There is increased security presence in Jos, Plateau State on Saturday as operatives of the Joint Task Force rolled out more tanks in order to maintain law and order in the state.
Men of the bomb disposal unit were also seen sniffing round all the churches looking for bombs as worshippers stayed away.
The development came as no fewer than 32 persons were on Saturday confirmed killed in the multiple Christmas Eve bomb blasts that rocked Kabong and Angwan Rukuba villages in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State.
Also, more than 40 persons were said to have sustained various degrees of injuries and are being treated at the ECWA Evangel Hospital (Jankwano) and the Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos.
Explosives suspected to be bombs were said to have gone off simultaneously between 7.30 and 9pm on Friday.
The bombers had targeted the busy market place of Kabong where late night shoppers were getting foodstuff to celebrate the Christmas as well as the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Kabong where Catholic faithful had gone for the Christmas Eve mid night service.
In all, nine bombs were said to have gone off in Kabong and Angwan Rukuba.
The Police Commissioner in the state, Abdulraham Akano, who spoke to our correspondent on Saturday, confirmed the casualty figure.
The JUTH Chief Medical Director, Dr. Ishaya Pam, who spoke to our correspondent on Saturday, specifically said that 23 dead persons were in the hospital, even as another 32 persons were still receiving medical attention.
His revelation came as a mortuary attendant who craved anonymity said that no fewer than nine dead persons from the blast scenes were brought to the Jankwano hospital.
Indeed, it was a totally desolate Christmas for the residents of Jos as the capital city and Bukuru metropolis were deserted.
Almost all the churches were empty when our correspondent visited the areas on Saturday, even as heavy security presence was noticed in the metropolis.
Meanwhile, the state governor, Jonah Jang, who visited the areas on Saturday, said that he had instructed security agents to endeavour to fish out the perpetrators.
Describing the attackers as ‘criminals,‘ the governor urged every neighborhood in the state to establish vigilance groups to ward off the hoodlums in their community.
Jang who went philosophical said a child that would not want his mother to sleep would never have any rest, adding that the aim of the perpetrators was to disrupt the forthcoming elections in the state.
Later in a television broadcast, Jang said, ”This sad and ugly development is most condemnable as its masterminds and merchants of violence who trade in human pain, anguish and shedding of blood have remained undeterred in their quest of reducing our dear state into one of anarchy.”
The governor, who described the incident as depressing, commiserated with the victims, adding that the perpetrators wanted to pitch the Christians against their Muslim counterparts so as to spark off another round of violence as well as frustrate the ongoing electioneering in the state.
Meanwhile, the situation in the hospitals was compounded by the fact that workers were on strike. The two morgues at JUTH and Kanwano were overwhelmed as only a few members of staff were available to attend to the victims.
Notices were, however, pasted on their notice boards requesting them to resume duties immediately to assist the survivors of the blasts.
Blood donors were also implored to come to the aid of those who sustained serious injuries as a result of the blast.
In a related development, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, has described the bomb blasts incident as an act of terrorism.
Ihejirika, who sympathized with the victims, said the development remained a challenge that would put the Nigerian Army and other security agencies to task.
The COAS, who spoke during his visit to Port Harcourt on Saturday, also described the incident as unfortunate.
He pointed out that the situation on the ground required the Army to enhance its intelligence gathering in order to nip such security problems in the bud.
He said, ”I believe that the bomb blast incident in Jos is an act of terrorism. It happened yesterday (Friday) night. It is unfortunate indeed. Well, nobody is taking it lightly and I believe by now, the governor and the JTF commander would have made some broadcast to reassure the people that they are not left alone.
”My word to the people is that they should be strong. I sympathize with all the victims and like I said sometime ago, all these challenges put us to task and what it means is that we have to enhance our intelligence gathering to be able to nip these problems in the bud.
”You know that the operation of the JTF was launched to stem ethno-religious crisis. But the use of bombs is a terrorist dimension to it. This is why I said we need to have intelligence operations,” Ihejirika emphasized.
The COAS, who said he was in Port Harcourt and Aba to visit and celebrate Christmas with troops in operations at their various bases, debunked claims that men of the Joint Military Task Force committed genocide during their operations in Ayakoroma community in Delta State.
Ihejirika promised that the Army engineers would assist the people of the area to reconstruct buildings destroyed during the JTF operations in Ayakoroma.
He added, ”Once you fire at soldiers, they are bound to return fire immediately. But like I said before, what has happened also means that we have new challenges in trying to ensure that civilians are safe.
”But in the case of Ayakoroma community, in the course of operations, there was a collateral damage, resulting from the tactics adopted by the militants.
”So what is going to happen is that the Nigerian Army engineers will assist the people to reconstruct those buildings that were damaged whether the damage was caused by the Nigerian Army or not.”
He pointed out that the JTF was closing in on the militant leader, John Togo, even as he expressed optimism that with the cooperation of the people, the joint task force would get him (Togo).
Ihejirika added that the Army would assist the government to ensure a peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections.
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