Speaking to newsmen at the Government House after he (together with the Shehu) were whisked away by security operatives, the visibly shaken deputy governor said the attack was launched shortly after the Friday prayers when he and the monarch were exchanging pleasantries few metres away from the mosque.
“We only walked about five steps outside the mosque when the suicide bomber exploded himself. When I saw blood all over my body, I thought I had lost one of my legs even though I was still standing. But the intensity of the blast had swept away one of my shoes,” he said.
“It is by the grace of Allah that we are alive, otherwise we would have been dead by now,” he said.
“Alhamdu-Lillah, both I and the Shehu, including members of our entourage were not injured. It is, however, regretful that innocent worshippers were affected…it is very sad. We thought we are heading for better days, but with what happened today is really terrible,” the deputy governor said.
The deputy governor said the information he received from security agents showed that the bomber was a teenager of about 15 years and had concealed the wired explosives under his cloths.
“I learnt that the severed head of the suspect was recovered and it was found that he (the bomber) was even at the Shehu’s palace earlier in the day,” he said.
On whether the latest development was an indication that the doors of dialogue with the Boko Haram members are closed, the deputy governor said, “with what happened today, I think there is a problem even though I strongly believe that the moderate members of the group are willing to accept dialogue,” he said.
Spokesman of the JTF Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said the incident happened around 2.10pm.
According to him, “a suicide bomber strapped with explosives detonated bombs very close to the Shehu of Borno and the deputy governor and their entourage immediately after Juma’at congregational prayers.
“JTF troops attached to the Shehu’s palace prevented the bomber from getting to the Shehu and the deputy governor. Five people, including the bomber were killed. Four civilians were wounded while two soldiers who pushed (away) the bomber were critically injured,” he said.
Musa said all routes leading to the Shehu’s palace had been cordoned off while the bomb disposal unit of the JTF had swept the precinct of the mosque and made it safe.
A hospital source said mutilated bodies including security men in uniforms had been deposited at the morgue of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
“We are now at the Accident and Emergency (unit) treating some people who sustained injuries from the blast,” he said.
On his part, Governor Kashim Shettima, apparently referring to his deputy and the Shehu, said, “Do not be shaken in your faith by any hardship or tribulations because Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.
“Verily…those who joyfully leave everything in Allah’s hands will always see Allah’s hands in everything they do. And all worries ends where faith begins. What happened in Maiduguri today has strengthened our faith, dedication and commitment to serve our people more than ever before,” he said.
Our correspondent gathered that the Shehu had since returned to his palace.
There was pandemonium and uncertainty in many parts of Maiduguri yesterday. There was also a noticeable presence of security operatives all over the city and the town was later enveloped in silence as the 7pm curfew time sets in.