In recent time the central senatorial district of Kogi state (Ebiraland) has been vulnerable to all forms of accusation, infiltration and intimidation by some people in taking advantage of the recurrent restiveness in the area amidst un-ending security challenge in Nigeria. However, since the inception of the said dreaded Boko Haram insurgency in the country, several efforts were made to link the sect with Ebira people. The Nigerian media which are supposed to be an arbiter for peace and nation builders particularly in this period of anxiety are being used in fueling the conflict by misinforming and exaggerating their reports in order to market their papers or gain popularity.
Adversely, even though journalism is meant to be about investigating events, to find the truth and report it to the public as it is, they are turned into means of victimization and inducing more conflict in the country.
The recent reports about a car explosion in Okene vindicated the adverse role of Nigerian media. Several media both locally and internationally were Publishing Mountains of fabricated and contradictory information about the purported bomb blast in Okene, Kogi state. The following are the copies of some of the reports:
“A captured bomber involved in the car bombing of a gasoline station in Okene today made a startling confession that another car rigged with bombs and with two men at the controls may be headed to Abuja to carry out a bomb attack. A second bomb planted at the entrance of a church in the Okene exploded before the end of church service. The Joint Military Task Force (JTF) commander in the state, Lieutenant-Colonel Gabriel Olorunyomi, said the bomb was planted at the front of the Lord’s Chosen Church also in Obehira area of Okene timed to explode at the end of the church service. No one was injured in that attack.” (Saharareporters)
Another report from different section put it as thus:
“A car carrying explosive devices, yesterday, exploded along Okene-Obehira road just by The Living Faith Church in Okene Local Government Area of Kogi State.
The blast came on the heels of apprehension occasioned by alleged rumour from a pastor in the area of an intending attack on some locations in the state by members of the Boko Haram group.
The Kogi State Police Command spokesman, Mr Ile Simon, who confirmed the explosion in Lokoja, said the suspect was driving in a car and heading towards the church when he was accosted by security men. Ile said that it was while the suspect was still undergoing screening that a “big” explosion occurred.
He said the security men deployed to the church then arrested the suspect before he could escape. He added that no report of death was received but some people were being treated for shock and injuries from the stampede that followed the blast.
But another eyewitness claimed that the occupants of the said vehicle were apparently waiting for the church service to end before carrying out their attack when the manager of the NNPC filling station where the vehicle was parked and was asked to move the car away accosted them.
The source added that it was in the process of moving the vehicle from the station that it exploded, though he said there was no casualty aside the occupant of the car.
Simon said one person had been arrested in connection with the incident and was being interrogated while the security agents were on the trail of another suspect who was said to have escaped.” (Vanguard)
The third paper reports that:
“No fewer than 1,000 members of the Living Faith Church, aka Winners Chapel, located along Obehira Road and the Deeper Life Church all in Okene, Kogi State, reportedly escaped death on Sunday when a car laden with explosives exploded along Okene-Obehira Road.
It was learnt that there had been rumours of impending attack on the residents from unknown persons in the last one week.
An eyewitness, who pleaded not to be named, said worshippers at the two churches located within the vicinity scampered for safety after the explosion.
The eyewitness, middle aged man, told journalists in Okene that the explosives in the vehicle went off beside the Living Faith Church. He, however, said nobody was sure of the destination of the vehicle.
But another eyewitness, who also preferred anonymity, said the occupants of the vehicle were on their way to the Living Faith Church. He added that the explosion recurred while the church service was already going on.
He said the attackers could be aiming to bomb the churches before they were stopped by one of the managers of the NNPC filling station where the vehicle was initially parked.
The source added that it was in the process of moving the vehicle from the station that it exploded.
According to him, there was no casualty.
The incident caused gridlock along the ever-busy Okene-Obehira Road, which is one of the link roads between the North and the western states.
Meanwhile, security agents in connection with the explosion arrested a man.
The Kogi State Police Command spokesman, Mr. Ile Simon, who confirmed the arrest in Lokoja on Sunday, said the suspect was driving in a car and heading towards the church when security men accosted him.
The police spokesman said no report of death was received but some people were being treated for shock and injuries from the stampede that followed the explosion. Simon said the command had placed its men on 24-hour alert to prevent a reoccurrence. (Punch).
There is no doubt that all these contradictory reports from divergent ends are far from the truth. The incident happened around 11 am at the “NMPC” filling station (not “NNPC filling station” as reported by the media) along Obehira road Okene, on Sunday, July 15th 2012. The exploded car is 200 meters distance between the NMPC filling station and the Living Faith Church which some believe to be the target of the blast. This is in sharp contrast to reports in some news media that the blast occurred at the entrance of the church few minutes before the end of church service. The pictures published by the punch newspaper and saharareporter are absolutely not the images of the scene. The exploded car is neither beside the church nor at the entrance of the church building, rather, the exploded car parked beside the road along Obehira.
Thus, it is an established fact that there is intra-ethnic riot in Ebiraland but it has not gotten to the extent of religious crisis. There is no any record of Christian/Muslim crisis in Ebiraland. The Muslims and the Christians live peacefully; hence, there is no need of waging war against the other. We live together; we are of the same families.
Exaggerating or associating the explosion with anybody or any group in the area is just a conspiracy to instill another fear and uncertainty in the patriotic hearts of Ebira people. It is indeed an attempt to foil the effort of security agents in restoring absolute peace and tranquility in the area; a miscalculated attempt to subdue Ebira people through deliberate and repressive misinformation.
Ebira Unity Association therefore calls upon the security agents to critically investigate and publish all relevant facts concerning the blast in Okene. At this juncture, we hereby warn those mischievous and unscrupulous elements that are spreading the rumor with evil intent capable of throwing the already fragile community into another chaos.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, as such; we advise the general public to be security conscious and report any suspicious move to the security agents not the “media”. Because, from the fact presented above it’s obvious and vividly clear to those who with intellect and reason with logic to decipher the truth from the falsehood that verily, these Lilliputians and unqualified reporters are up to cause trouble in Ebiraland and Nigeria.
Ebira Unity Association