One person was killed while four others were seriously wounded when an explosion occurred inside a commercial bus yesterday at the Rumuokoro Roundabout in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Four AK-47 rifles were recovered by the police at the scene of the explosion, giving a clue that occupants of the ill-fated vehicle might have been armed robbers.
It was gathered that the dead person was the driver of the vehicle while a passer-by, identified as a member of the Rumuokoro unit of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), was among those injured.
It was further gathered that the 14-seater commercial bus painted in blue and white colour of the state was coming from the Eliozu axis of the East-West Road towards Rumuokoro Roundabout when it exploded.
An eyewitness told LEADERSHIP that the vehicle exploded at about 10:40am when three out of its four occupants came down to push it after noticing that it had broken down.
The eyewitness, who pleaded anonymity, said a bystander at the side of the road who joined in the pushing when the vehicle allegedly broke down, only went to help to push it when the explosion occurred.
When LEADERSHIP visited the scene of the incident, it was observed that apart from the parts of the blown-up vehicle that littered the area, the impact of the explosion was not felt in any of the buildings surrounding the vicinity.
Speaking when he visited the scene of the explosion, Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi ruled out any act of terrorist attack, saying that it might have been a dynamite which the occupants of the vehicle wanted to use for robbery.
Amaechi said: “From time to time, when armed robbers go, they move with dynamites. I believe that due to the difficulties they experienced in gaining access to banks, they now resort to the use of dynamites.
“If it was to be a bomb explosion, it would have killed all of them and those around this area, but it killed only one person. This particular one must have exploded due to their carelessness.”
Addressing newsmen earlier, the commissioner of police, Rivers State Command, Mr. Mohammed Indabawa, who confirmed the recovery of rifles from the scene of the incident, said the occupants of the exploded commercial bus were robbers who were going on an operation.
Indabawa said, “From what we have seen and recovered from the scene of the explosion, this is far from a terrorist attack. It was not a terrorist attack at all. I believe that these men were armed robbers who were going on a mission before something went wrong.”
Gunmen attack primary, Islamiyya schools in Kano
In a related development, a twin blast erupted simultaneously on Wednesday night in Kano as suspected gunmen attacked Ja’en Primary and Farawa Islamiyya School in Kumbotso local government area of Kano state.
An eyewitness confirmed that the incident happened at about 10:30 pm as the suspected gunmen besieged the two areas on motor cycles and asked those around to leave the area because they were going to do ‘‘Allah’s work’’.
At Ja’en, according to the witness, the suspected gunmen went to the primary school around 9pm and ordered the security guards to leave the place before planting two different IEDs in the school. One exploded immediately and the other was destroyed by the members of the anti-bomb squad of the Nigeria Police, the following day.
‘‘The blast affected about 10 vehicles that were parked within the school premises and two other houses around the area were also affected as their windows were shattered by the blast,’’ the source said.
It was also gathered that the police were able to defuse one of the explosives planted at the Farawa Islamiyya School Thursday morning.
When contacted, spokesman of the JTF Lt. Ikedichi Iweha confirmed the incident but declined further comment.
However, the police public relations officer, ASP Magaji Majiya, said the bomb disposal unit had recovered one of the IEDs at Ja’en Primary School where the blast occurred.