Two explosions ripped through parts of Kaduna in Kaduna State on Wednesday, killing at least 70 people.
The first explosion targeted a popular Islamic cleric, Dahiru Bauchi, while the second targeted a former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Both men escaped unhurt in the blasts that forced the state government to impose a 24-hour curfew on the city.
Scores of people were injured and over 50 cars damaged in the incidents. The state police command put the death toll at 40 while the Federal Government, through the National Information Centre, said 14 people were injured.
Two of Buhari’s bodyguards and an aide were among the wounded. His Toyota Prado jeep was also hit by a suspected bomber near the 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army in the Kawo area of Kaduna.
There were two accounts of how the bomber attacked the motorcade of Buhari, who is also one of the national leaders of the All Progressives Congress.
While one had it that the bomber, on sighting Buhari’s convoy hauled explosives at it, the second claimed that the bomber rammed his Toyota Sienna into the motorcade.
An eyewitness, who gave his name simply as Idris said, “The suicide bomber hauled explosives at the convoy of the former Head of State but one of the cars in the convoy and a Toyota Prado conveying Buhari were hit.
“He was shielded into a Toyota Sienna that took him away from the scene.”
Another witness, who did not want his name in print, said the bomber rammed his vehicle into the convoy of the general, hitting his jeep and others cars.
“In fact, a car in the convoy was badly damaged. Buhari escaped narrowly. We doubt if his security operatives escaped unhurt”.
On the busy Alkali Road in the city centre where the first bomb targeting Bauchi exploded, one of our correspondents saw body parts and damaged cars littering the area.
Bauchi had delivered a Ramadan lecture (Tafsir) at the Murtala Square and was driving through the area in an open-roofed vehicle, greeting well-wishers when his attacker struck.
Eyewitness said the lone bomber,who rode on a motorbike followed the convoy of the cleric after the lecture. He was said to have been blocked by security operatives who suspected him but he forced his way through the crowd and detonated his explosive.
Security operatives were seen conveying the wounded to a nearby hospital and the Nigerian Army Reference Hospital for treatment.
Efforts by one of our correspondents to contact Bauchi failed as he was said to have been moved to an unknown location.
Followers of the renowned cleric reacted angrily, throwing stones at security operatives and accusing them of failing to protect Nigerians.
The security forces retaliated by firing tear gas canisters.
However, state Police Commissioner, Shehu Umar, put the death toll in the first blast at 25 and 14 in the second.
Umar said, “For now, we have recorded 25 dead bodies. People had just closed from the Ramadan Tsafir led Sheik Bauchi, and we provided enough security at the Murtala Square, the venue of the Tafsir, but the bomb was planted far away from the venue, to target him through the route he was taking home.
“We are doing our best to safeguard the country, so we are appealing to the perpetrators to lay down the arms.”
•Yero orders 24-hour curfew
Governor Muktar Yero,who condemned the blasts, explained that the curfew was imposed to enable security operatives to restore normalcy to the city.
Yero, in a statement by his Director-General, Media and Public Affairs, Mallam Ahmed Mayaki, described the bomb blasts as the height of “cowardice” by those bent on creating tension in the state.
The governor said the explosions were a clear manifestation of the resolve by “agents of darkness” to soak the land with the blood of innocent people for no just cause.
He said, “Enemies of peace have visited us with their wanton destruction of human lives. These blasts, coming in the Holy Month of Ramadan are a clear indication that those behind them have no fear of God in them.”
The governor advised the people of the state to be more vigilant with happenings around them and to also avoid crowded places.
He said, “The time has come for us to eschew all our differences and confront these brazen attacks as united people.
“Those behind these attacks have no regard for whatever diversity as their victims cut across all ethnic and religious divides. It is a responsibility on all of us to unite against this common enemy.”
While commiserating with the families of the victims, the governor also enjoined the people to provide information on suspicious movements and persons within their communities.
•Buhari alleges assassination attempt
Buhari, in a statement personally signed by him, alleged an attempt to assassinate him.
He said he was on his way to Daura in Katsina State when the bomber struck at about 2.30pm.
The APC leader added that his security details were affected by the blast but “I came out unhurt.”
The statement read, “I was personally involved in a clearly targeted bomb attack today (Wednesday) at about 2:30pm on my way to Daura.
“The unfortunate event, clearly an assassination attempt came from a fast moving vehicle that made many attempts to overtake my security car, but was blocked by an escort vehicle.
“We reached the market area of Kawo where he took advantage of our slowing down and attempted to ram my car and instantly detonated the bomb which destroyed all the three cars in our convoy.
“Unfortunately, when I came out of my vehicle, I saw many dead bodies littered around. They were innocent people going about their daily business who became victims of a mass murder.
“Thank God for His mercy, I came out unhurt, but with three of my security aides sustaining minor injuries. They have since been treated in a hospital and discharged.”
