achievement of the Governor Isa Yuguda-led administration in the last one year was the maintenance of peace in the state in the face of the security challenges confronting the country, especially in the North, stated that the state government received the news of the suicide attack with shock, describing it as callous and an act of cowardice and a condemnable one.
He commended the police and other security operatives in the state for the proactive measures they put in place and their alertness. These, he said, was responsible for the low level of casualties recorded in the incident.
While expressing the hope that the police and other security agencies would not rest on their oars in ensuring a peaceful Bauchi State, Ishola stated that the government would ensure that culprits behind the attack were brought to justice.
Speaking on the sad development, an associate pastor with Winners’ Chapel, Pastor Johnson Apena, condemned the attack, advising Christians not to retaliate as “their religion preaches peace.”
Also speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), who also doubles as the chairman, Bauchi State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Reverend Shuaibu Byel, condemned the attack in its totality, submitting that there was nothing as important as Nigerians living in peace with one another, irrespective of their religious and ethnic affiliations.
“It is unfortunate that something like this is happening in our own present day society and our generation is not learning anything. I pray that the perpetrators will be brought to book and they will face justice,” Reverend Byel stated.
“There was absolutely no reason for this kind of thing to happen in our society. It is wickedness and I don’t think something of this nature should happen in our society,” he added.