2012 Kano market bombing victims’ bodies still give me nightmares
–B’haram attack survivor
on Friday, January 20, 2012, some Boko Haram terrorists, among whom were female suicide bombers, armed with improvised Explosive Devices and other weapons, invaded the popular Gsm market, at Farm centre, in the ancient city of kano. in a twinkling of an eye, over half of the sprawling market was in flames. many persons were killed, including the kano-based channels tv reporter, Enenche akogwu. several others suffered varying degrees of injury. seven years after the devastating incident, ted odogwu talks to one of the survivors, shuaibu Babande, a trader, whose friend, muftau, was killed during the attack. He shares his experience and how the day, known by many as Black Friday, will ever remain the saddest day of his life
In 2012, bomb blasts rocked the popular GSM Market in Kano. What do you remember of that day? I would never forget January 20, 2012, when terrorists (Boko Haram members) invaded the GSM Market at Farm Centre, Kano. It happened around 5.20pm on the fateful day. One of my colleagues at the market was busy calling me, to tell me that terrorists had invaded the market. He also informed me that there was a bomb blast at Zone One, the office of the Assistant Inspector-general of Police in Kano. I was neither afraid nor disturbed when he informed me about the bomb blast at Zone One, Dorayi.
Where were you when it happened?
I was in the market, selling my goods, when suddenly traders in the market started running in different directions, after the bomb blasts, which rocked the market in quick succession. Some courageous traders swiftly locked their shops before running for safety, while some, who were very scared, abandoned their stalls and scampered for safety.
How long have you been a trader in the market?
I have been trading at Farm Centre since 2006 and I am still there. I used to be a mobile phone repairer but I currently sell smartphones.
What did you do when it happened?
I was in a state of shock and confusion when terrorists attacked the market as I had never experienced such an incident before. It dawned on me that it was less than one hour when I got the news that Boko Haram attacked Zone One. I never knew Farm Centre would be their next target. When they eventually struck, I made desperate efforts to escape. While I was trying to escape, I saw so many people on the ground, writhing in pain. Despite the odds, I summoned courage to scale a barbed wire fence to escape. In the process, the sharp points injured my left arm. But despite the injury I sustained, I kept at it and escaped without heading for any specific location. All that was on my mind at that point in time was how to disappear from the hot spot.
How did the incident affect you?
I lost one of my best friends, a footballer, who was among my skillful players. I am also a football coach. We have a football team at the Farm Centre. His name was Muftau. Up till this moment, I am still pained that I lost such a wonderful person during the attack. I still feel his absence.
How were you injured?
I suffered minor injuries while scaling the barbed wire fence to escape from the terrorists. The barbed wire pierced my palms and they started bleeding. The sharp points almost pierced my testicles. However, I suffered minor injuries in the process. I was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment and later recovered from the injuries. When I finally escaped, my colleagues rushed me to a nearby clinic for treatment. I was promptly treated and discharged.
Do you still remember the events of that day?
I will never forget the events of that fateful day, as it will always remain fresh in my memory. I always remember Friday, January 20, 2012 and the attack started around 5pm. The terrorists invaded the centre with IEDS and other weapons. It was a very sad and bitter experience. Each time Boko Haram is discussed, it reminds me of the attack. Also, each time I hear that terrorists attacked a place, I’m reminded of the Farm Centre attack.
Each time people gather to talk about an attack by Boko Haram on a place, it quickly reminds me of the attack on Farm Centre. The sad incident can never be deleted from my memory. It was indeed a nightmare that can never be forgotten in a hurry.
Did the government or any agency offer help to victims of Farm Centre attack?
