2012 Kano mar­ket bomb­ing vic­tims’ bod­ies still give me night­mares

–B’haram at­tack survivor

The Punch - - TIME TRAVEL -

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.

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