Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nigerian Government Arrests Suspects Over Bomb Blast at United Nations House

Govt arrests suspects over bomb blast at UN House

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 00:00
From Alabi Williams (Lagos), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Oghogho Obayuwana, John-Abba Ogbodo, Collins Olayinka, Nkechi Onyedika and Lillian Chukwu (Abuja)

THE Federal Government has announced the arrest of some suspects in connection with last Friday’s bombing of the United Nations (UN) House in Abuja.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja, said President Goodluck Jonathan would give details of the arrest and other security measures put in place by the government at the appropriate time.

At a joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, Ringim said the government had stepped up security in all the accredited diplomatic missions in Nigeria.

Ringim said the decision was taken at an emergency security meeting, adding that government would henceforth ensure that an upgraded security cover is given beyond the physical structures of the missions, such as the provision for the personal safety of all envoys.

He spoke as the UN appealed to families protesting their exclusion from arrangements for the evacuation of their injured relations in the bomb blast to South Africa to remain calm.

The global body said its determination to save the lives of the victims informed the sudden trip on Sunday.

It said further arrangements were concluded yesterday to fly more victims abroad, adding that the UN is planning to take one or two family members to stay with the wounded in the South African hospital.

Last Friday, a suspected suicide bomber in a car crashed into the UN House in Abuja, killing several Nigerians and other nationals, who worked with some UN agencies.

The new security move is part of efforts to ensure that relations between Nigeria and other nations do not suffer on account of the blast.

Craving the understanding of the international community of the new dimensions of terrorism, Ashiru, who was flanked by Ringim and the ministers of state, Prof. Viola Onwuliri and Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed, said “everything is being done to make Abuja as safe as possible.

Security has now been stepped up not just for the general good of all but especially for your persons, mission buildings and facilities.

“International terrorism has taken a new dimension. We believe that concerted efforts have to be made by everyone of us in confronting and defeating the evil. This is not just limited to Nigeria. What is needed now is sensible action and collective responsibility.

We are providing that here and will be counting on the global community’s support.”

Acknowledging that mails from the diplomatic community had been pouring into his office requesting for security guarantees and coverage, Ringim said: “Whatever the requests are, I have been mandated to look into them and provide whatever is within our resources and means. I want to assure you that Nigeria’s security agencies have been charged to leave no stone unturned to making your jobs go smoothly.”

Disclosing that some arrests had been made over the bomb blast, the police chief said: “I want to also let you know that security agents have made some arrests. Mr. President will make a pronouncement on that at the appropriate time.

But you will have all necessary security that you require. Of course, the government, security agencies and the intelligence circle are concerned about what has happened. We have discussed and reached a strategy on how we can provide further security. We are serving not just only Nigerians in this but also collaborating with agencies in the entire West African sub-region.

In this regard, we will go round from mission to mission to further discuss with you and know all that you require in terms of security. We will meet your needs in order that you may feel more secure in Nigeria and relations do not suffer in this regard.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli and French governments have assured Nigeria of support in these trying times.

A statement by the Israeli government yesterday through the Israeli embassy, noted among others that “Israel severely condemns the car bomb attack which targeted the UN compound in the Nigerian capital.”

Also, France in a statement by its Minister Foreign and European Affairs Alain Juppe, described the incident as an “attack on humanity.”

It said France condemns “this heinous and cowardly act. In these tragic circumstances, France reaffirms its solidarity with the UN agencies, its personnel, and with respect to their efforts on behalf of the Nigerian people.”

In a reaction to the grievances expressed by the victims’ families on the South African trip, some UN officials told The Guardian yesterday in Abuja that with the arrival of the ambulance to take the injured to Johannesburg and the critical conditions they were, it was necessary that certain protocols be set aside in the efforts to give them better treatment abroad.

Although, the death toll is expected to be higher, 23 persons have so far been confirmed killed in the blast by the Federal Government and the UN.

Last Sunday, the UN medical team took four of the critically injured from the Intensive Care Unit of the National Hospital, Abuja to the Mil Waker Trauma Centre, South Africa for further treatment.

