Our spirits are not dampened, official says one year after attack on UN House in Abuja
The United Nations’ Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Daouda Toure on Sunday said that the death of staff and partners of the organisation killed by the bomb blast which brought down the UN House in Abuja on Friday, 26 August 2011 only help to mobilize their surviving colleagues.
Speaking in an occasion to mark the first year anniversary of the attack which killed 23 persons and injured 120 others, Mr Toure said “although the devastating attack took the lives of our colleagues and partners and maimed many people, all of whom were in the building in the pursuit of service to humanity, our spirits have not been dampened.
“Their death mobilizes us more than ever before. Their sacrifice will not be in vain. We will strive to pursue our work for the people of Nigeria for the continuance of peace and stability of this great nation, and the socio-economic development of all. The UN identifies with the people of all its Member States, which justifies the expression ‘we, the people,’ as prescribed in the UN Charter. The families of our fallen colleagues should be proud of the altruism of their loved ones.”
Mr Toure saluted the resilience and courage of UN staff and officials who have continued undaunted with their development and humanitarian work of helping the people of Nigeria regardless of the constraints.
“From our temporary office locations, the UN agencies and organizations are pursuing their mission and mandate for Nigerians. As an illustration, barely 24 hours after the bomb attack, the UN operation was back on stream and helping the flooding victims in some states – a reaffirmation of the UN’s commitment and promise to the great member state, Nigeria,” he said.
He reaffirmed that the United Nations System in Nigeria will continue on its mission to assist in improving the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Agencies and Organizations in Nigeria, in a press statement said it “remember, with fond memories and prayers, all the 23 persons (13 UN staff and 10 non-UN staff) who lost their lives as a result of the bombing of the UN House in Abuja.
“We also reiterate our expression of solidarity and support to all the more than 120 persons who sustained various degrees of injuries from the bomb attack. We convey the continuous support and appreciation of the UN Secretary-General and all the Executive Heads of various Agencies and Organizations.
“On the occasion of this solemn one year anniversary, the United Nations Team in Nigeria (composed of agencies and organizations) once again presents its deepest condolences to the families of victims, reiterated our gratitude to the Government and people of Nigeria from all walks of life, irrespective of their religion, philosophical or political beliefs, for their active support, solidarity and commitment to the mission of the UN throughout this difficult period.”
The list of the Departed UN staff and Non-UN Staff, who we remember today and always, are:
United Nations Staff
1. Ms. Rahmat Abdullahi (UNDP)
2. Mr. Musa Ali (WHO)
3. Mr. Johnson Awotunde (UNICEF)
4. Dr. Edward Dede (WHO)
5. Mr. Elisha Enaburekhan( UNAIDS)
6. Mr. Ahmed Abiodun Adewale-Kareem (UNICEF)
7. Mr. Iliya David Musa ( UNDP)
8. Ms. Ingrid Midtgaard (UNODC)
9. Mrs. Felicia Nkwuokwu ( UNDP)
10. Mr. Stephen Obamoh (UNDP)
11. Mr. Abraham A. Osunsaya ( WHO)
12. Mr. Fred Willis( UNICEF)
13. Mr. Sunday Nwachukwu( UNDP)
Non United Nations Staff
1. Mr. Sunday James Ebere: Shipping Agent, Balast Agency
2. Mr. Ndubisi Bright: Hospitality Industry Consults
3. Mr. Paul Waziri: Nigeria Cleaning Services
4. Ms. Kate Demehin: Federal Ministry of Health
5. Ms. Caroline Michael: Kings Guard
6. Mr. Sunday Omelenyi: Kings Guard
7. Mr. Yakubu Garuba: Kings Guard
8. Mr. Abiodun Cyril Adeseye: Julius Berger
9. Ms. Patricia Ekweringe: Travel Agent
10. Ms. Joy Audu: Nigeria Cleaning Services
Memories of a Dark Friday (UNV staff gives a personal account of Abuja UN House bomb blast in Nigeria on August 26, 2011)
7 a.m. – I cannot get up from bed, my legs feel heavy and seem made of lead. My body is out of control. Feminine intuition – a kind of an inner teacher (IN-TUITION) – an incredible resource and gift that we have been given to help us live our best life. All are aware of intuition, but not all use it. This is a good guard, which in case of danger, rings clear as a bell, but I did not listen to it that morning. I am making an effort to actually go to work because I have booked an important appointment and can’t miss it.
