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  • on 01.10.2010
  • at 02:00 PM
  • by Staff

Explosions hit Nigeria Independence ceremonies 0

At least seven people were killed as two car bombs exploded in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and another blast hit a venue where President Goodluck Jonathan was celebrating the country’s 50th independence anniversary. The blasts came an hour after the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Nigeria’s biggest rebel militia, issued an email warning.

The Reuters cameraman said “security forces and firemen had been trying to douse a fire in a car after the first explosion when a second blast hit. People scattered and a young boy was carried away to a nearby vehicle”.

Police could not confirm whether the blasts were caused by bombs, but said the lavish celebrations of military bands and troupes of dancing children would continue as planned. There was no word of casualties.

“We are on top of the situation,” federal police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu told Reuters. “We are commencing investigations immediately to see if it was accidental or intentional, and to identify the authors.”

Given its warning, the finger of blame will rest heavily on MEND, which has been fighting for years for a greater share of oil revenues from the impoverished Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry.

Although most of its activities have been focused on the creeks and swamps of the delta, MEND has struck further afield, including at off-shore oil installations and in the heart of Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

“Several explosive devices have been successfully planted in and around the venue by our operatives working inside the government security services,” the warning email, signed by MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo, said.

Broadcast television footage showed no interruption to the 50th birthday celebrations.

Shortly after the warning, President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces an election early next year, arrived in an armoured limousine dressed in his traditional black fedora hat and dark suit, before inspecting ranks of soldiers from an open-top jeep.

Jonathan is from the Niger Delta area, and many analysts thought his accession to the presidency earlier this year after the death of president Umaru Yar’Adua would have eased tensions between rebels and central government.

Despite the official pomp, the 50-year landmark has caused considerable introspection among Nigeria’s 140 million people, many of whom regard the period since the end of British rule in 1960 as a half-century of broken dreams.

As well as a succession of brutal and economically disastrous military dictatorships and the squandering of billions of dollars in oil revenues, Nigeria suffered a civil war in the late 1960s in which a million people died.

“Leadership has failed the nation again and again and again,” said author Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, describing the post-colonial era as a “wasted generation”.

“It has been backwards steps — one step forwards and then ten back.”

Source: Reuters, AFP

As Nigeria marks 50 years of independence on 1 October, Horace G. Campbell surveys both the country and the African continent’s ‘struggle to create a society where humans can live in dignity.

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