Latest on The Calabar Capsized Boat: Death Toll Rises to 166


At least 166 Nigerians were feared dead when a boat they were travelling in sank about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Eyewitnesses said that the passengers were travelling in a large wooden boat, which departed from Oron, Akwa Ibom State on Friday and was heading for Gabon when it capsized off Malabo, near the coast of Equatorial Guinea.
The Assistant Director, Information, Cross River Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Mr. David Akate, confirmed the incident, but did not give further details. Sources familiar with the situation told our reporter that the boat was carrying 168 passengers, adding that rescue efforts were still going on.
A marine transporter at the Calabar Inland Waterways, Mr. Ikechukwu Egwu, also confirmed the incident. He added that the two known survivors were a young boy and a woman who had clung to a gas cylinder and were rescued by fishermen.
He said that the passengers of the boat were mostly Igbo traders who were heading for Gabon. He said that the traders were mostly from the South-East states and headed to Oron in Akwa Ibom to board the wooden boat because it was cheap.
“They are mostly Igbo traders who headed to Oron to board the wooden boat because it was cheaper,’’ he said. The cause of the accident was not immediately known but sources said the boat might have been overloaded due to non-compliance with basic safety standards.
As at yesterday, the mood at the morgue of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, where 45 corpses of some of the victims have been deposited was that of gloom and people thronged the hospital to try to identify the remains of loved ones.
Official sources said the victims’ corpses were brought to Calabar instead of Malabo, where the mishap occurred, because they were believed to be Nigerians.
The eyewitnesses also said that other corpses had been deposited in Oron, from where the ill-fated journey began. In another development, a bomb blast yesterday hit the patrol vehicle of men of the Joint Task Force, JTF, at the Roundabout of Kashim Ibrahim Way at noon, killing four soldiers, five civilians, while four others sustained injuries.
This came barely 24 hours after the killing of four teachers in schools in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The bomb was apparently planted by suspected Boko Haram Islamic sect members and targeted at a vehicle transporting soldiers from the 202 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Bama.
The incident occurred along Sir Kashim Ibrahim Way/Roundabout, a busy area with concentration of banks including UBA, Union Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank and Unity Bank among others. The remains of the soldiers were later evacuated from the scene by military personnel.
A top security official said: “An Improvised Explosive Device, IED, planted around First Bank roundabout targeted at a moving vehicle of the 202 Battalion, Bama in Borno State exploded and destroyed the vehicle completely and claimed the lives of four soldiers and five civilians and destroyed many cars at the scene.”
But the spokesman of the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa insisted that only one soldier was killed while two others sustained injuries in the blast. Musa said the attack was carried out by suspected Boko Haram terrorists. He said the suspects used an IED.
A witness, who craved anonymity, told our correspondent that the blast ripped the JTF patrol vehicle into pieces, while passersby scampered for safety into various directions.
Our correspondent gathered that five minutes after the blast, the entire areas was cordoned off by security operatives for five hours.
Vehicles and pedestrians were directed to take the Post Office Area and Government Reservation Areas, GRA, roads.
However, a source at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, UMTH, said that the body of two soldiers were brought into the hospital, while other four soldiers, who sustained critical injuries, have been admitted at the Accident and Emergency Unit.
The hospital attendant, who did not want his name in print said: “The bodies of the soldiers and the injured were brought in two Hilux Patrol vehicles about 1.15p.m.”
Meanwhile, outrage yesterday trailed the bomb attack on a Lagos-bound luxury bus in Kano that killed about 60 persons.
Reacting to the incident yesterday, Kano Ethnic Traditional Rulers Forum ordered a sit-at-home today for non-indigenes in the city in honour of the victims of the bomb attack.
A statement signed by spokesman of the forum, Prince Ajayi Maimayetan, made available to newsmen directed all non-indigenes in the state to use the workfree day to fast and pray for the repose of the souls of the departed.
The statement said: “Non indigenes in Kano are expected to heed this directive as a mark of mourning for all those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident that devastated the non-indigenes community in Kano.
“Shops, markets, schools and other places of business run by non-indigenes should remain closed throughout the one-day mourning.”
