Panafrican News Agency

Christmas-day bomb attacks, low-level sports performance reported in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The Nigerian media, rounding off their reportage of events in the last week of 2011, feasted on the Christmas-day bomb attacks by the Boko Haram islamic sect and the low level of performance in sports.

"Terror: 40 killed in Christmas bombings" was the lead headline on Monday of the six stories reported by the Vanguard during the week. According to the paper, "It was a bloody Christmas-Day celebration on Sunday when the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, carried out bomb attacks in some northern Nigerian cities, killing at least 40 people with several others injured.

"St. Theresa’s Church, Madalla, in Suleja, Niger State, was the worst hit when a suspected car bomb blast on Christmas morning, killed at least 35 people, including men, women and children."

Madalla is a town near Abuja, the Nigerian Federal Capital Territory.

A policeman was confirmed killed in a second Christmas-Day explosion near the Mountain of Fire church in Jos, Plateau State.

And two other blasts hit Damaturu on Sunday, including a suicide bombing, when a yet-to-be-identified suicide bomber, attacked the Yobe State Command Headquarters of the Department of State Security Services (SSS), Damaturu, resulting in the instant death of three personnel.

Also, another explosion targeted a church at Gadaka in Yobe state on Christmas Eve, but no one was reported killed.

Vanguard's other headlines included "US condemns ‘senseless’ bombings", "Xmas Day bombings: Affront on our collective safety, freedom, says Jonathan", "Bombings: Govt should account for lost lives – Union", "Security expert warns of New Year day bomb attacks", and "There is no conflict between Muslims and Christians – Sultan".

The Sun ran the story with five headlines during the week, the first of which was "Xmas tragedy: Bomb explosions kill 35 in church," with the riders 'Four families totally wiped out', 'Priest: We can’t take this', and 'Four suspects caught'.

“Many families have gone, many families have gone. They came to worship their God, but all of them killed”, the Sun on Monday quoted Reverend Father Isaac Achii, the Parish Priest of St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, as saying as he captured the bomb explosions that rocked the church on Christmas Day. Not less than five explosions took place within the church’s premises and along the road.

Eyewitnesses said that four policemen detailed to the church accosted three suicide bombers, asking them about their mission. The suspects claimed they were going to worship in the church. Suddenly, the bombs were detonated, consuming all of them as an official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the death toll at 40.

Of the charred vehicles, some of them mangled, three had the entire families roasted beyond recognition. One was a family of five that were seated in a Toyota Sienna van, the other, a Mercedes Benz saloon car driven by one Mr. Dike and his four children. One of his sons, who was greatly injured and his wife, who did not attend the church service, turned out to be the only survivors in the family. Another car was also said to have had a family of three, all died.

The Okechukwu family that dedicated a baby during the church service was lucky. The explosion flung open the car doors and the whole occupants of the vehicle were thrown to safe ground. They were taken to hospital immediately.

Chairman of the Parish Council, Mr. Joseph Nfiaji, told Daily Sun that members watched the families roast in the inferno, which followed the explosions. He said: “We helplessly watched Mr. Dike and others roasted like chickens by the fire. Nobody could go near the vehicles because the fire was better imagined. It was hell on earth.”

With the headline "Xmas bombing: Why we did it – Boko Haram", the Sun said the Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the Christmas-Day bombings, according to the Spokesman of the sect, Abul-Qaqa, who said his group was responsible for all the attacks, adding that the attacks were carried out to avenge the alleged killings of some Muslims in Jos during the Islamic festival, Eid-el Fitr.

Abul-Qaqa, who spoke to journalists in a telephone conversation in Maiduguri, the Boko Haram base in the North Eastern part of the country, said the attacks were meant to prove that no amount of surveillance by security agents would deter his members from doing whatever they planned to do.

While the Trust headlined its stories "Suicide bombers spoil Christmas", "Jonathan: Boko Haram won’t last forever", and "Christmas Day Bombings: Muslim leaders disown Boko Haram - Sultan: Attack on Churches unIslamic", Thisday newspaper called it "Nigeria's Blackest Christmas... Ever!" and "US: We’ll Hunt Down Bombers".

