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Lives cut short by Jos blasts

Tessy Bala, a 500-level Pharmacy student of University of Jos, was to do her send-forth ceremony yesterday, May 23. The send-forth was to be a…

Tessy Bala, a 500-level Pharmacy student of University of Jos, was to do her send-forth ceremony yesterday, May 23. The send-forth was to be a formal way for her maiden family and friends to bid her farewell from spinster-hood.
It sadly wasn’t to be. She happened to be at the Terminus that fateful Tuesday to buy items for the ceremony when those twin bombs blew her and over a hundred others to pieces. The last person Tessy spoke with, David, a printer who was putting finishing touches to her souvenir jotter booklets, said Tessy called him only a couple of minutes before the first blast was heard.
“I had done the cover design of the jotter when I called her and she told me to wait for her to view the design before the printing,” the printer recalled, adding, “It was only a few minutes after speaking with her, when she told me she was at the Terminus and would be coming to my shop after getting a few items from the market that I heard the sound of the first explosion.”
David said the thought of Tessy came to him immediately and he headed from his shop on Rwam Pam Street to the scenes of the twin blasts on the Terminus end of Murtala Mohammed Way, a distance of not more than five minutes’ walk. David, unable to find Tessy, alerted her family. When Tessy failed to turn up hours after the blast, the family began a heart-rending search for her in hospital morgues around Jos.
The Balasare a most distraught family now. Losing Tessy who was to follow up the send-forth scheduled for yesterday with a church wedding on June 24 this year, has been particularly hard on her immediate younger sister, Anna Bala. Anna has never uttered a word since that bloody Tuesday of the Terminus bomb blasts. The tears have dried up, but the silent moody stance has remained.
The Balas join over a 100 families to mourn loved ones, whose lives have been cut short by Tuesday’s blasts in the city of Jos. However, while some families have been lucky to identify corpses of their loved ones, others were not. It is why Helen Musa says she couldn’t be happier and grateful to God though half of her mother’s body is bandaged as she lies ill at the Plateau Specialist Hospital. Helen explained that “compared to what we have seen in the morgue, we praise God that our mother is alive.” 
Mrs. Elizabeth Musa who sells water yam and moringa leaves by the fence of the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) old site, while narrating what happened on the day of the blast told Weekly Trust that “I had returned from the farm where I go to buy my leaves around 12 o’clock. I later heard some traders discussing that Boko Haram had written a letter that they were going to attack Terminus market, we thought it was all rumour and nobody knew when the letter was written or when they intended to attack, so I told myself that will I just sit at home and die of hunger.  We didn’t know it was true, but around 3pm I heard a loud sound which knocked me and the fence I was leaning on down.”
Buried in the rubble, Elizabeth made subring sounds, but no one could hear her, there was pandemonium as she heard people screaming and running. As she made several efforts to push away rubble covering her face, a young man searching for survivors saw her and called on another and they dragged her into a car which headed to the hospital.
 “I was bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness, immediately we entered the hospital I remember they gave me two injections, someone was saying ‘she is bleeding too much take her to the theatre.’”
Elizabeth, whose head, legs and arm are still bandaged, said doctors have confirmed that her right eye had been permanently damaged.
“Boko Haram has taken my eye but to God be the glory, because the power of God is greater than the power of Boko Haram and the Lord has put them to shame,” she said.
In a room not far from Elizabeth’s is 23-year-old Ismail Suleiman whose mother has been by his bedside since she was informed that her son had survived the blast. The 23-year-old student of Computer Science at the Secretariat said he was on his way to Bauchi road to deliver a message to a taxi driver going to Wase Local Government Area when the blast occurred.
Ismail explained that “the driver was not around so I walked back to go behind the Railway Station in terminus to check on my grandfather but he was also not around. After a few minutes, I decided to go back and check if the driver had returned but before I got there, I heard a loud sound which knocked me down.” That was the last thing he remembered when he later found himself in the hospital surrounded by doctors.
