Panic gripped residents of Maiduguri, Borno State capital yesterday as multiple explosions from mortars fired by suspected Boko Haram insurgents hit the troubled town, killing one person and injuring 16 others.
The explosions occurred a day after gunmen, believed to be terrorists, attacked the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum at Baga.
The governor yesterday blamed the attack on military saboteurs, threatening to call the civil populace to take their destiny into their own hands if the soldiers fail to secure the important trading town.
Confirming the explosions, the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Aliyu, said one person was killed in the attack, while 16 others were injured.
He said the casualties were recorded in three explosions at the outskirts of the state capital.
Aliyu said the explosions occurred in Mairi, Custom and Gwange areas of the metropolis.
He said the actual cause of the explosions was yet to be ascertained, but that police teams had been dispatched to the areas.
He said: “We have dispatched our Explosive Ordinance Detection (EOD) to investigate the incidents and to determine whether it was an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Right now, I am at the Specialist Hospital where we have 16 casualties and one dead so far,” the commissioner said.
The sounds of the explosions were heard all over the town, sending many into a panic.
Security personnel comprising the army, police, Rapid Response Squad, Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were seen moving to the scene to restore normalcy.
Speaking on the explosion, a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force, who preferred anonymity, said mortars were fired at the town by Boko Haram.
He said the explosions from the mortals shook the town and killed two persons, injuring about 20 others.
Bornu Gov Blames Military Saboteurs for Convoy Attack
Meanwhile, Governor Zulum, yesterday blamed Wednesday’s attack on his convoy by gunmen, believed to be Boko Haram terrorists, on military saboteurs, saying he did not believe there was any insurgent in Baga where the incident occurred.
The Nigerian Army, which is also probing the killing of an officer by an apparently depressed soldier, has, however, launched an investigation into the attack on the governor.
Zulum apprehended military saboteurs as the brain behind the incident, contending that there were no Boko Haram fighters in Baga, in view of the large number of troops in the town.
He threatened to mobilise the local populace to secure Baga if the military is unable to do so.
Narrating the incident to reporters in Monguno yesterday, Zulum said: “As far as I am concerned, what happened in Baga was complete sabotage by the military. There is no Boko Haram in Baga.
“I wonder because we have over 1,181 soldiers in Baga, 72 officers, 107 soldiers; 400 soldiers in Mile 4 and 1,900 soldiers in Monguno. I see no reason why only five Boko Haram will stop them from occupying Baga town.
“The troops have been in Mile 4 for over one year; there is complete sabotage; the problem is not with President Buhari or General Buhari but the command and control structure. There is a need to look into the command structure.”
On why he visited the area, he said: “We have over 80,000 IDPs in Monguno; they cannot continue to depend on NGOs and others for food. We have created opportunities for them to go back to their communities and continue with their business and farming activities.
“After Sallah, we are going to allow people to go back to Kukawa and we will give time to the military.
“If they will not clear Baga, we will mobilise our hunters, CJTF and vigilantes to recapture Baga. We cannot continue like this. People have taken their destiny in their hands.”
Zulum’s Special Adviser on Media, Mallam Isa Gusau, narrated how the governor and his entourage escaped the attack, saying they crawled for some metres to escape, adding that some of them sustained injuries.
Gusau, in an interview on BBC Hausa Service yesterday, said the governor had embarked on a humanitarian trip to the Baga area of the state based on information provided by soldiers that they had liberated the town from Boko Haram insurgents.
He, however, said the governor and his team were in good condition.
Gusua said he was not in the governor’s convoy when it was attacked, adding that before Zulum embarked on the trip, the soldiers had assured the governor that the town was no longer controlled by the insurgents.
“I was not there physically. The governor was heading to Baga from Monguno because the soldiers told him they had liberated Baga from the control of Boko Haram.
“But along the way, the insurgents opened fire on the governor’s convoy and everyone scampered for their lives,” he added.
Gusau explained that some of those in the convoy including policemen and other government officials sustained injuries.
“They crawled for a distance on their knees. They sustained injuries. The Boko Haram insurgents were shooting,” he said.
Army Launches Probe, Vows to Apprehend Attackers
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army, in a statement issued yesterday by its Public Relations Officer (PRO), Col. Sagir Musa, said it was probing the accident, adding that the governor’s convoy came under fire from terrorists while visiting Baga town.
It said Zulum had earlier visited the Commander of the 19 Brigade at the Nigerian Army Super Camp Baga, where he was fully briefed about the prevailing security situation in the state.
“The unfortunate incident occurred shortly after the governor and his entourage departed the Super Camp to visit other parts of Baga town. The incident forced the governor to abort his planned movement to Baga,” it added.
Musa said although details of the incident were sketchy and under investigation, efforts were ongoing to comb the area where the incident occurred with a view to tracking and dealing decisively with the attackers.
He said: “An investigation is also in progress to identify the circumstances that led to the attack.
“Regrettably, this is an isolated and most unfortunate incident that occurred in a territory where normalcy has since been restored with socio-economic activities picking up.
“The Nigerian Army wants to reassure the general public that this will be interrogated with a view to forestalling future re-occurrence.”
He said the Nigerian Army would continue to discharge its responsibilities professionally with respect for the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians and in compliance with the extant rules of engagement.
“The good people of Baga town and indeed the entire Borno State are enjoined to continue to provide credible information that will assist the security agencies to successfully combat terrorism as well as apprehend and flush out the perpetrators of the attack,” he said.
Depressed Soldier Kills Officer
The Army Headquarters has also said a trooper serving in 202 Battalion of 21 Special Armoured Brigade Bama, Borno State went berserk at about 10.30 hours on July 29, 2020, and fired at an officer (a Subaltern), which led to his death.
Musa said the incident occurred when the soldier approached the officer who was standing in front of the unit’s headquarters and was making a phone call.
“The soldier has been arrested. He is in custody undergoing investigation. The general situation in the unit is calm.
“The remains of the deceased officer have been evacuated to 7 Division Medical Services and Hospital,” he said.
He said the investigation into the case was instituted to determine the circumstances that led to the incident.
He stated: “The family of the deceased has already been contacted. The Nigerian Army sympathises and condoles with the family at this trying moment and pray to the Almighty God to repose the soul of the departed and grant his family and other loved ones the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”