Thisday reported that the US has promised to help Nigeria hunt down the terrorists who killed at least 39 people on Christmas Day, most of them at a church.

“We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what appear to be terrorist acts and pledged to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a recent statement.

The Nation, with the headline: "Fed Govt to strengthen security in churches, mosques", reported that the Federal Government is to strengthen security in churches and mosques to forestall attacks by terrorists, quoting the Minister of Police Affairs Caleb Olubolade, who spoke Monday in Madalla while inspecting the St. Theresa Catholic Church, which was bombed.

Other headlines in the Nation were "My agony, by woman who lost husband, five children", "Sultan condemns bombing after meeting with President", "Aliyu to Jonathan: go after Boko Haram sponsors", and "Oritsejafor: security agents not sincere".

The Guardian on Wednesday reported the story with the headline "Nigerians seek action against Boko Haram as anger mounts".

The Vanguard, taking an over-view of events in the country, headlined its story "Months of miseries herald a hazy new year", with the riders 'Governance suffered neglect — Commoners', 'Year of confusion — Cleric', and 'Nigerians must unite to defeat terrorism — Human rights activist'.

According to the paper "If turning back the hands of the time, was a possibility, many Nigerians would not be in a hurry to turn back the time to 2011. This is why there is a hurry to see this year gone with history in this part of the world. But even as the New year is ushered in within the next 48 hours, there are palpable fears that events of 2011, especially the spate of bomb blasts, would spillover to 2012.

Stories of woes almost passed for every day news in 2011, as there was hardly any period that Nigerians were not confronted with depressing accounts about people, issues and places, it said, adding "Whether it is on the domestic or work front, religious or government circles, it is one tale of absurdity or the other."

According to the Vanguard, for the first time since the crises that trailed the June 12 Presidential Elections, the year 2011 will go down as a year of misery, grief and uncertainty for Nigeria.

It said "Consider this; numerous lives were lost to preventable religious crises, road accidents, armed robbery attacks, kidnapping, domestic violence, post-election violence among other controversies.

"Perhaps, this accounts for why rather than singing joyful songs as the year is winding up, Nigerians are chanting songs of sorrow – reminding many of Kofi Awonor’s poem, Songs of Sorrow, which dwelt on how bundles of disappointment could unleash a state of helplessness.

On insecurity, the Vanguard said that the flurry of absurdities that shaped the year, have left Nigerians in a hapless and confused state. From the volatile states of the North, to serene cities of the South, many would not be in a hurry to forget 2011 with its litany of woes.

It said: "To a lot of people, these 12 months of doom is a fallout of inept leadership, especially the inability of the political leadership over the years to give the country the full benefit of its rich human and natural resources. Amid these gory events that shaped the year, some stand out because of their magnitude."

They include "the bomb blasts", "government incompetence", "the subsidy debate", and "floods".

On sports, the Vanguard, Sun, and the Nation all scored Nigeria low in performance.

According to the Vanguard: "2011 Sports Review: Nigeria’s year of pain", saying that sports enthusiasts in Nigeria would readily agree with any prophet of doom who revealed bad vibes for the country’s sports in the year ahead.

It said "This is because the out-going year was a miserable one for the sports industry in Nigeria. Failures kept rolling in from every aspect and the big question that still remains to be answered by those in authority is ‘what happened to the billions of naira budget for sports development?’ The big shots at the National Sports Commission are having a hard time convincing the National Assembly how money was spent in the outgoing year."

The Vanguard said "Football was the worst hit hence the apprehension by the lawmakers."

The paper said "The year started promisingly, when the Flying Eagles won the African Under-20 Championship in South Africa. The team, coached by John Obuh, looked good to be champions at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Colombia, but the team was stopped in the quarter-final by France. Obuh, however, was the star attraction with his choice of fashion at the tournament."

