Naija Notes: A Brief History of Bomb Blasts in Nigeria

“My uncle was in the balcony of our house talking with a friend and the force of the explosion threw them down,” Remi Oyebanji told the Associated Press. “They’re both dead.”

Bad news is like a thief. It doesn’t knock to be let in. Like the thief, it finds an open window, it slips in and surprises you.

That was how the news of a blast (no one can as yet confirm whether it was a bomb blast or not) snuck up to us yesterday afternoon, surprising and robbing us of our Sunday afternoon joy.

Call it mere coincidence, but I was quick to recall that the last time Lagosians were rudely interrupted by a blast, it was a somnolent Sunday afternoon and it left a trail of blood and tears in its wake.

Last week, Naija Notes had commemorated the fist anniversary of the Lagos bomb blast and I recall saying a short prayer for the family of the deceased and the displaced. Little did I know that another disaster was afoot.

Yesterday’s blast caught my family and me at a bad time. We were at my elder brothers for lunch. It was his birthday and the clan had gathered to celebrate with him. I was working on his computer when the wife, in anger, turned off the low quality pirated movie she was watching when we entered. Switching to Channels television she screamed: “Another Bomb blast o!”

The afternoon took on a different hue from that moment. The gloom thickened when I got to my house and my landlord’s “boys” were massed outside, their football game terminated as they tried to reach friends in Lagos Island on a mobile phone. Their office is situated on Idumagbo Street where the bomb blast took place.

The office was damaged as were so many houses on the street and twenty four hours later, despite visits by the president and state governor, no details have emerged on what caused the blast and this being Nigeria we may never know.

Unlike the January 27 2002 bomb blast , this latest blast has an immediacy that is difficult to ignore. Some one I know has been affected and will no doubt be counting his losses as I write. And when I get home tonight, I will have to drop by and express my sympathy and lend my ears to some tale of pain and loss. And who knows how this will affect my rent when it falls due. This is Nigeria, you know.

OBJ was there yesterday and unlike what transpired in Ikeja, the man managed to keep his mouth, as Zebrudaya would say, “in a permanent condition of shut up!” But keeping mum is not enough. The man must translate his taciturnity into action. He must ensure that investigators and forensic experts are in place and on time to dig into the cause of this blast.

One more thing, as I learnt yesterday, the Idumagbo area has a large population of Zaireans. Don’t ask me what they are doing there. The thing is to find out whether they had anything to do with this blast. With a war raging in the Congo and our ports as porous as ever, smuggling a high-grade bomb into Lagos is not out of the question.

And this is by no means an indictment of the Congolese. One is just being proactive and cautious. Because with the high human and material toll exacted on Idumagbo, one can not afford to let this go just like that. The state and federal governments owe us this much.

And for students of history, even if of the gory variety, a brief run down on the history of bomb blasts in Nigeria:

    May 31, 1995: Ilorin Stadium. Just before launch of Family Support Programme.

    January 18, 1996: Durbar Hotel, Kaduna. Suspected bomber killed. Said to have bought a copy of Wole Soyinka’s book prior to blast.

    January 20, 1996: Aminu Kano Int’l Airport, Kano.

    April 11, 1996: Ikeja Cantonment, Lagos.

    April 25, 1996: Airforce Base, Ikeja.

    November 14, 1996: Murtala Mohammed Airport. Claimed the life of the Chief Security Officer.

    December 16, 1996: Bomb blast rocked Colonel Marwa’s convoy.

    December 18, 1996: Bus belonging to Lagos State Task Force on environmental Sanitation hit.

    January 17, 1997: Bus belonging to Nigerian army hit.

    April 22, 1997: Blast in Evans square claims 3 lives, injures several.

    December 13, 1997: Lt_Gen Oladipo Diya escapes death at Abuja airport.

    May 12, 1997: Ibadan gets its first dose in front of Federal Min. of Works and Housing at Eleyele Road, near Jericho Hospital.

    January 27, 2002: Bombs stored at Ikeja cantonment explode leading the death of over 1000 Lagosians fleeing in fear.

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