The government offered help partially. As I can vividly remember, there was a fire outbreak at the Farm Centre market shortly after the Boko Haram attack. It was at that time that the state government, during Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s first term in office, offered to assist the victims by constituting a fundraising committee, headed by businessman, Aliko Dangote. The committee members included the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II and Alhaji Bashir Tofa. Over N500m was raised and shared to victims. Majority of the victims received about N50, 000 each. Some received as low as N13,000. What was however important is that all the victims got some relief, but not enough to compensate for the loss suffered. I lost about N1m worth of goods in my shop. All the valuables in my shop were completely burnt by the fire caused by the bomb blast but all I got as compensation was N13,000. The state government paid only 10 per cent of the worth of loss suffered by each trader in the market. There were about 10,000 traders there when Boko Haram attacked the market. Many of the victims were selling mobile phones, computers and phone accessories. Of the 10,000 traders in the market, only those who suffered losses were compensated. Eventually, the state government compensated about 250 traders who suffered varying degrees of loss.
Some reports said 11 people lost their lives, while some reported more. What did you see?
Yes, I saw some of the casualties and lifeless bodies, including that of my favorite player, Muftau, whom I earlier mentioned. Some women were also killed by the blasts. You know, there were two blasts. The second one was a lot more devastating, culminating in the loss of over 15 people or more. The second bomb attack happened shortly after the first one, following which so many people were killed. As traders were escaping from the bomb blast, some terrorists, who had laid ambush within the market fired at the fleeing traders, killing some of them in the process. It was the second bomb attack, which was more devastating than the first, that caused more damage. About two female suicide bombers, who were among the terrorists, forced their way to the first and second entrances to the market. The first female bomber detonated her IED, strapped on her bomb, killing so many traders who were close. Another suicide bomber, who attempted to detonate her IED, was overpowered by the escaping traders. They promptly set her ablaze.
The scene was terrifying. I can still remember one of my friends, Ibrahim Muazum, whom I could not recognise because the bomb shattered his body as he suffered second-degree burns all over his body. His remains were taken to Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, where I saw so many victims of the blast writhing in pain. Some of the casualties were rushed to Abdullahi Wase Specialist Hospital, while some others were taken to Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital. I counted between 11 and 15 bodies. Indeed, more than 15 people died. I only counted the ones I saw, while escaping from the war zone. I wish that such an incident never happens again in my lifetime! We suffered so many losses. Tears of agony and sorrow ran down my cheeks.
Has it been traumatic for you?
Each time I remember the attack at Farm Centre, I develop high blood pressure. It has been very traumatic. Each time I close my eyes and open them, the thoughts of victims of Farm Centre attack flash through my mind. It has been very traumatic for me.
Did you seek medical help or the help of a psychologist?
I wanted to seek medical help or consult a psychologist but failed to do that because I didn’t have money for that as the government did not promptly come to our rescue due to bureaucracy associated with civil service. Also, all the injured persons during the attack did not have funds to seek medical help because they lost all their sources of livelihood during the attack. That was the first time I would experience such a thing.
What lessons has that experience taught you?
The lessons I learnt from that experience is never to put all my eggs in one basket. All the people who did not have alternative sources of income had to start rebuilding their lives from the scratch. Survivors went cap in hand to beg for money with which to start afresh. Whenever one suffers an inestimable loss, learn to recoup your losses as nobody would do that for you.
What do you think the government should do to improve security in the market?
The government should engage the services of many uniformed security agencies to watch over the market. Some of the security officers should be in mufti to avoid detection. They should monitor the movements of people as they troop in and out of the market. Persons who roam about should be promptly accosted for interrogation. Following this measure, people trooping the market would be conscious that somebody somewhere is monitoring them. Also, the government should sponsor some of our security officers for training abroad so that they can learn from their experiences over there. When they come back, they should put into practice what they have learnt. The security agencies should also address the problem of kidnapping and banditry in the country.
Did you think you might die on the day the market was attacked?
I would have died if not for the mercy of God. God made me escape death. Also, God blessed me with the strength to flee the scene. That I am alive today is by the grace of God.
How grateful are you that you survived it?
Words are not enough to thank God for saving my life. Certainly, it was not by my power.
Do you do thanksgiving every January to thank God for saving you?
Yes, I do, and I also give alms to the needy as a way to thank God for saving my life. I was not better or holier than those who lost their lives during the bomb attack. Every January 20, I proceed to a mosque with my family members for special prayers to thank God for the abundant mercies he showered on me on that Black Friday. January 20, 2012 is a day I will never forget in a hurry. It could have been my last day on earth.