Sad show goes on in Nigeria
Instead of having only celebratory fireworks on the 50th anniversary of independence in Nigeria, the capital Abuja experienced another kind of fireworks.
Sounds, like those of bombs and blasts were heard during the celebration, and by the time the sirens stopped, 12 people had been killed.
Shortly after, in far away South Africa, an arrest was made. Spokeswoman for the Nigerian secret police, Marilyn Ogar said Henry Okah, former leader of the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was taken into custody in connection with the blasts.
Henry Okah, for his part, has proclaimed innocence, but is expected to be charged.
MEND, the militant movement boldly proclaimed that it was responsible for the attacks – and planted the two bombs to go off five minutes apart.
In the confusion that followed the explosion, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said “terrorists” were responsible, without making a direct link to militant group, MEND.
And what on earth is MEND?
It is a group that for ages, has been fighting for a “fairer” distribution of Nigeria's oil revenue, especially for residents of the Niger Delta where Nigeria's oil is extracted. To achieve its objective, the group uses tactics, such as the bomb blasts at the independence celebration last week.
“There is nothing worth celebrating after 50 years of failure. For 50 years, the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them,” said a statement from MEND.
Apparently, unnamed foreign intelligence services had warned Nigeria to expect the attack. It explains why British representatives stayed away from the parade marking half a century of Nigeria's independence.
The Duke of Gloucester, representing the Queen, and former Prime Minster Gordon Brown, had been scheduled to attend the parade but they both declined later without giving reasons.
MEND has also now revealed that it informed the Nigerian government five days before the independence celebration that it intended to cause havoc.
It later said government officials acted “irresponsibly by ignoring” the warning.
In 2009, MEND signed an agreement with the government in which former militants were given amnesty and some money in return for handing over their weapons.
Mr Okah, who was arrested in South Africa in connection with the blasts was known as the supplier of weapons for MEND. He is believed to be encouraging a splinter group opposed to the 2009 amnesty.
The government is also now known to have received a warning shortly before the blasts saying “several explosive devices have been successfully planted in and around the venue by our operatives working inside the government security services.”
Incidents of kidnapping had reduced considerably since the amnesty agreement was signed last year, but fighters for MEND are reportedly peeved that government has failed to deliver its end of the deal.
Meanwhile, Nigerian police have named two men suspected of organising the car bombings – they are Chimu Orlu and Ben Jessy, both Nigerians. No further details were given.
So the sad show just goes on in Nigeria.
While the country celebrates 50 years of independence, 12 people have paid a high price with their lives – and that's not counting those injured, and those whose lives have been wrecked.