A Dirty Bomb Detonation In Nigeria: A Question Of Only When And Why

By Stephen Lonewolf Makama
Apr. 30, 2012

Goodluck Jonathan Should Read This

A 15kiloton blast in the center of the Central Business District (usually threats are projected for worst case scenarios ) in Abuja would severely affect and cause near to total destruction within the immediate radiuses of Phases 1 and 3, Zone 3 followed by Zones 1 and 4, Garki 1, Ahmadu Bello Way and Millennium Park. A kiloton is 1,000 tons- the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima was only 64kg highly enriched uranium.

Nigeria is a place where people who are vested or saddled with the responsibility of thinking actually do so – but with crutches.

If I have gored anybody’s ox with my opening statements – then so be it, maybe a jab like that may actually get people actually thinking.

As an unacknowledged public affairs commentator before the current spate of suicide forays all over the country I dared not even contemplate the scenario – one, because I felt Nigerians loved life so much – respect life well , that is subject to opinion, to condescend down to that level. But even though I felt compelled to drop the poser ‘what if…’ I remained a part of the decimal and refused to think about the prospect of such a madness visiting our shores…now we have been educated.

At least I was honest in my ignorance. A respectable news columnist with The Nation newspaper took on a former retired high police officer on why (or how) he could possibly suggest that Al Qaeda was operative or had any designs on Nigeria…we all know now.

There is the possibility of a any group of disgruntled elements - I will not say Boko Haram because we now daily hear of individuals with brains on crutches reminding us that even Christians are involved in bombing their churches, so I will generously be gracious and not point fingers…but THINK- without the crutches… so as I was saying, there is a possibility of any group of disgruntled elements actually using a ‘dirty bomb’ on Nigerian soil.

Oh, but why not? We do not even have any borders much less border control or security- bandits from poorer Africans that we feed and smuggle oil to invade our territorial integrity, molest harass, and kill our citizens with no consequences.

I hope Mr Rueben Abati will read this article and pass it on to President Goodluck Jonathan who in turn will assign me a Security Adviser portfolio…

What is a ‘dirty bomb’?

If I gauge my typical Nigerian mentality correct the people who are supposed to know do not know or have the slightest idea…

According to Wikipaedia this is what a dirty bomb is…

A dirty bomb is a speculative radiological weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area around the explosion with radioactive material, hence the attribute "dirty".

A dirty bomb would be described as a Radiological Dispersal Devise but would not be described as a weapon of mass destruction: ”Since a dirty bomb is unlikely to cause many deaths, many do not consider this to be a weapon of mass destruction.[3] Its purpose would presumably be to create psychological, not physical, harm through ignorance, mass panic, and terror. For this reason dirty bombs are sometimes called "weapons of mass disruption". Additionally, containment and decontamination of thousands of victims, as well as decontamination of the affected area might require considerable time and expense, rendering areas partly unusable and causing economic damage.”

Its purpose would presumably be to create psychological, not physical, harm through ignorance, mass panic, and terror…

A dirty bomb explosion would not only catastrophic for the mentioned reasons but also for the singular ‘Nigerian factorial’ – the ability or proclivity to exploit a situation- accusations were made against NEMA (the Nigerian National Emergency Agency), by CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria), Jos North Branch sometime this year, for giving false figures on number of displaced people from the civil disturbances in Jos… connivance by NEMA and Presidency officials to milk the Nigerian state through the misery of the Nigerian people.

This is the modus of many other government first response emergency or services agencies or organizations.

For a nation that has serious challenges treating simple malaria cases a ‘pandemic situation’ resulting from a dirty bomb incidence would be simply left to imagination…a clinical picture of what is known as ‘radiation sickness’ or acute radiation syndrome resulting from exposure typically includes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting within the first few hours of exposure (intensive irradiation of the bone marrow or gastro intestinal tract). This is succeeded by a symptom free period which lasts until the main phase of the illness.

The main phase of the intestinal form of illness typically begins 2 or 3 days after irradiation, with abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea which progresses rapidly in severity leading within several days to dehydration, and a fatal shock like state.

The main phase of the hematopoietic (blood and bone related) form of the illness characteristically begins in the second or third week after irradiation, with fever and weakness, infection, and hemorrhage.

If the damage to the bone marrow is severe death from overwhelming infection or hemorrhage may ensue four six weeks after exposure unless corrected by transplantation of compatible unirradiated bone marrow cells (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)- imagine this in a country where Parliamentarians and senior public officials travel abroad at the pretext of the simplest ailment- on recommendation of their Nigerian physicians!

The higher the dose the quicker and more evident and nasty the radiation effect…

So will it happen and in Nigeria?

