Africa

Nigerians reel from multiplying attacks

  • 18 April 2014
  • From the section Africa
A woman react at Asokoro hospital morgue after she lost a relative following an explosion at a bus park in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday 15 April 2014

It has been a traumatic week for many Nigerians with a bomb explosion at a busy bus station in the capital followed on the same day by the abduction of teenage girls by suspected Islamist militants in the north-eastern town of Chibok.

As Nigeria correspondent it certainly feels as if insecurity in the country is spiralling out of control.

It is often hard to know which incidents to report on such is their frequency.

This week, I had been planning to head to Benue state to look into the deadly communal clashes in that part of central Nigeria - to try to move beyond the alarming statistics to answer the hows and whys.

There had been reports of more than 320 deaths there since March as villagers came under attack from heavily armed people described as nomadic herdsmen - and more than 1,000 have fled their homes from what appear to be well-armed militias.

I would also like to get back to the oil-rich Niger Delta and find out whether throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at the former militants is really the answer to building long-term stability in an area where the guns once ruled.

Image caption The oil militants of the southern Niger Delta were granted an amnesty five years ago if they disarmed

Since an amnesty in 2009, they have been given monthly salaries to stop them kidnapping oil workers and disrupting the country's vital oil production.

Seat of power

But then bloody Monday got in the way.

Of course the words "Abuja" and "bomb" together in the same sentence ring all kinds of alarm bells and the messages of condemnation and sympathy flooded in from all over the world.

It was the capital that came under attack, but did the bombing of the packed bus station, which killed more than 70 people, really hit close to the seat of power?

Not really. Let's face it, Nigeria's political elite are not seen queuing for buses in the rush hour.

Nor are they seen selling bus tickets to earn a living like 23-year-old Abdullahi Mohammed; his father Mohammed Kinafa has still not found his first son's body.

"I have concluded he is dead but after searching all the hospitals in Abuja, we have not found him," he said.

'Temporary problem'

Politicians from across the divide have visited the gory scene and appeared on TV in hospital with the bandaged, dazed victims who are all asking: "Why did they attack us?"

President Jonathan Goodluck blamed the Boko Haram Islamist militant group for the attack and vowed that the country would overcome their insurgency, describing them as a "temporary problem".

But what about the north-east, where Boko Haram seem to operate with ease from bases in remote forests despite nearly a year of emergency rule in the area?

In just the last three months there have been more than 1,500 killings in the north-east.

Now Islamist militants are driving around in convoys abducting schoolchildren.

Some distraught parents from Chibok have set off into the dangerous forest themselves to look for their daughters, about 100 of whom are still missing.

It is not the first time schools have been targeted. Boko Haram - whose name means "Western education is forbidden" - frequently targets educational institutions.

A school in Yobe state was hit in February with 29 boys butchered in their dormitory.

The military has failed to bring peace to the north-east and with a divisive election looming next year the politicians struggle to even sit in the same room to work out how to stop all this carnage.

But then their daughters do not go to remote boarding schools in Borno state.

Maybe that is why they get accused of ignoring the bullets and bloodshed and focusing on the ballot box.

Image caption President Goodluck Jonathan visited some of those injured in the bus station bombing

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