For Mahmud Muhammad, whose 13 years old daughter Aisha died in the twin blasts, the two days of uncertainty and apprehension had been excruciating. The family had searched for two days before they eventually discovered her remains atthe JUTH.
Muhammad said Aisha had left the house around 1pm to the market where she usually buy and sell kola nuts on the fateful day.Even as he heard that there was a bomb explosion at the Terminus, Muhammad said he thought of his daughter, but was optimistic that she was safe and would return to him. “Unfortunately her friends who hawk with her returned home without her. We searched for her that Tuesday and the next two days, went round the major hospitals and police stations but neither found her nor her corpse,” he said.
It was on their third visit to the JUTH while carrying Aisha’s picture that an attendant asked them for Aisha’s age and her corpse was discovered in the morgue. “I immediately identified her by her nose and one ear because the blast had damaged her forehead and also cut off her left leg, broken her body,” said Muhammad.
He said finding Aisha’s corpse had relieved the family adding that “as a Muslim, I believe in destiny, her death was very painful to me but I know that Allah who create her has taken her and certainly one day I will join her with the Almighty.”
For the family of Mukhtar Baba, a commercial tricycle driver, they have had the opportunity of seeing him alive in the hospital before he gave up the fight on Wednesday. His brother Salisu Baba told Weekly Trust that the 35-year-old father of three had been discovered receiving treatment at the Plateau Specialist hospital on Tuesday after the blast, but said “when we all moved to his bed, we saw him with an oxygen mask placed on his nose, his entire body was bandagedand there was a rubber support attached to his neck. The hospital staff then prescribed drugs and ordered us to buy, but unfortunately he died the next day. We have lost a great brother but we pray Almighty God will grant him AljannatulFirdaus.”
Families still searching for loved ones
Many families say they are still searching for their missing loved ones having combed for them in various hospitals within the city. Chaplin Raymond Mbatchu, a chemist at Shendamstreet and his relatives have been going round hospitals in search of Nancy, his sales girl. The 20 years old had left the shop around 2:25 on Tuesday afternoon to pick up Mbatchu’s daughter from school, but she never got to the school. It is presumed that she may have been caught up in the explosion but Mbatuch say they have been unable to recover her corpse in the various morgues. Even as the chemist opened his shop to pick up an item on Thursday afternoon, some men who arrived in a Rav4 jeep had challenged him for opening his shop while Nancy was still missing but the chemist explained that he had only gone to the shop to pick up an item while the search for Nancy was still ongoing.
He said “I have been crying all through, the girl is from my village, her mother and I went to school while her father is my uncle. She left the shop Tuesday at 2:25pm, the blast was around 3pm. We have visited hospitals and she is not there, we have not given up so we are still searching for her.”
Mallam Ibrahim Talle also told Weekly Trust that they had curbed the wards and morgues in Plateau hospital, Bingham Teaching hospital and the University Teaching Hospital in search of two of his nephews but known of them has been found.
He said the young men had been trading at the area where the bomb had exploded but was quick to point that “one of our neighbours who survived the blast said the two of them where not around when the bomb was set off yet we can’t find them. We have gone to the morgue in various hospitals, we have checked the corpses but we are unable to identify them.”
Salamatu Ibrahim also told our correspondent that her nephew who sells second hand wares around the area has been missing since the blast. According to her, “our uncles and brothers have gone round Plateau hospitals and the Bingham Teaching hospital yet we are unable to find Hamza’s corpse.”
Police deny car carrying bomb was parked for hours
The Plateau State Commissioner of Police, Chris Olakpe had on the day of the blast told news men that the first bomber arrived the market in Fiat J5 while the second bomb which was concealed in a Toyota Sienna space bus had gone off about 20 minutes later.
On whether there was a letter of warning written by the Boko Haram sect prior to the twin blasts, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Felicia Anselem debunked the report, saying no such letter was reported to the police. Anselem explained that the allegations by some traders that the cars carrying the explosives had been parked in the market for hours and that efforts had been made to alert law enforcement agents who only removed the number plate of the vehicle was also false.