Just when residents of Kaduna, the Kaduna State capital, had thought that they had gone through a crisis-free Eid-el-Kabir celebration, the merchants of death Sunday struck again at St. Rita Catholic Church in the Malali area of Kaduna metropolis, killing 10 people. Over 100 others were also injured in the suicide bombing which has thrown the city into an uneasy calm and has attracted condemnations from President Goodluck Jonathan and Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal.
The Archbishop of Catholic Diocese of Kaduna Matthew Man’oso Ndagoso has warned against reprisals, urging Christians not to play into the hands of those bent on plunging Nigeria into a crisis. The incident occurred at about 9 am when the officiating priest, Rev. Fr. Michael Bonni, who was one of those injured in the attack, was about to administer the Holy Communion.
A lone suicide bomber, who was said to be driving a Honda CRV sport utility vehicle (SUV) with registration number Kaduna AE979ZKW, rammed the vehicle into the fence of the church and the impact triggered the explosion that killed him instantly. A part of the church building said to be the children’s section was shattered. Some residential houses neighbouring the church were also affected by the blast, while vehicles, whose numbers were yet to be ascertained, were destroyed.
The incident triggered panic and tension as churchgoers in many parts of the metropolis abandoned their church services and scampered to safety for fear of the unknown. The streets suddenly became deserted as commercial buses and motorcycles deserted major roads in Kaduna. Also, many Muslims, who had gone to do business in Christian-dominated areas such as Sabon Tasha, Narayi, Television, Gonin-Gora and other places, fled for fear of reprisals, immediately the news of the suicide bombing spread.
Many others who were stranded took refuge in police and army security units to escape any reprisal, while a combined team of armed soldiers and policemen were immediately deployed in the streets to prevent any breakdown of law and order. Although there was no official confirmation as to the number of those who were injured, sources said about 100 people, mostly women and children, might have been affected.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said that seven people, including the bomber, were killed in the incident. An official of the agency, who craved anonymity, 100 people, mostly children, were injured.
He said majority of them sustained minor injuries and were treated and later discharged. According to him, “The deputy governor, Alhaji Ramalan Yero, visited the hospitals this evening along with NEMA officials and I can confirm that seven people, including the bomber, died.
“Over 100 people, mostly children, sustained injuries. Many of the injuries are minor and many of them were treated and those affected were discharged this (yesterday) evening. Many more would be discharged tomorrow (today).” But in an official statement from NEMA, its Head of Public Affairs, Mr. Yishau Shuaibu, said 10 people were killed in the blast.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Mr. Sunday Ali, however, confirmed that 14 of those injured were brought to the hospital with five of them in a critical condition. Ndagoso also confirmed that four people died, adding however that the number of those injured was still being collated from the five hospitals where they are receiving treatment. He said Rev. Fr. Bonni was the only person receiving treatment at the Multi-clinic and that he was in a stable condition.
Other hospitals where the victims were taken included Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, 44 Army Referral Hospital and Garkuwa Hospital all in the Kaduna metropolis. Speaking in an interview when he visited the victims at the St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Ndagoso described the attack as the most inhuman thing any person could do to a fellow man.
According to him, “It could have been worse. I have gone round all the hospitals where those injured were taken to in Kaduna. The saddest part of it is the small children that where affected. “The impact was at the children’s section of the church. All the five hospitals I visited so far most of the victims were children. You begin to wonder that a human being in his full senses could do this kind of thing.
“I think that people who can do this kind of thing need sympathy. I am convinced that they are out of their own mind because somebody who can do this kind of evil can't be said to be normal. “I know it is a very difficult and painful thing, but my message to the Christian community is the fact that difficult situations do not make us less Christian no matter how difficult the situations are.
“In the same vein, difficult situations do not make us less human. We remain human and even in the most difficult and trying situation. “This is my call to Christians and Catholic youths, never should they retaliate. I urge them not to retaliate because two wrongs can never make a right. “I am convinced that there are a few individuals in this country who really want to plunge this country into a difficult situation and they will stop at nothing.
“So my call to Christians and Muslims is that the vast majority of us who believe in this country should never give them the chance, no matter what they do; we must ensure that we shame them. “Rev. Fr. Michael Bonni was the only one at the Multi-clinic. He was the one conducting the mass when the incident happened. He told me that the bomb blast happened at the point of kiss.” Jonathan, in a statement Sunday by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, described the explosion as “barbaric, cruel and uncalled for”.
He said the apparent objective of the criminal and unpatriotic elements and forces behind the attack was to set back the progress the administration had made in the fight against terrorism. “It is obvious that these people do not mean well for Nigeria and its unity and development,” he added. The president, however, expressed confidence that the war against terrorism would become more unrelenting as the nation would never give in to the forces of terror and retardation.
He explained that the persistence of the terrorists would not prevail over the will of the government and the people to secure peace and safety. “Our efforts to deal with all acts of terror and violence would only be redoubled, even as the security agencies continue to receive all the support they need from government to reverse this unfortunate and unacceptable trend that threatens the peace and stability of our nation,” Jonathan said.
He commiserated with the Catholic Church, family members and friends of the victims of the bombing, assuring them that government’s resolve to deal with the threat of terrorism remained strong. Tambuwal also sympathised with the victims and their family members and urged them not to despair, but to remain resolute in supporting government to fight terror.
The speaker, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, added that the attack on innocent worshippers and other bystanders was both callous and senseless. He urged Nigerians to do more to destroy the ability of the terrorists to unleash mayhem on innocent, peaceful and law-abiding Nigerians. He also expressed the commitment of the House to continue to support all efforts aimed at securing lives and property in the country.