The Chairman of NIC and Director-General of the National Orientation Agency, Mr. Mike Omeri, said 25 people died in the blasts and 14 injured.
Omeri said, “It (first blast) happened around 12.10pm. It was a vehicle parked among vehicles. Towards the end of the Ramadan fast, special prayers are offered by Muslims. At the end of it, while people were dispersing, the explosion occurred.
“About 25 persons have been reported dead. Fourteen others suffered different degrees of injury. They are receiving treatment. Security forces and emergency services mobilised to the area. This underscores our continuous call for citizens to be vigilant as security forces intensify efforts to stop this menace.
“As we were about to come here we learnt that another explosion occurred in Kaduna.
When asked if Boko Haram was responsible for the blasts, Omeri replied, “Whoever it is, whether it is Boko Haram or not; we know that our people are being attacked and the government is doing everything possible to stop it.
“That is the issue with insurgency. It is meant to harass citizens. It explains the heinous nature of this menace; women and children are subjected to torture through explosions. It should be condemned by all citizens and we should stand together to find a solution to it.”
Also, the Deputy Director, Public Relations at the Department State Security, Ms. Marylyn Ogar, said the bomb used in the first attack was detonated by a remote control.
She said, “Sheik Bauchi normally holds annual Ramadan prayers. His convoy missed being hit by a whisker. We will not be presumptuous by saying that he was targeted. Investigations are ongoing. If we have enough details to confirm that he was targeted, it does not change anything.
“The fact still remains that we must remain very, very vigilant. In this particular incident, the bomb was laden in a Peugeot J5 and it was remotely detonated. That is why we insist that we must be a little bit conscious of our environment.”
•Jonathan thanks God for sparing Buhari’s life
President Goodluck Jonathan however condemned the bombings and thanked God for sparing Buhari and Bauchi, who were said to be the targets.
Jonathan, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, denounced the targeting of political and religious leaders by terrorists.
He said he had directed the police and other security agencies to take all necessary actions to apprehend the perpetrators of the attacks.
The statement read, “President Jonathan condemns the bombings in Kaduna today (Wednesday) which appeared to have targeted a former Head of State,Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, and a prominent Islamic cleric, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi.
“The President denounces the dastardly targeting of the prominent political and religious leaders by terrorists and enemies of the nation in an odious attempt to inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear, insecurity and sectional divisions in the country.
“While thanking God Almighty for sparing the lives of Gen. Buhari and Bauchi, the President extends sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed by the bomb blasts.
“President Jonathan also commiserates with all those who were injured in the twin bombings in this Holy Month of Ramadan which defy the tenets of Islam, and provide further proof that the terrorists are nothing but blood-thirsty extremists bent on undermining the unity and progress of the nation.”
•Sultan, ACF condemn blasts
The Sultan of Sokoto-led Jama’atu Nasril Islam also condemned the twin bomb blasts and called on the authorities concerned to rise to the responsibility of protecting Nigerians.
JNI, in a statement by its Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, advised that all hands must be on deck to stop the massacre of Nigerians by terrorists.
The statement read, “We are dazed by the news of the twin blasts in Kaduna city, which claimed the lives of many innocent Muslims.
“We therefore condemn in the strongest terms, these repeated acts of terror being unleashed on Muslims, in this blessed month of Ramadan. JNI equally sympathises with all the affected victims and also consoles the families of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incidents. May Aljannatul Firdaus be the abode of all the deceased.
“As usual, JNI calls on all authorities concerned to be more committed to their responsibilities of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerians as no development can be achieved in an atmosphere of fear, insecurity and chaos.
“All hands must be on deck to stop this perpetual massacre of people and destruction of properties.
“Muslims should utilise the remaining days of Ramadan to complain to Allah, The Most Merciful, through vigorous supplications for relief, succour and ease against the masterminds of the nagging insecurity bedevilling our country.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum described the explosions as a national calamity and called on the Federal Government “to decisively use all legitimate means and security apparatus at its disposal to tackle the insecurity that is gradually destroying our nation.”
The ACF, in statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim, added that “the present insecurity situation in the country, especially in the North, has placed our people in a state of despair and helplessness, it has also crippled the socioeconomic activities of the region.”
It advised that synergy between security agencies and other organs of the society in the area of intelligence gathering and utilisation was necessary in combating terrorism in the country.
The group said, “The twin bomb blasts in Kaduna that killed hundreds of innocent people and injured many amounted to a national calamity, a disservice to humanity and a great shock to the nation, especially in this Holy month of Ramadan.”
The forum appealed to the terrorists in the country to lay down their arms and embrace dialogue.
It called on the Kaduna State Government to “swiftly investigate these wicked acts of terrorism against the people of Kaduna that have witnessed relative peace in the last two years.”
Also, members of the Buhari Vanguard said they were shocked that the blasts targeted Buhari and Bauchi.