Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Suicide bomber strikes near Jonathan’s rally venue

A lone suicide bomber blew herself up near the Gombe Stadium, venue of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign in Gombe State on Monday.

Before the incident which occurred minutes after the rally ended, suspected assailants threw explosives at three high courts in Port Harcourt, Degema and Isiokpo in Rivers State. They also vandalised another court in Omoku.

The Gombe bomber killed two passers-by and injured 18 others while the car used by her was engulfed by fire.

“The bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber. I can confirm that the incident occurred shortly after the rally had ended,’’ an eyewitness told The PUNCH.

He said ahead of the rally which was attended by top Federal Government officials and the Peoples Democratic Party chiefs, security reports had indicated that there were plans to embarrass Jonathan and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, during the event.

This, he said, led to security beef-up around the stadium and other parts of the state which in less than three weeks had recorded three bombings.

As part of extra security measures put in place during the rally, PDP supporters were restricted to specific areas far away from the state box and the podium where Jonathan and the party leaders addressed them.

On the streets of Gombe, heavily armed policemen and soldiers condoned off all areas that served as routes to the stadium and back to the airport.

Jonathan and his delegation wasted no time after the event as they proceeded straight to the airport where they flew back to Abuja.

It will be recalled that unfavourable security report had forced Jonathan to cancel his campaign slated for Damaturu, Yobe State.

In Rivers State, the attacks on the four courts prevented judicial workers who had been on eight-month strike from resuming work.

It was gathered that the   high court in Degema, Degema Local Government Area, was completely razed ostensibly by the explosion. But the impact of the blasts on the two courts in Port Harcourt and Isiokpo was not very serious.

A source   told The PUNCH that the high court on Obor Road in Omoku, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA was vandalised by   hoodlums, who forcefully entered the premises and destroyed some documents.

The incidents, according to sources, happened simultaneously in the wee hours of Monday.

The state Police Command Public Relations Officer, Ahmad Mohammad,   said though no life was lost, security operatives had a hectic time   putting out the fire at the Isiokpo High Court.

Mohammad, in a statement, added that the Bomb Disposal Unit of the command had begun probing the incidents.

The statement quoted the   Police Commissioner, Dan Bature, as saying that he was saddened by the ‘senseless’ attacks on the courts.

It read, “The Rivers State Police Command wishes to confirm that in the early hours of Monday, 02/02/2015, coordinated attacks were launched on   court premises at Degema, Isiokpo and Port Harcourt with explosive devices suspected to be dynamites by unidentified and unpatriotic assailants.

“Minimal damage was recorded in the Port Harcourt and Isiokpo scenes without affecting the court building and documents while at Degema, the court building was razed down and documents burnt. No life was lost.     Areas are now under Police control while Police BDU has commenced discreet investigation in earnest.

“It took the instant efforts of policemen, particularly at Isiokpo and Port Harcourt, to extinguish the fire resulting from the explosions and stop it from spreading beyond the point of impact.

“The commissioner of police is deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless attacks on the temples of justice. We must realise that violence is never and will never be a solution to problems.”

Mohammad, however, said that the command had put in place, measures that would lead to the arrest of those behind the acts.

He   appealed for the cooperation of members of the public towards the success of the investigation.

“The command has already put in place efforts that will lead to the arrest of the actors and sponsors of the attacks while soliciting for the usual cooperation from members of the public to assist the police in this regard,” the command’s spokesman said.

The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt, Dennis Okwamkpam,   expressed pessimism over early reopening of the courts as a result of the incidents.

Okwakpam solicited for a joint meeting among security agents, the leadership of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria and other stakeholders with a view to ensuring that the courts in the state worked again without the fear of being attacked.

He decried the blasts and vandalisation,   pointing out that no state or nation could   develop without the judiciary.

The courts in Rivers State had   shut down since June 10, 2014, over the disagreement between the National Judicial Council and Governor Rotimi Amaechi on who would be the Chief Judge of the state.

Judiciary workers were also on strike as a result of the attacks on the   courts in Ahoada East and Etche LGAs.

JUSUN National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kayode Igbarago, had directed members of the union in the state   to go back to work.

Igbarago, who cautioned that no member of the union should be victimised as a result of the strike, explained that the decision to call off the strike was reached at the end of the union’s National Executive Council meeting on January 26.

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