From NOAH EBIJE and ABDULGAFAR ALABELEWE, Kaduna
A senior Air Force officer, Air Commodore Alechenu Ekagbo is one of the survivors of Sunday’s bombing at Saint Andrews Protestant Military Church in Jaji cantonment in Kaduna State.
Daily Sun learnt that the military officer, whose official residence is about 15 metres away from the scene of the bomb blast is however, in a critical condition at the 44 Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna. A close family member of the officer said Ekagbo was at his Brigadier quarters, relaxing when the bomb exploded and hit his house.
The family member said: “We thought he was dead until we got the news this morning that he was still alive but in a critical condition,” adding that the military authority has concluded plans to fly him abroad for better medical attention.
Though, as at the time of filing this report, the military authority was yet to give update on the number of death, but a source said the death toll had risen to about 40, even as military authorities barred journalists from visiting and interviewing survivors receiving treatment at various military hospitals in Kaduna metropolis. When some journalists made attempt at the 44 Army Reference Hospital to visit the wards where some of the survivors were receiving medical attention, there was resistance from the soldiers guarding the gate, saying, “My friends, go and get clearance from the Headquarters, 1 Mechanized Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna.”
When the 1 Mechanized Division leadership was contacted, it directed the journalists to go to Armed Forces and Command Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji to get permission to talk with the survivors. Similarly, when the AFCSC was contacted, its spokesman, Colonel Mohammed Dole said the press would be briefed as soon as the college was ready with facts and figures of the incident.
The Executive Secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, Professor Daniel Babayi told Daily Sun in a reaction to the bomb blast that Christianity had come to stay in the North no matter the level of bombing of churches in the region. “We Christians in the North will not retreat or surrender to Boko Haram, no matter the number of churches they bombed in the North. Christianity has come to stay in the region, nobody can chase Christians away.
This is our home, this is our country and we must remain here.” Former minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed condemned the bombings and described the attacks on innocent worshippers as sad, wicked, dastardly and a crime against humanity.
A statement issued by Emeka Nwankpa, Special Assistant on Media to the former defence minister, expressed deep sympathy to families of the victims, the Catholic Church and the authorities of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji over the loss of the precious lives in the blasts. “I Pray to God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss and I urge members of the Armed Forces not to despair in the face of the current security challenges but should continue to keep faith in the unity, peace and stability of the country.
“I hope that the current challenges will soon end, all men of goodwill to continue to join hands with the Federal Government in finding effective means of guaranteeing the peace, security and prosperity of the nation.
The statement said. Feelers from the military hospital at the Nigerian Air force (NAF) Base, Mando, Kaduna indicated that the medical personnel had to work all night to give full medication to the survivors that were brought to the hospital, even as they were said to have battled with erratic power supply all night long. Again, at the scene of the incident, it was learnt that furious soldiers smashed mobile phones of those who took pictures of the affected church with their camera phones, a day after the incident.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up at all military and paramilitary establishments, just as check points have been increased along major streets in the city with Army checking boots and bonnets of every vehicle plying the streets. All roads leading to the Headquarters of the State Police Command have been reinforced, using several disused vehicle tyres to block the roads the more.
It was also noted that in many places, the Okada Riders (Commercial motorcyclists) have to roll their motorcycles through the check points for a long distance, away from the security point before riding them. END