EVEREST AMAFULE captures the mood at Kuje market, Abuja, the day after it was attacked by suspected Boko Haram members
The hustle and bustle that usually characterised Kuje market had evaporated. Kayarda Road, which had hitherto served as the major inlet and outlet to the market, had been split in the middle. If you were driving through the road, you must divert at the junction just before the market. If you were trekking, you must tiptoe when you walk up to the junction.
Those who had the power to get near the scene that had been barricaded were security men of all shades, who had taken over the scene since some bombs had gone off on Kayarda Street, by the market, the day before.
Given the centrality of the market to Kuje people, the whole of the facility could not completely be shut down. It was as if it had been split into two. At the rear were women still selling essential commodities.
However, the area close to the road where the blast occurred was deserted by the former occupants whose wares littered the whole place, wrapped in protective bags. Very close to the troubled scene were splashes of the blood of victims consumed in the confusion that had erupted the night the bombing occurred. Of course, there were charred objects, including a bike reportedly used by the bombers.
That particular spot and its environs had been cordoned off with tapes by the security operatives. That, however, did not stop men and women, young and old, from going closer to the market to catch a glimpse of what had happened.
A fair woman with tribal marks was the centre of attention. She claimed that she witnessed the incident. Besides speaking vernacular, she spoke Pidgin English fluently. A middle-aged man asked about his customer who had been near the spot of the incident and the woman said he had been killed. According to the woman, an okada man (motorcycle rider) who conveyed the bomb had alighted from the motorcycle and bought akara – beans cake – worth N100.
She could not complete the story before a soldier arrived at the scene and dispersed the crowd.
Speaking angrily to the crowd as they dispersed, the soldier said it was wrong for them to gather near the scene for any reason because anything could still happen.
He also threatened a woman selling plantain nearby that he would throw away her wares if anybody should cross to her side again.
He said, “We are not happy that we are here. Some of us have been here since 11 pm yesterday (Friday). We have not taken our bath. You think we will go near the scene if we don’t have bomb detectors? We have recovered three unspent explosives.”
Turning to our correspondent, he said, “This is the third time I would come here to disperse them. Some of them are criminals. They want to steal the goods left here by some of the traders, so that the action would be blamed on soldiers.”
At the nearby Zamfara Park and mosque, persons displaced from the market and sympathisers also gathered in clusters, discussing what had happened the day before.
Sanusi Danijibga, a tea vendor (popularly known as Mai Shai), located near the scene of the blast, had left his stall before the incident occurred. However, his colleague, Shehi Usman, was still there. When Danijibga heard the blast, he called Usman on the telephone. Usman assured him that he was safe. He rushed back and helped his colleague to pack his wares.
They left their wares in the market. They didn’t think about the day after. Now, security operatives had taken over the scene and the environs. Danijibga and Usman had been hungry all day. When they could not endure it any longer, they went to beg the security operatives to allow them to take a loaf of bread from their stall. Their request was granted. Such a huge relief!
By the barber’s shop inside Zamfara Park, a young Nigerian Immigration Service patrol officer was seen with some other people.
The NIS officer relived his experience the previous day, saying, “I came back from work at about 4pm. Then I slept. I woke up in the night. There is a joint down there that I usually visit. I was on my way to the place when I realised that I didn’t have my identity card on me. Because I don’t like going out without it, I had to go back. I was on my way back when I heard the blast. The noise stunned me.
“When I realised that there had been bomb blast, I was happy I turned back. I usually pass through the market to the joint. In fact, there is a suya seller at that spot that I usually patronise. Now, I understand that he is dead. I know two persons that died. The brother of one of the victims passed here not long ago. I don’t know where he has gone to now.”