President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday visited the site of Nigeria’s first suicide blast, claimed by Islamists, assuring that security forces were tackling the “ugly” emergence of terror attacks.
The radical Boko Haram sect said it was behind Thursday’s blast in a car park at the national police headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed a policeman and the bomber and wounded several other people.
“The security agencies are on top of it,” Jonathan told reporters after his inspection tour of the site.
“Surely, we will get over it. People should not be panicky at all. Soon, most of these things will be a thing of the past,” he said.
He was conducted round the site by national police chief Hafiz Ringim. Boko Haram said he was the target of its attack.
The explosion is the latest in a series of deadly attacks in recent months, adding to a climate of insecurity just weeks after Jonathan’s election late April for his first full term.
In the election Jonathan, a southern Christian, defeated his closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north. His victory in Nigeria’s fairest election yet, sparked rioting that claimed some 800 lives in the north.
“It’s another reminder that northern politics needs to have equal attention in the new administration,” said Alex Vines, a specialist researcher on regional security with the London-based think-tank Chatham House.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is divided roughly between a predominately Muslim north and a mainly Christian south.
Security experts said it was the first suicide bombing in Nigeria, a country of 150 million people facing a growing threat from Islamic militants.
“Let me use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that it is a period globally, that we experience all these terrorist attacks all over the world. No country is free (of it),” Jonathan said.
“Nigeria is also having some ugly incidents relating to that.”
Analysts say the attack showed that radical groups were using acts of terror to draw authorities’ attention to their demands.
Police are tracking down the perpetrators, police spokesman Yemi Ajayi said.
“We will leave no stone unturned,” he told AFP. “We already suspected Boko Haram over the attack. So we are not surprised that they claimed responsibility for it.”
Boko Haram said it regretted missing its target, the police chief.
In a statement, the Islamist group referred to comments he made days earlier, faulting him for “unguarded utterances to the effect that he will crush us in a matter of days”.
Police said the bomber drove into the car park and set off the bomb as he was about to be submitted to a routine search. Local media say the bomber was trailing the police chief as he drove into the compound.
Boko Haram, sometimes called the Nigerian Taliban, warned Wednesday of “fiercer” attacks.
The sect, believed to be based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, this week admitted links with a foreign Islamist group connected to Al-Qaeda, saying some of its members had just returned from training in Somalia.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sin”, launched an uprising in 2009 which was put down by a brutal military assault that left hundreds dead, mostly sect members.
It has pushed for the creation of an Islamic state and been blamed for the shootings of police and community leaders, bomb blasts and raids on churches, police stations and a prison.
Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for a spate of bombings near Abuja and in the north, claiming 18 lives, after Jonathan’s inauguration nearly three weeks ago.
Jonathan’s ruling party said the attack was “regrettable”, especially when the country was trying to recover from post-election unrest.