The average Nigerian has no doubt been exposed to terrorism on different fronts. While some groups have inflicted terror or Nigerians, some fled during the dark days of the military from what they called “state sponsored terrorism”. Though many (especially those who were born in the 80s and 90s) erroneously assume that the scourge of terror in Nigeria started with the Boko Haram sect.
The beginning of terror attacks cum violent religious fanatism in Nigeria however dates back to 1980 when a religious sect founded by the late Malam Muhammadu Marwa alias Allah Ta-Tsine or Maitatsine held sway in Kano.
The sect held on to an ideology that opposed modernization and Western influence. Those who read any other book apart from the Qur’an were seen as candidates for hell. The average Maitatsine follower abhorred the use of anything that had to do with Western technology, wrist watches, radios, automobiles, motorcycles, and bicycles inclusive.
By the time the group unleashed violence on Kano in 1980, the shock felt by many Nigerians was beyond description. As at the last count, 4,177 people died in the melee that became known as the “Maitatsine crisis.”
It is still believed in some quarters that the Matatsine crisis was an offshoot of the May 1980 Zaria crisis in which Christians came under attack and their properties were destroyed by Muslims. Just about seven months after the religious disturbance in Zaria, Malam Muhammadu Marwa and his followers took to the streets in Kano and started proclaiming their brand of Islam to be superior to every other one, including Christianity. Before long, they unleashed violence on people perceived to be “infidels”, killing and wounding many.
The orgy of violence was eventually ended by the Nigerian Army since the Kano State Government had hesitated to take decisive action to curb the violence. Malam Marwa was wounded during the clash with the army and he died soon afterwards. His body was promptly buried by his followers, but the authorities ordered that it should be exhumed and publicly cremated apparently to prevent his followers from converting his grave into a shrine.
Though Malam Marwa’s death in December 1980 was believed to have marked the end of the sect, in October 1982, Maitatsine-styled attacks were witnessed in Bulumkuttu, close to Maiduguri. And by March 1984, the sect reared its head again, this time in Yola where one of Marwa’s disciples, Musa Makanaki led the group that unleashed violence on the city. The “Yan Tatsine” was eventually brought under control by the army.
About thirty years after, the Northern part of Nigeria is again faced with wanton destruction of lives and property caused by the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, also called Boko Haram, a group with a similar ideology to the Maitatsine.
Links Between Politics And Terrorism
There are strong indications that a strong link exists between terrorism and politics, at least in the Nigerian context. A buried government gazette unearted by Street Journal revealed the role played by the Late Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi in the December 18, 1980 Maitatsine riots in Kano. Not only was Rimi indicted by the Kano Disturbances Tribunal of Inquiry set up by the Federal Government for not dealing with the Maitatsine affair before the December, 1980 crisis, the panel concluded that if the matter had been well handled by the Chief Executive of the State, lives and properties would have been saved.
The tribunal which had Justice Anthony Aniagolu, Alhaji Ustaz Abdullahi, Chief TA Fagbola, Col Datti Abubakar and Ambassador Oluremi Adesola as members received a surprise as Governor Rimi testified before it.
Abubakar Rimi had admitted in evidence that he wined and dined with emissaries of Maitatsine. This was also corroborated by one of the wives of the late fanatic who disclosed that as Governor, Abubakar Rimi usually sent money to her husband for the family’s upkeep: an action that was least expected of the chief executive of as state.
More than three decades after, the trend has barely changed. The Boko Haram sect has given indications that it had links with some state governments in the past. For instance, it has been discovered that most of the Northern state governors then supported various armed youth gangs. Those youths were found useful during elections as they would unleash violence and scare opponents away thus allowing a free flow of rigging. For instance, the former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff allegedly received support from ECOMOG, a group he funded and allegedly armed. One of the members of the group was also made a Commissioner, just to appreciate the support rendered by the group.
Trouble however started when the financial aid stopped coming from the government. Incidentally, most of the members of ECOMOG are said to belong to the Boko Haram sect.
The sect has also made claims that most of the northern state Governors paid them to spare their states of violent attacks.
