Onitsha Bomb Explosion & Limits Of Police Spinning Or Distorted Facts
(Intersociety Nigeria, 4th May 2016) –“Spinning” is a police public relations methodology, designed to reduce deceitfully, the gravity of casualty figures, property destructions and distortion or suppression of general facts associated with social vices or disturbances; for the purpose of manipulating public opinion and saving police image or sustaining its mechanical legitimacy. In other words, it is a sustained distortion or corruption of facts of the matter or information by the police. “Spinning” is very common among policing entities of the third world or developing countries, owing to their failed intelligence, gross incompetence, lack of effective preventive policing, graft and inability to carry out their established duties and functions. To ensure these, scene of crime figures and facts are brutally mangled and information grossly corrupted or distorted in the context of “official crime findings or criminal statistics”.
Onitsha Bomb Blast: The True Story: “Kara” is a settlement quarter along Atani-Ogwuikpere Federal Road, in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State. Its left side is dominated by Nigerian citizens of Hausa-Fulani extraction; who have settled in the area for over 30 years. It was formerly a cattle depot and slaughter. The area has a large space, occasioned by the presence of an inter-State electricity high tension wire, leading to erection of kiosks, shanties and other makeshift dwelling and trading structures. Its main entrance, down to Otumoye Primary School, is surrounded by kiosks and shanties from left, right and center. The area is very popular and serves as poultry, sugar-cane, suya and onions markets. It also houses Hausa-Fulani laborers, cobblers, artisans etc. At its boundary with the SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Nkutaku and the Otumoye Primary School in Okpoko Layout, lays a thriving commercial sex business. At the right side of the Road are mechanic workshops, repairing assorted brands of vehicle. This section of “Kara settlement” is dominated by Nigerian citizens of Igbo extraction.
In the evening of Tuesday, 3th of May, 2016, between 8.30pm and 9pm, there was a heavy explosion with deafening sound; resulting in people around the area including parishioners of the SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church, at Nkutaku, scampering for safety. From Atani Road, down to Iyiowa Layout was thrown into panic. In the morning mass held at the St Gregory Catholic Church in Iyiowa Odekpe, the officiating priest of the Parish informed his parishioners how he got a distress call from the Parish Priest of the SS Peter & Paul Parish, informing him of the blast and its deafening noise. The SS Peter & Paul Parish shares a perimeter fence with the “Kara settlement”. As early as 8am in the morning of 4th of May, 2016, the scene was already besieged by security agencies in Onitsha zone. Some of the earliest visitors are the authorities of the Nigerian Navy, Ogbaru Post and the Onitsha Military Cantonment.
More security agencies, politicians, humanitarian, human rights and media bodies including Prof Peter Katchy (deputy chairman of Nigerian Red Cross, Anambra State), Mr. Victor Aguluo (chairman of Ogbaru LGA) visited the scene between 10am and 11am same morning. The Board Chairman of this organization in his capacity as human rights activist, volunteer general of the Nigerian Red Cross in Anambra State and a trained criminologist, was also part of the visit. The eyewitnesses’ accounts of what actually transpired were totally in tandem with circumstantial observations and common sense.
A key eyewitness and leader of the settlement, Alhaji Sabo Mohammed later informed the visiting Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations (DC-OPS), Mr. J.B. Kokomo; accompanied by DPOs of Okpoko Police Station (CSP Kayode Olabanji), Fegge Police Station (SP Rabiu Garba), Central Police Station (SP Mark Ijaradu), Nteje Police Station (SP Daniel Barnabas) and that of Inland Town Police Station that “a young man came to one of food restaurants located at the center of the settlement at about 8.30pm and demanded for a plate of food. He quietly dropped two rubber-cans containing undisclosed fluid substances, took few spoonfuls of his ordered food, left the food unfinished as if he was going to ease himself and never came back. Few minutes after, there was a loud explosion hitting the food kiosk and injuring its customers”. This empirical account is corroborated by those of other witnesses including victims. They sharply contradict police account or angle (explosion resulting from ignition of stored fuel in jerry-can).
The explosive devices only shattered and burnt the food kiosk. Other surrounding shanties, kiosks and nearby conventional buildings like SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church, the First Baptist Church, the Good News Hospital and a nearby four storey building were not affected. The initial figure given by the Nigerian Red Cross, Ogbaru Division, as it concerns the victims; was seven. It later rose to about 11. Five were admitted at the Chioma Hospital in Ogbaru; one at the nearby Good News Hospital; one in critical condition with round-the-body bandages, was admitted at the nearby Multicare Hospital while others were admitted at the St Charles Borromeo Hospital in Onitsha and other undisclosed ones in Asaba, Delta State.
For records and technically speaking, there are varieties of low intensity explosive devices that are cheaply produced and can easily be detonated. They are presently in possession of malicious non-State actors around the world including Nigeria. These can easily be produced and manipulated by fresh graduates or under graduates of tertiary institutions particularly graduates and students of science and technology. With little tutorship, their end-users and handlers can successfully detonate them against their targets. Combination of their low and high intensity is generally classified as “Certain Conventional Weapons (CCWs)” or “Incendiary Explosive Devices”. They are also scornfully called “poor man’s grenades or explosives”.
These include petrol bombs, improvised explosive devices, anti personnel landmines etc. Incendiary explosives or devices can cause low intensity fires leading to destruction of sensitive equipment or body burns and cuts. Produced using thermite, magnesium powder, chlorine triflueride, white phosphous, etc; when detonate, these can cause painful and cruel injuries to the victims including body-burns and body cuts; usually difficult to treat medically.
The high intensity CCWs are capable of causing widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructures. The United Nations has placed global ban on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCWs) through the CCWs Convention of 1980. Another example of CCW is anti personnel landmine (APM).
Distorted Police Angle: While the Anambra State Police Command admitted that there was an “explosion”, it unprofessionally linked it to “ignition of stored fuel in jerry-can”. Our expository questions to the Command are: What is explosion? Does it not include loud and deafening sound or noise? Can explosion and its loud noise or sound occur from ignition of a hand-held plastic gallon or can with premium motor spirit? If stored fuel in jerry-cans were ignited or lit, why were surrounding and littered kiosks, shanties and other makeshift structures including commercial sex shanty brothels not caught up in flames?
Why were the fires or flames not extended to nearby conventional buildings (i.e. SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Good News Hospital, the First Baptist Church and a nearby four storey residential building)? Was there the presence or intervention of any fire service on the scene? How many shanties, kiosks or makeshift structures were burnt other than the referenced food kiosk? Why did some victims sustain body-cuts? If the incident was a mere flame from stored fuel, was it also responsible for high presence of the authorities of all security establishments in Onitsha zone and beyond? Why did many of the security establishments spend over thirty minutes or an hour on the scene? Why was the security beefed up around the area if it was a mere flame from stored fuel? How many of such “minor” infernos in the State have attracted such high presence of security agencies and government establishments?
One of the main reasons behind our visit to the scene is to ascertain factually and empirically what happened and how it happened through eyewitnesses’ accounts purified by commonsense, technical expertise and circumstantial observations. We knew the State Police Command was going to “spin” or distort the facts. As a matter of fact, if it was the DSS that first visited its angle or on-the-spot findings would have expressly been linked to “another IPOB or secessionist homicidal plots targeted at Hausa-Fulani citizens in Onitsha”.
The Onitsha bomb blast is a wakeup call on security agencies in Anambra State and the entire Southeast and South-south regions to wriggle themselves out of their securitization slumbers and sharpen their mental security and intelligence capacities so as to rise and tackle the incessancy of public security and safety threats gripping the citizens. There is need for radical restructuring of the country’s ailing and epileptic intelligence policing or securitization. Flooding every nook and cranny of the Southeast and the South-south regions of Nigeria with uniformed men and women brandishing automatic weapons or robbing road users with same, is nothing but anachronistic and gun-culture securitization.
Visiting the crime scenes after the havoc has been wrecked is a worse policing methodology of modern time. Modern security is holistically rested on preventive and intelligence policing. On the other hand, self vigilance remains the most effective form of informal or non-State actor security and safety approach. People of the Southeast and the South-south must maintain a round-the-clock vigilance in their places of worship, markets, offices, homes, schools, motor parks, garages, relaxation spots and even public transport routes. We remain committed to advocacy campaigns for security and safety of all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, class, section, age or sex.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348180771506