On the Trail of Yobe Students’ Murderers

Boko Haram insurgents

Peeved by the heartless murder of 43 students at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State, the Nigerian Army has ordered its troops to smoke out the Boko Haram insurgents, who carried out the attack

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 10, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS like a scene from a horror movie. Armed bandits numbering about 40 stormed a school compound from different directions, set buildings ablaze, including the hostels where students were already fast asleep and opened fire on those of them who tried to escape. The marauders reportedly captured some of the students and slit their throats open with knives and machetes. By the time the operation was over, about 43 students had been killed. Several others were injured and taken to hospital. According to the school authorities, no fewer than 16 female students were taken away as captives. The deadly attack, carried out in the middle of the night, was said to have happened at about 2:00am on Tuesday, February 25. It was a Boko Haram raid on the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, about 70 kilometres from Damaturu, capital of Yobe State. It was the fourth time such attack had been carried out on educational institutions in the state.

Some of the female students who were left unharmed were told by the insurgents to forget about western education and advised to go and get married.


Adamu Garba, a teacher, said he and other teachers who ran away into the bush, estimates that 40 students died in the assault that began around 2:00am. He said it was difficult to communicate from the town, because the extremists had destroyed the mobile telephone tower there last year. Garba said the attackers first set ablaze the college’s administrative block, then moved to the hostels, where they locked students in and started firebombing the buildings. “Students who were trying to climb out of the windows were slaughtered like sheep by the terrorists who slit their throats. Others who ran away were gunned down,’’ the teacher disclosed. He also said that students who could not escape were burnt alive.

Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State, who visited the scene of the incident, was too emotional to make any official statement. Tearfully, he directed aides on what to do as he inspected the college where officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, and the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, were still conveying dead bodies to Damaturu. Some of the injured students were also taken for treatment at the General Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital in Damaturu.

The attack on the students has apparently sent another shockwave across the country. It was the fourth serious attack in the North-East states in the past three weeks. More than 300 people were killed in the  Boko Hram attacks in villages of Adamawa and Borno states. Thousands of people were also rendered homeless. The attacks have again called into question whether government has what it takes to deal with the insurgents.

In his reaction to the killing, President Goodluck Jonathan, in a statement by Reuben Abati, his special adviser on media and publicity, said he “received with immense sadness and anguish, news of the callous and senseless murder by terrorists, of scores of students at a college in Yobe State in the early hours of today (Tuesday, February 25).”

After expressing his sympathy to the parents and relatives of the murdered students, the president condemned “the heinous, brutal and mindless killing of the guiltless students by deranged terrorists and fanatics who have clearly lost all human morality and descended to bestiality.” He assured the nation that his administration would not relent in its efforts to end the scourge of terrorism in the country which has been claiming innocent lives. “The Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies will continue to prosecute the war against terror with full vigour, diligence and determination until the dark cloud of mass murder and destruction of lives and property is permanently removed from our horizon,” he said.

Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, on hearing about the attack, broke down in tears. A statement by his media officer in Abuja, criticised the federal government for its tepid response to the security needs in the North-East region of the country, saying it amounted to mere chasing of shadows if schools could not be protected from armed attacks.


Abubakar was particularly irked by the impression given by President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential media chat on Monday that the government had been successful at pushing armed attacks to the fringes of the country. “If our counter-insurgency strategies are not strong enough to keep our children safe inside their schools, then one must wonder if such a strategy isn’t mere chasing of shadows… it is important that the federal government ups its counter-insurgency strategy and desists from taking credits in pushing armed attacks to the fringes, as the president would like to put it. No Nigerian’s life is less in value to another,” Abubakar said.

The United Nations joined Nigerians and human rights groups across the world to condemn the brutal killings of innocent students. On Wednesday, February 26, Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN, expressed worry over the incessant attacks on places of learning in the country and urged that the perpetrators be “swiftly brought to justice.” A statement from Ban’s office in New York said in part: “The secretary-general is deeply concerned about the increasing frequency and brutality of attacks against educational institutions in the North of the country. He reiterates that no objective can justify such violence.” One of its part the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, expressed outrage at the mindless killing, saying it was “unacceptable under any circumstances.” Manuel Fontaine, its regional director for West and Central Africa, said in a statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this vicious attack on students,”

Patrick Abba Moro, minister of interior, said that the Boko Haram insurgents were successful in their attacks because they had changed their tactics and were now wearing camouflages of the soldiers. The minister also said that the attacks persist because the Nigerian security outfits could not provide security personnel in every locality in the country. The minister who was speaking during the commissioning of an administrative block and 36 units of staff quarters of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, at the College of Security Management, Abeokuta, Ogun State, appealed to Nigerians to be more vigilant.

A lot of Nigerians who have been reacting to the attacks would want security agencies to be more active along the Nigerian borders especially in the Northern parts of the country. Security sources said some of those taking part in the attacks were from neighbouring countries. David Parradang, comptroller general of Nigerian Immigration Service, said the country’s borders were too porous for security forces alone to police. Parradang said this was responsible for easy access of foreigners to come into the country, and therefore, appealed to Nigerians to be on their guard and report any suspicious move, especially those among them who they perceive as foreigners.


Mike Omeri, director general of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, said the agency would soon start to use the social media on enlightenment programme that would enable Nigerians to be their brothers’ keepers and to alert security agencies on the presence of suspicious moves around their areas. Omeri said this would help to lessen activities of Boko Haram insurgents. He argued that the responsibility of every Nigerian to keep the country safe and not for security personnel alone.

Nevertheless, a lot of Nigerians said the attack on the students seemed to have vindicated Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who alleged that the insurgents appeared to have more sophisticated arms, better motivated and committed than the Nigerian troops. Apparently, his remarks did not go down well with the president who used the February 25,media chat to criticise the governor for his unguarded statement.

That notwithstanding, the Defence Headquarters, on Tuesday, February 25, said Nigerian troops were already on the trail of the Boko Haram terrorists who carried out the attack. According to sources, the troops had been given order to either arrest or wipe out the insurgents by all means. Chris Olukolade, a major-general and director of defence information, admitted that the troops were already on their trail. “Our troops are on the trail of the terrorists who attacked and killed the students. We have discovered where they came from. We now know their methods and how they plan the attacks. We will get them and we will deal with them appropriately.” He said the insurgents were being trailed to locations between Yobe and Borno states and the counter-operation against them would be carried out by air and land. “It is either the insurgents are arrested or destroyed. We believe that we will get them,” he said.

On Wednesday, February 26, the Senate committee on Defence and Army, also expressed disgust over the attack and passed a resolution directing Lieutenant-General Kenneth Minnimah, chief of Army Staff, to relocate his office temporarily to the 7th Division of Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, Borno State, for urgent and appropriate steps to stop Boko Haram’s repeated attacks in the North-East. The committee also directed the Army chief to adopt new methods to deal with the sect’s excesses in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. It passed the resolution when Minimah led top officers of the Army to the Senate to defend the budget of the force.

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