Nigeria’s Long List Of Terror Attacks
Before the 19th October, 1986 incident, the last time many Nigerians heard of an explosion was during the Civil War. Though officially, the murderers remain unknown and no one has been charged, Nigerians have continually opined that the death of Dele Giwa, the Editor in Chief of Newswatch Magazine via a parcel bomb was an act of state terrorism. Till date, many still find it hard to talk of the incident without mentioning the names of General Ibrahim Babangida and Col Haliru Akilu of the Military Intelligence then.
About 9 years after Dele Giwa was cut off in his prime, precisely on March 31, 1995, Nigeria was rocked by another bomb. The explosion occurred at the Ilorin Township Stadium during the launching of Family Support Programme initiated by Mrs. Maryam Abacha, the wife of the then Head of State.
General Abdulkarim Adisa who represented the First Lady defied the Army General’s eagle and spears on his shoulders as he wept openly in the stadium. He accused the perpetrators of trying to embarrass him at home before the First Lady and the Head of State. Adisa promised to get to the root of the matter. Many however believed that his hands were tied as the perpetrators were people he could not confront
By January 18, 1996, it was the turn of the city of Kaduna. An explosion at the popular Durbar Hotel claimed the life of Bagauda Kaltho, the Northern correspondent of The News Magazine.
While testifying before the Human Rights Violation Commission, ACP Zakari Biu who spoke for the police said Kaltho who was in the bathroom when the explosion occurred was trying to plant a bomb in the hotel when it exploded and killed him. Biu was retired but later reabsorbed into the Police Force. He later got into trouble with the authorities after the mysterious escape of a suspected bomber.
Just two days after Kaltho’s death, another explosion was recorded at the international Airport in Kano.
The bombing spree then moved to Lagos and on the 25th day of April, 1996, an explosion rocked the Nigeria Airforce Base in Ikeja.
The Chief Security Officer of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Olushola Omoshola and Nelson Gbolahan Kassim were killed by car bomb on the 14th November, 1996. The explosion occurred near the airport.
The Police also testified on the incident at the Human Rights Violation Commission headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa. The claim put forward by the police was that Omoshola was an agent of the National Democratic Coalition and that he was examining a bomb to be planted in the airport when it suddenly went off.
Lagos witnessed yet another explosion on December 16, 1996 as the Lagos State Military Administrator, Colonel Buba Marwa’s convoy was hit by a bomb explosion. And two days later, a bus belonging to the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation was destroyed by a bomb.
The bombers who had apparently gone on recess resumed on April 22, 1997. That day, an explosion at the Evans Square killed three people and wounded several others.
Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State too had its fair share of the bomb attacks that spread through the country then. Ibadan’s turn came on 12th May, 1997 when a bomb explosion hit a military truck in front of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing near Jericho Hospital.
It became obvious that military formations and some officers were targets when the then Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya escaped death at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja on the 13th December, 1997. His official car was blown and he only escaped the blast because he had to visit the toilet. The picture however became clearer when he was arrested a week later for plotting to oust the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha. The inference most Nigerians eventually drew was that the “dark goggled” Head of State’s goons were on the loose and they were the ones responsible for the spate of bombings.
People who had thought explosions were gone for good in Nigeria with the exit of the military government soon had cause to fear as multiple explosions rocked the Ikeja Military Cantonment after the accidental detonation of explosives. At least 600 people died as a result, most of them drowning while trying to escape artillery shells that wrought destruction all around the area.
By 2005, the bombings had moved southwards. On May 28, 2005, a bomb explosion was recorded at the residence of the Ikono Head of Council in Akwa Ibom State.
Bayelsa State had a bitter taste of the action on November 25, 2006 when parts of the PDP Secretariat in the state were destroyed.
One Godwin Aigbekhai was killed by a car bomb in Owan Easr Local Council of Edo State on 28th November, 2006.
When dynamites exploded at the campaign office of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the then Governor of Bayelsa State on December 5, 2006, it became clear to all that in the new wave of bombings, anyone could be a target. Six days later, another bomb attack was recorded in Delta State as Ndudi Elumelu’s campaign office in the Aniocha/ Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State was attacked by thugs who used dynamites.