8:45 a.m.- Quarters of the United Nations (UN House) is located in the diplomatic zone in Abuja, not far away form the United States embassy. The UN building is a gift from the Nigerian government to the UN mission in Nigeria. The two- winged and four-floored building took form of a huge bird with wings spread in flight; it seems the architects tried to capture the spirit of impartiality and harmony of the inhabitants of the building and their mission to the surroundings and Nigerians.
9 a.m. – I park my car in the parking lot for UN staffers, and go to the checkpoint. The Nigerian and UN flags sway in the blue sky. I now take the stairs – it produces an energizing effect on me – to the second floor, to my office drowning in the sea of smiles from employees, who greet me a good morning. I ask the assistant- a sweet Nigerian young lady- to get a set of files ready for the appointment, and I sit at my computer, without which I cannot imagine a single working day. In our times, the workplace of each office employee is equipped with a computer with access to the internet. In a finger’s snap, we all became dependent on this machine, which can not think for itself, but still is very cute and found its way to enslave us.
10 a.m. – Getting ready for my appointment; fingering the keys, I begin to type. A knock on the door, a colleague from the neigbouring office enters to discuss current issues. She bears a beautiful, and most importantly, a meaningful name, Hassana, which in Arabic means “good luck”.
10:20 a.m. – A quake … reality slips away in a blink of an eye, like water through the fingers. For a split second I dive into another world, one in which there is no clear line between life and death. A complete disorientation in space begins, but fortunately, no agitation, and no temporary stupor arises. I promptly come back to reality. Suspended ceilings, partitions and file cabinets began to fall on us. The smell of burnt insulation: the wiring cracked and sparked, dozens of cables hanging over our heads. We were now in darkness. Somewhere from above fell pieces of plaster and broken partitions. All is in a daze, difficult to breathe: cement dust gets into the eyes and eats into dry lips. We have to flee as soon as possible. I push the door and stop abruptly in the door way. A terrible picture lies in front of me: Hassana’s office vanished. It fell into the shaft created by the massive blast on the first floor. Hassana stands rooted to the spot, trying to understand, what happened was on the verge of death, and she could fall forever along with her office. I grab her hand and rush to the exit. The corridor is very narrow, only half a metre. I hit my shoulders painfully on the corners and edges of partitions. We have to hurry, hurry to the emergency exit, where there were already a few members of our department. No! Anything but this! The door of the emergency exit got locked by the wave of the blast. Someone grabs a fire extinguisher, and breaks the glass; a gap occurs in which we slide along the line. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry up! The building might fall any second like a card house. Running to the stair way, we joined other fleeing colleagues descending from upper floors. A woman suddenly grabs my arm and drags me down the stairs. She is crying and thanking God for saving our lives “We are alive! We are alive!” she cries out loud like a spell gulping back her tears. Yet we do not know that we are so lucky, unlike our colleagues on the ground floor.
Finally, we run outside, in front of us lays a horrible scene- a bloody butchery. No, this can’t be true, this is a mere fiction, nightmare, I want to wake up, but I can’t: the courtyard is filled with broken glass; here and there are blood-soaked, lifeless bodies. Moans and groans from injured victims, heartbreaking cries from victims’ relatives who came to look for their loved ones. A woman is weeping hysterically after a loss. The wide yawning gashes in the building look like jaws, from which bits of framework hang like fangs of wild animals. In there rescue workers are trying to extract lifeless bodies from the rubble…
May the souls of our colleagues rest in peace
(Additional information from UNDP website)