Less than three weeks after a bus station in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was hit by a bomb blast, another bomb explosion ripped through the same neighbourhood, resulting in the death of at least 12 persons and 30 others injured, and fuelling fears that the two successive attacks in Abuja, might be politically motivated.
On March 14, a similar blast at the bus station led to the death of 75 victims and several others injured.
Speaking on the incident last night, a security source said that the two successive attacks might not be unconnected with political considerations as the 2015 elections loom.
He added that they are also targeted at frightening participants and stopping the country from hosting the World Economic Forum (WEF) scheduled for May 7 to 9.
He revealed that as a result of the second attack on Nyanya, President Goodluck Jonathan has summoned an emergency security council meeting to take place today in order to review the latest development and devise a strategy to combat the menace of rising insecurity in the country.
The security source added that the situation had become very critical requiring the president to take tough decisions to contain the crisis and bring the perpetrators to book.
"These spate of attacks have politics written all over them. They are also targeted at stopping the World Economic Forum where Nigeria would have been able to showcase itself as the largest economy in Africa and premier investment destination on the continent.
"For this reason, the president has summoned an emergency security council meeting to address the crisis head on," he said.
Security and response agencies confirmed that a Mazda vehicle laden with explosives was detonated about 50 metres away from the bus station, which had been closed since the first bomb attack on March 14. They said last night’s bombing occurred just before 8 pm.
A security source, who spoke to THISDAY, said the explosion occurred at a temporary park constructed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), where vehicles pick up passengers en route to Zuba, another suburb of the FCT.
The busy park, coupled with traffic jam caused by the stringent searches carried out by the military at a checkpoint a few metres away, had lately increased commuters' traffic in the area and made it a soft target for terror attacks.
Speaking on the casualties, the Press Officer at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ezekiel Monzo, put the number of victims at 12 dead and 30 injured.
He said there was every possibility that some of those taken to the hospital may have died on their way
Monzo told THISDAY the bomb went off at 7.55pm and security operatives and rescue personnel were quick to respond to the incident and evacuated victims from the scene of the blast.
According to him, about 30 persons were affected by the blast and had been taken to the Asokoro General Hospital.
However, in another statement by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the agency said 21 victims were taken to various hospitals in Abuja.
The statement, which was signed by the Public Relations Officer, NSCDC, Emma Okeh, said nine lifeless bodies had been deposited at the mortuary while 11 unconscious victims were receiving medical attention at different hospitals in Abuja.
“The public are urged to cooperate with security agencies and avoid rushing to the scene to guard against hampering the efforts of the various agencies working together to ensure public safety,” Okeh said.
Confirming the statement by NSCDC that victims were moved to various hospitals, a source at the National Hospital, Abuja, said six badly burnt bodies were brought to the hospital last night and deposited at the mortuary, while eight other injured persons had been admitted.
In their statement, the police said 12 were confirmed dead while 19 were injured.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, said 31 victims were affected by the bomb blast, adding: “We suffered an explosion at about 7.55pm. The impact of the explosion led to the destruction of other five vehicles in addition to the car with the improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We have so far lost 12 citizens and 19 suffered various injuries.
“Various security agencies, the police, NEMA, military, civil defence corps and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), amongst others, are working together to maintain order.”
Mba stressed that it was too early to speak or speculate as to who committed the attack and warned that the casualty figures were provisional as they could change as the night progressed.
Speaking on the incident, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations in the FCT Police Command, Balla Ciroma, said with the traffic gridlock, it was hellish for rescue and security personnel to reach the venue of the blast.â€¨
Also, an army officer, who did not want to be named, said the security agencies were alerting members of the public that there was a second bomb within the neighbourhood that was yet to be detonated.
“Let everyone move out for a buffer, this environment is not yet safe. You need to move while we try to diffuse the bomb. If you are not in a uniform, for your own safety please move,” the military officer advised a THISDAY reporter who had rushed to the scene of the attack.
Shortly after the incident, THISDAY learnt that two Camerounian suspects were arrested at the scene of the blast.
Confirming this, security sources said their personnel nabbed the suspects who claimed to be foreign nationals and could not speak English.
An eyewitness also confirmed that it was a Mazda car that was used for the bombing and that three suspects drove by, parked the car and started running.
“As people started pursuing them, the car exploded creating panic and pandemonium that helped them to escape,” the witness said.
Another eyewitness and staff of THISDAY, Mr. Tony Abulu, said he had a narrow escape, having come near the scene of the explosion to repair one of his electronic gadgets.
Abulu said three people who were in the Volkswagen Golf car parked close to the Mazada died instantly.
Joseph Ocheme, a businessman, also gave a vivid description of the incident, stating: “We were in the traffic because of the security checkpoint and we noticed a smoke in one of the vehicles before the blast. The car in the front caught fire immediately.
“We saw the people running away and I saw about five people dead in that instant and I could hear people who were being roasted alive, shouting for help.
“The perpetrators ran in different directions. This situation could have been worse had it occurred during peak hours. We thank God that not many people were around but we have been warning about the dangers of the traffic snarl.”