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We warned our friend to drop the object, that it was a bomb, but he said it was Allah’s gift

Posted by By Segun Olatunji on 2008/09/20 | Views: 1588 |

We warned our friend to drop the object, that it was a bomb, but he said it was Allah’s gift


If the two teenage brothers, Murtala and Mansur Yau, aged 18 and 15, had known that the seemingly innocuous object they found at the shooting range maintained by the Nigerian Army in Kachia, Kaduna State on September 9, 2008 would kill them, they wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot pole.

If the two teenage brothers, Murtala and Mansur Yau, aged 18 and 15, had known that the seemingly innocuous object they found at the shooting range maintained by the Nigerian Army in Kachia, Kaduna State on September 9, 2008 would kill them, they wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot pole.

When they left their Islamic school to scavenge for scrap metals from the shooting range, which they expected to sell, little did they realise that death was lurking around the corner. The two brothers had smiled at their luck upon stumbling on an object containing the aluminium scrap they went to look for at the shooting range.

The brothers had hardly settled down to extract the aluminium content of their catch when, suddenly, the object exploded. The impact of the explosion tore the two brothers into shreds and scattered their grilled skin on the ground like a heap of rags. Their five friends, who were also at the shooting range when the blast occured, were, however, lucky to have escaped with only serious injuries.

The injured persons were rushed to the Kachia General Hospital for treatment. Three of the survivors were discharged on Thursday last week, while the remaining two, Yakubu Yau, a younger brother to the deceased victims, and Ibrahim Dangwude were still on admission. Our correspondent gathered that they would have to undergo surgery to extract the bomb pellets lodged in different parts of their bodies.

When our correspondent visited the Ungwar Liman location of the Islamic school where the deceased brothers and their injured colleagues were pupils before the incident, the entire rustic street lined on both sides by dilapidated mud houses wore a sombre look. Alhaji Halilu Abbas Liman Nahibi, the Islamic teacher under whom the dead brothers and their injured colleagues were studying, sat on a mat in front of an expansive mud house surrounded by mourners who had come to commiserate with him over the unfortunate incident. Nahibi told our correspondent that the incident would not have occurred if the state government had kept its promise to extend a lifeline to Islamic schools.

The Islamic teacher, who said none of the victims was his biological child, stressed that poverty pushed the pupils into scavenging for scrap metals at the range. He said all his entreaties to the pupils not to scavenge at the military facility had been ignored because they felt it was they only place they could get the material. The Islamic teacher stated that the pupils would still be tempted to scavenge for scrap metal at the range because of their poor circumstances. Nahibi said it was unfortunate that only the authorities of the local government had commiserated with him since the incident occurred, expressing surprise that the military only sent intelligence officers to interrogate him on the matter.

The Islamic teacher added that it was impossible for the people of the area to heed a recent order by the military that they should relocate from their farms near the range. He stated that the farms remained their only sources of livelihood and that such an order was like passing a death sentence on the people. Nahibi said it was unfortunate that it took the death of the two teenage brothers for the people of Kachia to speak out against such explosions, which he claimed had become frequent in recent times.

He said, “I am 65-years-old. I have four wives and 25 surviving children. I had 40, only 25 are surviving. None of the dead children and other victims was mine biologically. They were all kids studying under me. I had consistently warned them against going to the shooting range. I threatened to give anyone that flouted my order 20 strokes of the cane. But when they went, I was not aware. Children are like animals. Where you ask them not to go to, they will go there without your knowledge. I did my best, unfortunately on that fateful day, I just sighted one of them drenched in blood. I asked him what happened and he said, ‘it’s a gun.– I asked him where he went to and he said they went to the shooting range. He was afraid to tell me how the whole thing happened. It was when I took him to the hospital that he opened up, saying they went to the shooting range.

“The two brothers who died on the spot found a bomb and they said Allah’s gift to them. So, one of them used a stone to hit one of its edges. When he was hitting the edge, the thing exploded and all he could say was that he just found himself in a pool of his own blood. The two brothers died on the spot. They are all migrant children who came in the quest for Islamic knowledge.

“No government official has come to sympathise with us except the chairman of Kachia Local Government. The only set of people that came from the military side were those from the intelligence unit. They asked me questions about what happened and I narrated everything to them. One of them gave me N100 to buy oranges for them. I have about 60 children under me. This kind of incident has occurred several times here. A similar explosion occurred last month. I have warned these children not to go near the shooting range again.

“The cause of this problem is poverty and hunger. How do they live in a situation where there is no money Of course, these children would have to fend for themselves. We live in abject poverty, people are really suffering. When somebody is poor, he would have no alternative than to make do with whatever means he can devise to feed himself.

“We are Islamic teachers, the government promised to assist us but up till now nothing has been forthcoming. So, in this circumstance what else can the pupils do than to fend for themselves" There is nothing we do here than to teach the pupils. If government had assisted us, it would have been better. Can you imagine, even recently the military ordered us to relocate from our farms. Where do they want us to go" We have the migrant pupils and our own immediate families to cater for. So, the pupils must scavenge in order to feed themselves and to survive.”