But yesterday, one of the victims’ family, said “a worrisome dimension” was introduced by the UN at the point of departure of the wounded to South Africa.

A worried man, who described himself as the next of kin to one of the victims, told The Guardian that they were summoned to a meeting by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro at the Transcorp Hilton at 4.00 p.m. on Sunday while their wards were being prepared for the South African journey.

He said when they returned to the National Hospital, they were told that their wards had been airlifted without any approval from their relations.

“It really looks fishy, adequate approval should have been obtained from us because we don’t have full details of where they were taken to in South Africa.

“At least, a family member should have been made to accompany them (victims) on the trip. Yes. We agree they should be evacuated for better medical care but we should have been there at the point of departure,” the source said.

The Guardian learnt that after Migiro arrived in Nigeria, spirited efforts were made to transfer some of the victims from the National Hospital to Johannesburg, which the families accepted.

The Country Director of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. David Okello, said: “I have received several relatives coming to basically say they were not consulted when evacuation of the victims was being made.

I understand their concern but we are dealing with a very delicate situation here. We have a team of experts that have come, some from New York and are working with national doctors.

“We want to reassure the families that this evacuation is to save lives. I want you to understand and remain calm. Yes, they would have been there at the point of departure but some of the relatives were not in the hospital, and a quick decision had to be made as the air ambulance was waiting.

I am sorry if there are issues about the notification at the point of departure. The time of having to wait was not there. We lost too many lives and we are not ready to lose even one more. I know four people have already arrived in South Africa now but under critical conditions.

“There are a few others (victims) going this morning (yesterday). Relatives should appreciate that the evacuation is a decision to allow the injured to come off the trauma alive.

The UN is discussing the idea of one or two close relatives of each victim to accompany the patient. I think all these can be arranged without any drama.

“They have evaluated all the injured of the blast and a decision was made to try and save lives. Those who are critically injured with blasts in sensitive parts of the organ have to be evacuated as a matter of urgency. So the evacuation is to try and save the lives of the injured and we have to understand that this is a medical decision taken by those who are taking care of these patients to save their lives under intensive care and facilities in South Africa,” he said.

Okello added that prompt departure was key to saving “these precious lives and this is the utmost priority of the international bodies.”

He said that the WHO medical officials would continue their relentless service in Nigeria and “people should understand that we are traumatized now but we will see how we will re-programme ourselves. We need an office space and we are in contact with government on this.”

Meanwhile, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the suicide bomb attack on the UN office, describing the “mindless violence as counter-productive to peace and progress.”

Atiku in a statement yesterday, noted that indiscriminate violence against the innocent could not solve any problem in any society, stressing that there is no alternative to dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

He said as an international institution committed to peace and the well-being of humanity, the UN officials should be protected at all times rather than being attacked for whatever reason.

And worried by the Federal Government’s apparently inability to curb well-orchestrated acts of lawlessness and other threats to national security, some eminent Nigerians under the platform of Project Nigeria, have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to quickly convoke a conference where the future of the country would be addressed.

The group made up of seasoned bureaucrats, human rights activists and professional associations made the plea after a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State at the weekend.

In a statement issued at the end of the parley, which was signed by Chief Audu Ogbeh, a leader of the Action Congress of

Nigeria (ACN) and Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the body wants the President and the National Assembly to work out the modality to enable a revisit of the Nigerian federation.

The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has also condemned the blast at the UN office describing it as unfortunate and unacceptable.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, ABPP National Chairman, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said that the growing incidence of insecurity in the country had become unacceptable and urged the government to protect Nigerians and their property.

Similarly, the NBA has charged the government to prioritise the deployment of intelligence gathering as a means of curbing the spate of bombings in the country.

Its National President, Joseph Daudu, made the plea yesterday in Abuja at the public presentation of Project Swift Count, the final report of the April general elections.

He argued that the use of road-blocks to check for bombs in cars had proved to be a futile strategy, which he claimed had added to the hardship faced by the people.

Author of this article: From Alabi Williams (Lagos), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Oghogho Obayuwana, John-Abba Ogbodo, Collins Olayinka, Nkechi Onyedika and Lillian Chukwu (Abuja)

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