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EASTER SUNDAY BOMB BLAST: WE LOST 100 MEMBERS - OKADA RIDERS

By NBF News
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BY LUKA BINNIYAT & NDAHI MARAMA
The commercial motorcycle riders  under the aegis of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association said yesterday  that over 100 of its members died in last Sunday's car bomb explosion in Kaduna which claimed 36 lives.

Kaduna State Police however disputed the casualty figure of 36 given by the State Emergency Management  Agency (SEMA), saying, 'it is a lie!'. The police said 11 were killed while 16 sustained grievous injuries.

Residents pull burnt motorcycles off the street in northern city of Kaduna Sunday after a car explosion killed at least 37 people on April 8, 2012. AFP PHOTO

Vanguard investigation yesterday showed that of  the two wounded persons taken to St. Gerald Hospital, Kakuri, one had his wrist amputated and had to  undergo surgery to remove some objects lodged in his body.

At the 44 Army referral Hospital, Kaduna  military medics did not allow Vanguard  access to the 19 injured victims being treated for various degrees of injuries. It was however gathered that three of the victims had been treated and discharged yesterday.

At the Rakiya Memorial Hospital, on Ibadan Road, the Director of the Hospital, Dr Mohammed Bello told Vanguard that nine injured persons were brought to the Hospital on Sunday. According to him, of the nine, two sustained very serious injuries that needed urgent attention in a  bigger hospital, and were rushed to the 44 Army Referral Hospital.

He said he had treated and discharged four, and still had three under treatment.

One of them, Mallam Bala, 35, a Businessman, and father of a daughter spoke to Vanguard at the hospital, recalling his experience.

He said: 'I was on my way home after purchasing some rolls of film for my camera. I was driving a Honda CRV jeep. My daughter had just completed her Q'uran recitation class and we were going to celebrate it. I had taken a turn from the Ahmadu Bello Stadium roundabout and was heading back home around 9:30am.  I saw a Honda car flashing its hazard light and coming in the opposite direction on the other side of the lane. It was speeding. It was an ash coloured car. I noticed all this under a few seconds. Then at the junction of Sarduana crescent, as we approached each other from the different sides of the road, I suddenly saw the car blast into pieces followed by a loud explosion. The car behind him, was thrown into the air.  Almost the same time my jeep was lifted into the air. Yes! My car was taken high into the air.

'Within that short period, I don't know if it was in the air that I came out, or it was after it landed that I came out. But, my car did not fall upside down. I have the pictures.

'I was outside the car, my shirt was on fire but, my arm was affected more, as you can see. I think it was the fuel from the exploded car. When I gathered myself, I saw human beings lying dead.  There were human parts all over the place. People were screaming and just running. Fire started in some areas. I was in pains. My handset, Driver's License and wallet containing N180,000 were scattered on the ground. I had no strength to go for them. I saw someone take the wallet and just walk away. I could do nothing about it. The scene was too sorrowful to bother about those things. Right now, I am concerned about my health.

'The man that brought me here took my phone away, after he gave it to me to place a call to my wife. He and some people rescued me. But I still thanked him for helping me here. May Allah reward him. I thank God that I am responding to treatment. Not many like me got so lucky.

'I want to tell the people that are carrying out this cruelty to understand that they cannot be killing innocent people and think they are fighting for God. If they have an issue with the government, they should find ways of resolving it, and  not take human lives. Since God created us as human beings, we have by no choice of ours become one human family. We must treat each other as such. It does not matter what you believe in. But, as a Muslim, I want to say that Allah has no place for such people in his Paradise.'

Vanguard also Spoke to  Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mallam Mohammed Abubakar Jinjiri on the phone for an update on the tragedy, where he disputed the number of deaths given by SEMA.

Vanguard: Sir, sorry about yesterday's tragedy, has the death toll risen above 36 now?

Police:  I don't know where  you the Press are getting your  figure from.  Official figure before me confirms that the death toll is 11. My officers went round the hospitals. We were given this figure by the hospitals, not hearsay.

Vanguard: But Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) gave their figure as 36 deaths, 13 injured. They are among those that took the corpses and the injured to the Hospitals.

Police: They are lying! I am yet to get a contradictory figure from the Hospitals.

Vanguard: Some people, I understand have come to remove the corpses of their loved ones for burial, maybe  you did not include that number.

Police:  Then where is the record from the hospital to say so?

Vanguard: From eyewitness, the death toll looks higher. . . (cuts)

Police: Unless if the death toll has reached that number just now. I am telling you that early this morning the figure from the hospital is 11 deaths, 16 injured.

Vanguard: Has there been any arrests?
Police:  We are investigating and we are getting useful clues. At this point, I don't want to say anything that will harm our efforts. As soon as we are ready, we will tell the press our findings.

But the Secretary-General of the Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria(ACOMORAN), Nasir Mamman  told newsmen yesterday  that over 100 of  their members died in the blast.

He said: 'yesterday was  very dark day. I said dark day for us because we lost our members and other innocent Nigerians.  We lost about 100 of our members. It is indeed very unfortunate. We prayed that God will give their family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. We are still authenticating the numbers. It is very sad!

'We urged  the government to ensure the security of lives and property  of citizens, we are not blaming anybody in particular. We are calling on the state government , especially the SSG who is one of our patrons to look into the proposal the association sent to the government aimed at sanitizing the way and manner our members behave and operate

'We have submitted this proposal to sanitize the union. Part of the proposal is the need for screening anybody before becoming our member. We don't just want anybody to come into the trade just like that. If the government had worked with our proposal, by now we would have told you authoritatively the number of our members that died in the incident.

Meanwhile, all the parks and recreational spots in Kaduna town were virtually empty yesterday.

But, all the Churches visited by Vanguard were open for the Monday Esther worship amidst heavy security.

At the St. Mary Catholic Church, Unguwan Borro, police and church security men frisked worshipers for metallic objects before allowing them in. Cars were parked about 100 metres away from the church building.

A Parishioner, who volunteered as a security guard, Dr Kato Bulus, a physicist and retired worker from  the Kaduna Refinery  told Vanguard that: 'The essence of the violence against the body of Christ is to discourage Christians from worshiping the true God. A jihad has been declared on us. But  the more they attack us, the more the devil diminishes in our estimation, because you can see God is doing our battle. The enemies of God are kicking for their last breath, before the kingdom comes down on them', he said.