Narrating how the explosion occurred, one of the injured survivors, Isiaka Adamu,14, said, “One of us told the boy who found the object that this was a bomb, that he should drop it. But Mansur started hitting it with a stone. After that, he now took it and kept it beside their other belongings; that he would pick it when going home. But I later alerted them that it was time for class. But as we turned to go, we heard an explosion and immediately we saw one of the dead boys lying flat on the ground while the second one had one of his legs severed from his body. When I looked at myself, I saw blood all over my body. One of our colleagues fainted and didn’t know where he was. He was unconscious for sometime.”

A victim of a previous incident at the shooting range, 15-year-old Safulahi Awalu, told our correspondent how he escaped death at the military facility about two months ago. Awalu, whose face and hands are covered with scars from injuries he sustained during the explosion, said, “I joined some of my colleagues at play in the shooting range. It was not up to 15 minutes after we got there that an explosion occurred and there was fire everywhere. I started running away but I was caught by the raging fire from behind. I fell down and people poured water on me to put out the fire, which was now burning all over my body. They later took me to the hospital where I was on admission for about two months.” Lamenting the alleged havoc caused the people of the area by the location of the military shooting range and ammunition dump in Kachia, Awalu’s father, 58-year-old Gora, said government should do something about the plight of the residents.

He said he bore the cost of treating his son after the incident, adding that both the Federal Government and military should not continue to pretend not to be aware of the danger the location of such a facility in the area poses to the people. He said, “I spent well over N130,000 on my son. Neither the military nor the local government gave me any financial assistance. In fact, the bill is still with the local government and up till now they have not done anything. I had to sell off some of the produce from my farm to raise the money for his treatment.”

Officials of the local government said about 10 of such incidents had occurred in the area since the beginning of this year, with occasional loss of lives while some other lucky residents of the area had often escaped with serious injuries. Last year, about 19 bombs and explosives were discovered in the area. They were later detonated by the police after a thorough search conducted in conjunction with members of the community to rid the area of such unexpended explosives. Expressing fears that the lives of the entire people of the local government area were in danger, the council’s vice-chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Dangana, appealed to the military high command to take urgent steps to evacuate or detonate unexpended bombs and explosives still littering the area.

Dangana stated that the current situation where such bombs and explosives were left in the open in the shooting range posed a serious security threat to the people of the entire local government. He disclosed that the council had written to the military authorities about the matter and was awaiting their reply.

However, a report in the September 12 edition of a national newspaper said the Nigerian Army School of Artillery had replied the council chairman’s letter, claiming that it would not be liable if bombs removed from the shooting range by unauthorised persons caused damage or death. The letter said, “It has been observed that children and wards of residents of Kachia town and environs rush into Kachia Military Range, especially the impact area, after military exercises to salvage unexploded bombs, munitions and other military ordnances as scrap metal for sale. The school is aware that after the Nigerian Army Day celebration, (two) of your wards/children were burnt and hospitalised because they salvaged an unexploded bomb. We wish to therefore inform you that the ordnances are not scrap metal and further request that you warn your wards/children accordingly of ordnances, potential dangers. The risks are grave.”

Dangana also said the military had not paid compensation to the victims of explosions at the range. Dangana however disclosed that the council had decided to take strict measures against the activities of scavengers in the area by banning the buying and sale of metal scraps. According to him, “In fact, the issue of the bomb blast and other such incidents are a regular occurrence here. The council has taken strict measures against it. In fact, at the last security meeting we held, we discussed the matter at length, especially regarding the issue of people going to the military range and the decision we took was that we should stop people from buying aluminium scrap. We’ll arrest anyone found doing that and hand him over to the relevant authorities for adequate punishment.”

Mr. Solomon Dikko, who is the special adviser to the council chairman, Mr. John Saidu, urged the military to consider compensating the families of victims of the blasts. Dikko said since the people of the area had sacrificed so much by allowing the military to conduct their training exercises without any hindrance, it should show some appreciation by treating the inhabitants of the area like people who had rights.

He claimed that most of the houses in the area had become weakened due to the vibrations that usually accompanied the firing of artillery guns during military training exercises in the area. Dikko added, “We are very much concerned about what is happening because it involves us all. We are losing human lives, the military should do something about this, at least to show concern. These people have sacrificed enough - their lives, their land and freedom - to have allowed the military to embark on such training without any hindrance. However, this thing has been happening from time to time and I think the people should be compensated. You can imagine this recent incident. Two children of the same parents died. I expected the military to have acted with dispatch to at least condole with the families of the victims, if possible to assist those in the hospital. But this did not happen. We are peace-loving people. Sometimes, the bombs land on people’s houses during their training exercises. Their bullets even sometimes pierce or penetrate their houses when they miss their targets.”

Efforts by our correspondent to speak with the authorities at the military facility were, however, abortive as armed soldiers did not allow him to enter. The soldiers said they had orders from their officers not to allow any journalist into the facility.

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Comments (6)

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Joel Efiong(Calabar, Nigeria)says...

This is a great piece. The examination bodies should hire you as ICT consultant.

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Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...

ULIMASI means' GOD,THANK YOU' not THANK GOD.

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Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...

The name ULIMASI is from the UTUGWANG tribe in OBUDU local government area of CROSS RIVER STATE in Nigeria.

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding