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MADALLA BOMB BLAST VICTIMS BURIED AMIDST TEARS

By NBF News

VICTORIA OJEME, LAIDE AKINBOADE,CALEB AYANSINA & FUNMI OLASUPO

ABUJA  – Amidst tears, yesterday, the families, friends and members of St Theresa's Catholic Church, Madalla, buried victims of last  Christmas day bomb blast which claimed the lives of 43 persons.

The occasion nearly turned chaotic when the crowd that had assembled for the occasion booed the Emir of Suleja, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim, and prevented him from alighting from his car to deliver his goodwill message as requested by the Parish priest, Rev. Father Isaac Achi.  After his arrival at the gate of the church, the emir  was delayed for over 10 minutes before he was allowed inside the compound.

Tears from relatives as victims of the Madalla bomb attack were given mass burial yesterday. Photos: Gbenga Olamikan

He stayed in the car while the church service for the victims was held. The emir, who was later called by Rev. Father Achi to come and give his goodwill message, was firmly rejected by the crowd with shouts of no!no!!  The crowd was restive and insisted that he must not make any speech.

A source later told Vanguard that the security operatives in the area told the Emir to leave the venue, even before the burial of the victims.

Meanwhile, in an interview with journalists, representative of President Goodluck Jonathan, Deputy Chaplain of Aso Villa, Pastor Abba Mishella, assured Nigerians that the Federal Government was set to collaborate with other international security agencies to curb the menace of terrorists in the country.

He said:  'We believe there would be an end to all these bombings soon. The Federal Government has started doing something with the change of the leadership of the Police and we believe there would be a reform in the Police; that would bring about credibility in the things the security agencies are doing.

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'Of course the international community is committed to helping Nigeria combat terrorism, the United Nations, the European Union and  other nations like United States of America are also committed. It would be a collective thing because terrorism is not just a Nigerian issue, it is a global issue.'

Senator Ayogu Eze, who represented the Senate President, Senator David Mark, urged Nigerian Christians not to relent in prayers but be strengthened in faith.

Sympathizing with the church, he said:  'Be not afraid or behave like those who do not have hope to be able to see the end of the wicked people.'

Also speaking, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, the Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, urged Christian faithful not to allow the insecurity situation in the country to take them away from God. The cleric said:  'Furthermore, they were killed in an atmosphere of threats and rumour of violence intended to discourage them from going to church. Like the holy Innocents of Bethlehem, they deserve to be listed among the martyrs who died for the sake of and in the name of Jesus.

'Therefore, we have come not to bury the dead but to celebrate the victorious entry of martyrs into paradise. We must not mourn like those who have no hope, they have not died in vain. A true martyr dies for his or her faith.

'Those who kill others for their own faith or ideology are simply murderers who have absolutely no right to usurp the noble title of martyrs.' He  described the Christmas day bomb blast as an indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and children.  In his remarks at the funeral service, the Catholic Bishop of Minna Catholic Dioceses, Most Rev. Martin Uzoukwu, said violence only leads to destruction and death, stressing that on the other hand, peace and love foster progress and development.

The atmosphere at Madalla was melancholic as victims of the bomb blast were committed to earth at the church premises. When Vanguard visited the town yesterday, it was discovered that more security personnel had been deployed to beef up security. The town is among those affected by the recent state of emergency  declared by the Federal Government as a result of activities of Boko Haram.

There were scores of gun-wielding security men on duty along the Suleja-Madalla Road where the church is located. The security operatives, comprising soldiers, policemen, State Security Service, SSS, personnel and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, occupied over 200 metres on both sides of the road leading to the church.

The church, cordoned off by armed security men, was packed full with relatives, sympathisers and worshippers. The atmosphere was heavy  with grief, and wreckage of the  vehicles damaged by the blast were occupied by some mourners  dressed in black, while others in casual dresses wept openly.