However, there was yet another attack in Kano yesterday when gunmen shot a female police Sergeant, identified as Maimuna Yusuf.
She is the secretary to the Assistant Inspector General of police in charge of zone 1, Mr. David Omojola. She was attacked, according to police source, at the farm centre area while fixing her car.
The Kano State Police Commissioner, Mr. Musa Daura confirmed the attack. The violence in Kano triggered the deployment of a security blanket in Kaduna yesterday amid fears of possible attacks as armed security troops were deployed on 24 hours surveillance to counter any terrorist threat.
In reactions to the attacks, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has called for synergy between the Kano State government and the security agencies to forestall future occurrence.
The President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who condemned the bombing also called for speedy prosecution of Boko Haram suspects by the FederaGovernment, while fishing out the sponsors of the sect.
Oritsejafor, in a statement signed by his spokesman, Kenny Ashaka, in Abuja, urged security agencies to intensify intelligence gathering, just as he commiserated with the families of the victims.
According to CAN, the Federal Government should liaise with the international community and obtains expertise in order to deal with the terror acts.
Also reacting, CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja called on the international community especially Britain and the Nigerian government to declare war against the sect. Northern CAN Public Relations Officer, Elder Sunday Oibe, while condemning the deadly attack insisted that no amnesty should be granted to Boko Haram as being canvassed.
CAN further advised government to take the warning of Gen. Theophilous Danjuma over the looming civil war seriously, saying advocates of Boko Haram amnesty should be placed on security checks.
The House of Representatives also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to adopt a more thorough approach in his fight against terrorism. The House made the call after adopting a motion sponsored by Hon. Ibrahim Olaifa.
The House also mandated its Committees on Public Safety, Army, Defence and Police Affairs to engage the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, to tackle the problem.
In the motion titled: “Need To End Terrorism Activities in Nigeria,” Olaifa stated that several Nigerians have been killed in the last three years by Boko Haram. Interior minister, Comrade Abba Moro, described the attack as callous, unwarranted and wicked.
Moro, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Media, George Udoh, said he was pained when he heard the news of the unprovoked attack and killings of innocent Nigerians by members of a sect, who have chosen to tread a path of violence by making life miserable and agonising for Nigerians.
The minister urged prominent Nigerians as well as groups in the country to voice out their resentment against the evil being perpetuated by members of the inglorious sect on the nation.
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described the attacks as cruel. PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement yesterday said the party was shocked by the attacks and has been deeply saddened over the manner in which Nigerians were being killed for no just cause.
Calling on those behind the attacks to have a rethink and realise that life is sacrosanct, the PDP said Nigerians must learn to live in harmony and to eschew all acts of violence. Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State described the attack as heartless, inhuman and barbaric.
This was just as the governor urged security agents and government to do more in all that is required to ensure the safety of lives and property of Nigerians and foreigners in the country.
Following the bomb blast, northerners, residents in the South-East have started fleeing to nearby security outposts for fear of reprisal. In the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State, Hausas and other ethnic groups from the North yesterday fled the city in search of protection in various security stations.
National Mirror gathered that the non-indigenes closed all their business premises in Head Bridge and other parts of the city to seek protection in various security stations, including the military cantonment housing officers and men of the 302 Artillery Regiment and 14 Field Engineers Regiment of the Nigerian Army in the city as well as Onitsha Area Command and Central Police Station, CPS, Onitsha.
It was further observed that the non-indigenes became apprehensive of possible reprisals from the people of the city, especially members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and the Association of Igbo Youths, AIYO, which made them to vacate the streets and major roads for safety.
A source, who did not want his name mentioned disclosed that they got information that there could be violent attacks on nonindigenes in the commercial city, adding that all security outfits in the state mobilised to safeguard the lives and property of the Northerners in the state.
The Ogirishi Igbo and founder of AIYO, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, directed all Igbo youths not to hurt any Northerner in the name of reprisal, saying that “we should continue to live as brothers and sisters at all times.” Also, the leader of MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike dismissed any possible reprisal in the entire South East and called for calm.

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