The answer is- it may happen – it is hoped that it will not happen but the intransigent Nigerian factorial glaring all common sense in the face- hopefully Goodluck Jonathan may read this…

Since 9/11 the fear of terrorist groups using dirty bombs increased significantly even though has only been 2 cases of Caesium – 137 containing bombs, neither were set off. In November 1995 Chechen separatists concealed a caesium – 137 source wrapped in explosive in a park in Moscow but a Chechen leader alerted the media and it was never activated. In December 1998 a container filled with radioactive material was discovered at a train station – which was announced by Chechen Security Service.

Publicity stunts? ‘That was the 90’s as we would say that the 80’s, the 70’s …things have changed – the terrorists have become more detached from humanity since the 90’s and with current events in Nigeria and the West African sub region anything is possible- Niger just across our ‘no border’ have uranium almost free for the asking… Goodluck Jonathan needs to read this…

Unfortunately the present state of insecurity has not directly impacted our Parliamentarians or so called law makers and policy makers so the average Nigerian continues to stew in his trepidation as a soft target, but with the rhetoric recently directed ‘uncommon man’, would be safe.

An ingenious website called Carlos Labs has developed a software e scenario of probable nuclear blast in any major city of the world. The program allows one to search for any location in the world and select from a number of nuclear devises that have been tested since WWII to carry out a mock theoretical nuclear attack.

A simulated blast of a 15kiloton (a kiloton is 1,000 tons- the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima was only 64kg highly enriched uranium) nuclear devise is portrayed graphically with concentric circles rippling out from origin of blast called ‘Ground Zero’.

A 15kiloton blast in the center the Central Business District (usually threats are projected for worst case scenarios) in Abuja would severely affect and cause near to total destruction within the immediate radiuses of Phases 1 and 3, Zone 3 followed by Zones 1 and 4, Garki 1, Ahmadu Bello Way and Millennium Park.

The same blast simulated at the Supreme Court as Ground Zero would affect 3 Army Zone, the CBD, national Arboretum and Millennium Park – Asokoro would be affected in the last radius of the blast. A blast in Maitama would affect Wuse 2, National Arboretum, 3 Army Zone, Zone 4, Phase and Supreme Court.

In both the case of a non nuclear blast and a nuclear one – proximity to Ground Zero determines the level of damage but in the case of a dirty bomb blast or full nuclear explosion there is the danger or threat of a ‘fallout’ described as release of radioactivity from nuclear explosion – the symptoms of a radiation illness already described.

This type of radiation is capable of penetrating the armored limousines and SUV’s our politicians are known to have a gravitation of concealing themselves inside while pretending the problems of the common Nigerian do not exist or matter- imagine if the Louis Edet House bombing was a dirty bomb or a nuclear devise, imagine what would happen if someone smuggled a suitcase bomb (a miniaturized nuclear bomb) into the National Assembly…

On the side of good and not evil in this is the fact that to build or construct a dirty bomb, the radioactive material must first be acquired- by legal or illegal purchase or theft. A possible radioactive dispersal devise could be gleaned from millions of radioactive sources used world wide in industry, for medical purposes and in academic applications mainly for research. Of these sources , fortunately – once again ,only nine reactor produced isotopes (one of two or more species of atoms of a chemical element with the same atomic number and position in the periodic table and nearly identical chemical behavior but with different atomic masses and physical properties) stand out as being suitable for radiological terror: americium-241, californium-252, caesium-137, cobalt-60, iridium-192, plutonium-238, polonium-210, radium-226 and strontium-90…(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has estimated that within the United States of America, approximately one source is lost, abandoned or stolen every day of the year. There has been a steady increase in illicit trafficking of radioactive sources from 1996 – 2004, fortunately there has been no conclusive evidence pointing toward a ‘black market’ (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

In addition to the obstacles in obtaining usable radioactive material, there are a number of conflicting requirements of the material the terrorists need to take into consideration: First, the source should be "sufficiently" radioactive to create direct radiological damage at the explosion or at least to perform societal damage or disruption.

Second, the source should be transportable with enough shielding to protect the carrier, but not so much that it will be too heavy to maneuver. Third, the source should be sufficiently dispersible to effectively contaminate the area around the explosion. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

A worst case scenario could be a terror organization possessing a strontium -90 thermal generator (a very highly radioactive material) which could create a Chernobyl type incident – detonation of such a dirty bomb using such a source would be terrifying to imagine, but once again (fortunately) it would be hard to assemble the bomb and transport it without severe damage and possible death of the perpetrators involved, shielding the source would make it almost impossible and a lot less effective if detonated.

Having quoted that still- there have been attempts, not as dramatically portrayed in Hollywood movies, but there are individuals and organizations who would go to any length to actualize this fantasy (for the terrorist0 and nightmare (for you and I).

It should not be of any comfort – especially in our case considering our atrocious response to situations much less preparing our response (s) for such situations, fortunately this is a country and system where things only work or are initiated only and when a VIP lives down the street and then when something is being done about his issues ordinary Nigerians are privileged to partake of the trimmings.

Terrorists have no specific victims and a dirty bomb would affect all irrespective of social leaning or position on the ladder…

I think President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should read this.


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