Back home the Eagles under Samson Siasia were battling to earn a place in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. There was so much hope as the Eagles crushed a visiting under-strength Argentina team 4-0 in Abuja and this made Nigeria football fans to conclude that the Nations Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia will be a stroll in the park.

But shockingly, the Eagles forced Ethiopia to a 2-2 draw; a last minute header by Yobo saved the day, and that dented Nigeria’s chances of going to the Nations Cup.

The national women team, the Super Falcons, did not fare any better. They failed to beat their Ghanaian counterparts to book a ticket to the All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique. The Falcons were the defending champions from the 2007 games and they had never missed the Games since women football was introduced in 2003.

In August, the main pain arrived when coach Siasia failed to beat Guinea to secure a ticket to the Nations Cup. Painful was the word as the Eagles squandered a 2-1 lead much to the amazement of Nigerian fans. They called for the sacking of coach Siasia, a man who had ridden on popularity with the fans to secure the job. The Nigeria Football Federation predictably pushed him off the cliff to save their own neck.

Again the Falcons rubbed salt into injury when they failed to hold their nerve in Yaounde, Cameroon, in a crucial Olympics qualifier against their Cameroon counterparts. It was the first time the Nigerian women will not be going to the Olympics.

And it was not so shocking in November when the national under-23 team also crashed out of the Olympics. Theirs was a disaster waiting to happen as coach Austin Eguaveon failed to plan well. He had made foreign-based players the core of his team, but their clubs refused to release them for the qualification tournament in Morocco.

Eguaveon fell back on the home-based players he never had a shade of confidence in. Nigeria lost two games in a row and they were out of the picture. Eguaveon threw in the towel on return.

ATHLETICS, Nigeria’s second major sport, did not fare any better. Nigerian athletes to the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, failed to win a medal, however, this did not come as a surprise to athletics watchers. For them, Nigerian athletics is in doldrums and in need of resuscitation.

But at the All-Africa Games in Maputo, Nigerian athletes lifted the nation and athletics federation’s president Solomon Ogba called for the early release of funds to start his Olympics preparation, but what he got was the death of the federation’s technical director, Sunday Bada.

Bada died on 12 December after meeting with the president in Abuja the previous week to plan for the athletes camping. It was a death that shocked the nation as Bada was hale and hearty that evening of his demise.

In other sports, basketball was another sport that had a sprinkle of activity. The Nigeria Basketball federation was glad to have contributed to the gold medal haul of Nigeria at the All-Africa Games. The Federation also successfully ran the super eight league for men and women. But the sore point of the season was when the Nigeria under-16 girls qualified for the World Championship in Chile, but the young lads could not make the tournament because there were no funds.

Other sports like tennis, table tennis, wrestling, weight lifting among others witnessed little or no activity as the country fared poorly where there were events.

The paper slammed sports administrators, saying that the administration of sports in the country did not fair better as three ministers in one year painted a picture of instability. The instability in the administration of sports in the country makes it almost impossible to set targets, and there were none.

The Sun with the headline "2011: Year Nigerian sports died", reported that "To many followers of sports in the country, especially football, the outgoing year could pass for nothing but a disaster.

"It was a year in which Nigeria failed virtually on all fronts and from as early as January 2012, when the Nations Cup fiesta will begin in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Nigerians will begin to feel the impact of the country’s failure in sports in 2011." The Super Eagles, for the first time in 26 years, will not be featuring in the Nations Cup when the competition gets underway on 18 January in Malabo.

It said that "Even at the sub-regional level, Nigeria failed to raise its game above the base, as the Home Eagles bowed to Togo in the Ogun State government-sponsored WAFU Cup, which took place in Abeokuta, South West Nigeria".

The Sun opined "Little wonder, Nigeria is now ranked 43 in the world going by the latest ranking released by world soccer governing body, FIFA."

It would be recalled that Nigeria, after the USA ’94 World Cup, was ranked fifth in the world and the second most entertaining team after Brazil.

And the Nation newspaper appropriately asked "2011 Whither Nigerian sports?".
-0- PANA VAO 31Dec2011