Seven students of the Medical Laboratory Science Department of the University of Jos were among the dead victims of Tuesday’s twin bomb blasts at the Terminal Market in Jos, Plateau State.
They were said to be final year students of the department. Three of them were said to be members of the Redeemed Christian Fellowship.
The students were going to their hostels after receiving lectures at the old campus of the university when they met their death.
One of their friends, Miss Vivian Eke, disclosed this on Wednesday as the death toll in the blasts rose by 15.
The PUNCH had reported on Thursday that 150 people were killed by the bombs. The state Commissioner of Police, Chris Olakpe, had put the casualty figure at 46 even though he admitted that it could be higher.
Eke, who was at the mortuary of the state specialist hospital, Jos to identify the bodies, told our correspondent that the seven students were all friends.
She said, “We called them ‘the clique’ because they were always together. Their lectures had just ended at Gangere (old campus) and they were going to take a bus to their hostel before they were caught up in the blasts. They were final year students and members of the RCF.
However, Ismaila Suleiman, a 23-year- old Computer Science student of a private computer school in Jos was fortunate.
Recuperating Suleiman, who lives in the Dogon Karfe area of Jos, told The PUNCH that after his lectures, he went to the terminus to deliver a message.
“After school hours, I went to the terminus to deliver a message and as I was walking along the road, I heard a deafening sound. I went blind until I found myself at the hospital,” he said.
Students of UNIJOS boycotted lectures on Wednesday to mourn their colleagues. When our correspondent visited the institution, it was like a graveyard.
Also most of the primary and secondary schools in the city were empty as parents and guardians kept their children and wards at home.
When contacted on the death of the seven students, the Assistant Registrar, Publications and Protocol, UNIJOS, Mr. Steve Otowo, said bodies of two of them had been identified.
He however declined to give the names of the deceased in order not to create panic among students and parents.
“All students, especially those in the Medical Laboratory Science Department, have been directed to come to the campus with their identity cards today for verification,”Otowo added.
He said he had been going round hospitals in the city looking for missing members of staff and students.
Otowo also said the institution was compiling a full list of victims from the university community.
Relations besiege hospitals in search of loved ones
The News Agency of Nigeria reported on Wednesday that many people thronged the hospitals in the city in search of their relations who did not return home after the blasts.
One of them, Chuks Ikemefuna, who was at the state specialist hospital, said, “I have gone to almost all the hospitals but I have not seen my brother, Francis, who owns a shoe shop close to where the bomb exploded.
“I have checked the casualty wards but I didn’t see him, now I want to check the mortuaries in case he was killed.’’
The Head, Casualty Unit of the hospital, Dr. Jemchang Fabong, said that 52 corpses were brought to the hospital after the blasts.
He added, “Thirty-eight injured persons were also brought to the hospital but three of them died.
“Some of those not critically injured were treated and discharged while those we could not handle in the casualty ward were taken to the theatre.”
A pathologist at the Chemistry Department of the state specialist hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said security agencies were economical with the truth about the casualty figure.
He said, “As I am talking to you now, more than 100 corpses are in this hospital. I am sure that there are more in the Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Our Lady of Apostles Hospital and the Jos University Teaching Hospital. Some of the bodies have also been identified and released to their families for burial.”
Also, at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital, people looking for their missing ones besieged the mortuary to identify the corpses.
The President of Igbo Community Association, Chief Jonah Ezekwueme, in company with some Igbo leaders in the city, was also seen trying to identify Igbo victims of the blasts.
Ezekwueme told our correspondent that they identified eight Igbo among the dead victims and nine injured at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital and Our Lady of Apostles Hospital.
“We are on our way to JUTH to carry out further identification,” he added.
Before they spoke, our correspondent had noticed corpses, including those of pregnant women and children, littering the floor of the state specialist hospital as officials put them in large polyethylene bags.
There were also human parts which they packed into bags, ostensibly for a mass burial.
Also, at the mortuary of the old site of JUTH, adjacent to the blasts scene, many corpses were piled upon themselves in the overfilled morgue.
A medical personnel at the hospital, who pleaded not to be identified, said the corpses were brought to the hospital, while injured persons were rushed to the permanent site for treatment.
A member of staff of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the death toll had risen to over 200.
Security agents knew about the bomb-laden vehicle
There was however an indication that some security agents were aware that one of the bomb-laden vehicles was parked very close to the market. One of the eyewitnesses said that the soldiers at the checkpoint near the burnt Jos Main Market were notified of the presence of the strange car, but it was ignored.
It was gathered that members of the public had complained of the presence of strange faces in Jos, especially in the terminus area.
A trader, who gave his name simply as Sam said the parking of a Toyota Sienna for a long time near the market was discussed by drivers in the area.
Sam said, “If the police and soldiers guarding the market tell us that they were not aware of the vehicle, they are lying because it was being discussed openly by drivers.
“The Sienna car was parked about 10 metres away from the checkpoint and the police post at the burnt Jos Main market.”