by Heather Murdock
The president urged Nigerians to be vigilant about suspicious movements, and suggested Islamist militant group Boko Haram was behind the blast, although there has been no claim of responsibility.
“We console with our country men and women, we will continue to work very hard. The issue of Boko Haram attacks is quite an ugly history within this period of our own development. We will do everything to make sure that we move our country forward. These are unnecessary distractions that are pushing us backward.”
Police say at least 71 people died when the bomb went off at a bus station in the suburbs of the capital, Abuja, on Monday. Some analysts say the latest attack is a sign that Islamist insurgents in Nigeria have expanded their reach.
Shortly before 7:00 a.m. Monday morning, taxi driver Joseph Suleiman was driving into the city for work. He was about a half a kilometer from Nyanya Motor Park when the bomb exploded.
“We were inside the car. We heard the bomb blast and my car was shaking,” he said. “Everybody, we were totally confused.”
They were confused, he explained, because there hasn’t been an attack in the Nigerian capital in two years, when Boko Haram blew up a prominent media house, killing several people. In 2011, more than 60 people were killed in other attacks that targeted the local U.N. headquarters and a church.
Suleiman said he saw scores of badly injured people as he passed the bus depot.
“People told us that it was Boko Haram that put the bomb inside the Elruafai car that exploded that killed many lives. But actually it is only God that knows the truth,” he said.
According to some officials, despite nearly a year of emergency rule in three northeastern Nigerian states, the Boko Haram insurgency is growing.
“We’ve allocated huge sums particularly for security in this country and I don’t see any improvement,” noted Herman Hembe, a member of parliament. “It’s just been getting worse.”
Boko Haram has been blamed for thousands of deaths since the insurgency began in 2009. Amnesty International says 1,500 people have been killed in attacks this year alone, and about a half a million people have fled their homes.
Boko Haram says it wants to enforce its harsh version of Islamic law and destroy the government but many analysts blame the unrest partially on extreme poverty, saying unemployment drives young men to fight for small sums of money.
However, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, says the insurgency is a result of religious extremism.
“It’s about ideology. It’s not poverty. It’s not marginalization,” he insisted. “Yes it is true that if when you deal with poverty you may reduce the number of recruits — people that they can recruit.”
Attacking the ideology through education and the religious leadership in Nigeria’s mostly-Muslim northern states is the only way to end the insurgency, he said.
The Nigerian military maintains that it has beaten back Boko Haram and re-claimed many areas formerly held by insurgents. The military said a jailbreak last month where hundreds of fleeing detainees were killed was an attempt by Boko Haram to replenish its depleted ranks.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the jailbreak and threatened more violence. The group has not claimed responsibility for this latest attack, but typically Boko Haram communicates with the public through video messages, which can take days or weeks to release.