And two days before Christmas in 2006, MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) claimed responsibility for a car bombing incident right in front of the Government Office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
A secondary school student was blown to bits in by a bomb on a farm in Nassarawa State on March 18, 2009.
The same year, bomb attacks shifted to the oil facilities as MEND staged an attack on Atlas Cove, an oil facility in Lagos using dynamites and rifles. Five people died in the process.
Nigeria also witnessed another letter bomb incident in 2009. A letter bomb purportedly targeted at the Superscreen Television exploded midway to the TV station’s office.
In another incident involving a media house, two bombs detonated at the post amnesty dialogue organised by Vanguard Newspapers in Warri, Delta State on March 16, 2010 killed one person.
In Jos, 18-year-old Abdulsamad Muhammad suffered multiple bruises and also had his hands chopped off when he was injured by a military grenade at the Dadin Kowa area on April 11, 2010.
On the 2nd of May, 2010, a car exploded in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, near a guest house owned by Peremobowei Ebebi, the state’s former Deputy Governor. The following day, action moved to Melford Okilo Road where an explosive device was detonated at a mechanic’s workshop.
The bombings rose to a nationally embarrassing level when two car bombs exploded near the Eagle Square, Abuja during Nigeria’s 50th Independence anniversary parade on October 1, 2010. Twelve people were killed while about 40 sustained various degrees of injuries. Henry Okah, the main suspect is still being held in South Africa where his trial will begin in October.
Plateau State again came under attack on December 24 when an explosion in Jos killed about 30 people. Another explosion was also recorded on the 27th, when a bomb exploded at Barkin Ladi on the outskirts of Jos.
2010 ended on a sad note as some of those who had gone to celebrate the end of the year at the Mammy Market in Mogadishu Barracks died after a bomb explosion.
In 2011, the elections were threatened by a series of bomb attacks. The first one came on April 7; an explosion hit a polling unit at Angwar Doki in Maiduguri. At least ten people were injured in the blast. The following day, 11 people were killed as a result of a bomb explosion at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Suleja, Niger State. A week after, 15th April to be precise, youths riding on a motorcycle, threw a locally made bomb into the premises of the Maiduguri office of INEC.
In Kaduna, two suspected bomb makers died in an explosion on April 21, 2011.
Several bomb blasts were also averted during the year 2011. For instance, on a blast was averted at an INEC collation centre in Oron, Akwa Ibom State on April 27 a few hours to the commencement of voting in the state. Also on June 11, 2011, a bomb explosion was averted at the United Methodist Church, opposite the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi during a church service.
On the 25th April, 2011, Tudu Palace Hotel and Kano Motor Park in Maiduguri were ripped through by three loud explosions.
May 28, 2011 was a sad day in Bauchi as 13 people were killed by a blast that occurred at the Mammy Market of Shandawanka Barracks in the town. About 40 people were injured. The following day, 8 people lost their legs after an explosion at Zuba, a suburb of Kubwa in Abuja.
A new trend emerged as suicide bombing was introduced by the Boko Haram sect on June 16, 2011. To demonstrate their invincibility, the target of the first suicide bombing was the Police Headquarters in Abuja. The next suicide bomb attack was targeted at the United Nations Building, also in Abuja. The explosion there on August 26, 2011 left 21 people dead and 60 others wounded.
The now worrisome spate of bombings continued unabated. A deadly attack was carried out on Christmas Day, Sunday, 25th December, 2011 at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla in Niger State. At least 25 bodies were recovered while scores of other people were injured. Kabir Abubakar, aka Kabir Sokoto alleged to be the brain behind the Madalla bomb attack escaped from police custody in mysterious circumstances.
The attacks from the Boko Haram sect on the Northern part of Nigeria continued on Friday, January 20, 2011. It was a black Friday as the city witnessed over 30 explosions. Targets hit included the Police Headquarters at Farm Centre, the SSS office, Immigration office and other government buildings. More than 160 people died in the incident while many more sustained injuries.
Though security agencies have been called upon to step up security measures all around the country and the entire leadership of the Police Force had to be changed over the Boko Haram issue, Nigerians are unanimous in their belief that the battle is still far from being over.