Hit by flood and a rash of bomb blasts, fate has been unkind to Taraba State lately.
No fewer than 19 persons died in the flood in the state, which swept through several parts of the country. About 12 people are still missing in the state, while 218 villages were wrecked by the waters in eight of the state’s 16 local government areas. It is reckoned that 69,640 persons were direct victims of the disaster.
The affected local government areas are Ardo-Kola, Ibi, Wukari, Gassol, Lau, Karim-Lamido, Kurmi and Sardauna.
But as the people grieved, Jalingo, the state capital, was rocked by explosions, its fourth experience since the Boko Haram hostilities began. At least eight persons were injured in the blast in Mallam Joda, a rustic suburb of the state capital.
The bomb hit the usually quiet community just a day after another bomb rocked Dorowa, a 24-hour bubbling ghetto in the spine of the capital city.
The victims included petty traders and commercial sex workers in the vicinity. Apart from the building, food, drinks, cigarette, kola-nut, condoms were ruined.
Eyewitnesses said a bomb was detonated at dusk time in a drinking outlet in Mallam Joda in the same fashion as the Dorowa incident.
Police posts and government structures had been the targets of terror attacks, but recently local brew bars, patronised by fun seekers, have become an attraction in the state.
Police spokesman in the state, Amos Alaoye, in a chat with Newsextra, said: “The state command has arrested some suspects who are in the custody, in connection with the bombings”.
Residents think some of the suspected bombers may live in the neighbourhoods, probably making their explosives locally.
Many residents have been living in fear since the area became a scene of bomb blasts.
Grappling with the security challenge in the affected districts has not been easy, it was learnt.
A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Newsextra how his younger brother may have foiled a bomb attack on his wife’s business joint. He said some suspected bombers first went to his wife’s drinking place but were not allowed to settle down by his younger brother who said he noticed their unusual dressing and behaviour. No sooner had they left the place than the sound of a bomb blast was heard outside the shop.
The source said: “When I was returning home from work, my younger brother called me, saying that he has seen a strange person in my wife’s place. I asked him how strange the intruder was; he said they looked like Boko Haram members, so he chased them away. He insisted I must come back quickly because they were afraid”
“In less than 10 minutes before I could return, I heard a bomb explode close to my wife’s joint and the same person who was chased away by my younger brother was among the two people the youths arrested and handed over to the policemen who rushed to the scene of the blast”.
The explosions have paralysed the Taraba state capital. The bustle that characterised Dorowa, for instance, has vanished. It is said with only N50, one could eat a plate of food in Dorowa and be satisfied. But since the blasts, things have changed, said Agnes, a resident.
Dozens of persons have fled the state capital in the aftermath of the blasts. This is not good for a state that was already traumatised by flood, which destroyed houses and vast farmlands as well as livestock.
The pandemonium resulting from the blasts has refused to leave Jalingo people, who have now moderated their operations, especially at night.
It would be recalled that on April 30, a bomber rode on a motorcycle and hit the convoy of the former state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mamman Sule.
At least 11 persons were killed in the early morning suicide attack, which appeared to be targeted at the police chief who was newly redeployed to Jalingo. Twenty persons were seriously injured, including a police corporal Usman Suleiman who was the outrider on the commissioner’s convoy. The bomber was also blown up by the blast that sent the city to sleep as soon as it woke up for the day’s activities.
There was another bombing on May 11. Although, there were no casualties, the panic paralysed the economic and social life of the once peaceful people. Two suspected bombers reportedly drove past a police van before dropping an explosive. It was gathered that the timing was miscalculated, so the bomb exploded a few seconds after the police van had passed the scene.
After those bombings, the terrorists changed tactics: in the last blasts, they struck at night.
The flood is a different disaster. President Goodluck Jonathan has visited the camps of flood disaster victims in Taraba. He was in Lau, where seven people died.
The president cheered up the people, saying flood is a natural disaster, which ravages even developed nations.
“My personal residence is now under water,” he told the people.
Jonathan put Taraba in category B’, alongside Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Cross River, Edo, Lagos and Imo states in the ranks of desolation by flood.
But Commissioner for Information, Mr. Emmanuel Bello said Taraba was relegated in the grouping.
“We have the worst scenario of the flood disaster and ought to have been in category A or even A plus”, he said, explaining that the longest stretch of River Benue is found in the hinterlands of Taraba which caused devastations that many people especially passers-by have not seen.
Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Nuvalga Dan Habu, said “10 persons were drowned in Karim-Lamido, seven died in Lau, while two perished in Gassol. Twelve persons are still missing; 28,139 persons have been displaced”.
It was gathered that a bridge and 50 culverts collapsed to the flood even as 13 roads were either submerged or covered by debris, affecting the movement of people and traffic. Also 49 schools submerged by the flood, which has kept several pupils and students outside the classrooms.
The flood also destroyed about 3,051 livestock, 80,764 farmlands, 26 churches and 27 mosques as well as 14 clinics in Taraba, said SEMA.
Mama Hebbini Ciroma, an over 100-year-old resident of Karim-Lamido Local Government Area is among the victims. She said the last time she saw flood was about 85 years ago when she got married.
“But the flood wasn’t up to this magnitude,” she said.
Some expectant mothers gave birth in the camps without healthcare services. In 2005, flood destroyed the Nukai-Jalingo Bridge, killing 105 people, including a senior lecturer and deputy commissioner of police.