A memorial ceremony was held amidst tight security on Thursday in honor of the 23 victims of the August 26 United Nations, UN, House, Abuja bombing.
Sympathizers, family members and other well-wishers gathered at the remains of the bombed UN House to pay homage to the victims over their loss and also with the 129 persons who are injured and are receiving medical attention in medical institutions both in Nigeria and abroad.
There were many officers and men of the Police, the State Security Services, SSS, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, the Army and officials of the United Nations Department of Security and Training.
President Goodluck Jonathan was represented by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru. Also there were Christian Association of Nigeria President Ayo Oritsejafor; Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Bala Mohammed; Minister of State Olajumoke Akinjide; Minister of State for Health Dr. Alli Pate; Minister of Information Labaran Maku and Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu.
Senator Mohammed Bala, the Federal Capital Territory Minister, gave the welcome address, sympathizing with the global UN families and others. He pledged the resolve of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led Federal Government to fight violence and terrorism and the desire to provide safety nets to protect lives of Nigerians and their properties.
He also mentioned the decision of the Federal Government to provide a temporary office accommodation for the global body pending when a permanent one will be ready.
Ashiru was the first to lay a wreath in honor of the dead, followed by the UN Resident Co-ordinator, Dauda Toure, ministers and security chiefs, Pastor Oritsejafor, the Chief Imam of the National Mosque in Abuja as well as families of the deceased. After the wreaths laying, the condolence register was signed.
Toure, who read a speech on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, said the world organization was reassessing the security situation in Nigeria. He said the UN is investigating the attack with help from countries that have the expertise in such security challenges.
Ki Moon, describing the attack as a display of utter disregard for human life and an assault on not just the UN premises but also on the values and work of the UN staff, said: “The lives we mourn today personify the deep commitment that characterizes the work of the United Nations in Nigeria and globally. At this time of sorrow and loss, let us pledge to honor their sacrifice by continuing to make the UN presence in Nigeria a beacon of peace and hope.”
“I commend all of our partners who stood with us during our time of need, including the host government, other governments, doctors and medical practitioners for their support”.
He added: “We celebrate their humanity and have been privileged to share in their vision and energy. They did not die for nothing because they believed in a world of peace, tolerance and social justice. Their death should spur all of us as one family to continue to live the ideals for which they died. The victims were attacked by those people who hardly understood what we stand for as the UN, cutting short lives of valuable workforce needed to advance the quality healthcare to millions of poor and vulnerable populations in Nigeria, including those whom these attackers erroneously profess to represent.”
“I was told of one young man who died on what was to be his last day of work before departing to further his education—a path he chose because he had been so inspired by his association with the United Nations. There are many more such stories of dreams brutally denied,” he said.
Governor Aliyu Babangida Muazu of Niger state who represented all the Nigerian state governors pledged the determination of the Nigeria Governors Forum to support President Jonathan in the fight against terrorism and ensure that terrorists do not take over Nigeria. He also promised the immediate rehabilitation of the building.
While promising to support the families and relations of the dead UN staff, Dr Jonathan said: “It is the prayer of us all that God will console the families of the departed, the Nigeria populace stand as one with the UN family; we pray that such incident will not happen in Nigeria again. We wish to reaffirm government readiness to work with the UN, to ensure that all those responsible for the terrorist acts are brought to justice as we commend all those that helped to evacuate the victims on the day of the bomb blast.”
His words: “”When I look at this building, I feel very sad. This is an unfortunate incident and we can’t reverse it. My prayer and hope is that Nigeria will stand as one because of the blood of the innocent ones that is being shed in this country. I also like to appeal that everyone should be security conscious; we should not depend on the military, police or any security agency and I hope that those behind this bombing should look for forgiveness from God.”
A son of the deceased, Jonathan, who was apparently in shock, said: “I feel so sad and the worst part is that I’m going to miss his presence. I know that the time they brought him out on the day of the attack, my dad’s friend was telling us that he was praying that God should help him survive and that God should help his children and family. He was particular about his family. This is very sad.”
Asiru declared that the nation has been strengthened by the bomb incident at the UN House and that Nigeria will continue to be the anchor of UN as far as the achievement of global peace is concerned.