The death toll in the Sunday attack by suspected Boko Haram members on the Yobe State College of Agriculture, Guijba, has increased from 50 to 90.
A security top source made this known on Monday just as the Amnesty International, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the All Progressives Congress, the Arewa Consultative Forum and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam flayed the incident as ignoble, wicked and horrendous.
Our source said that the authorities of the school, while searching the bushes around the school with local hunters and soldiers on Monday , recovered 28 more bodies.
He added that the search became necessary when the authorities conducted a headcount of the students that survived and discovered that some were still missing.
Before the source spoke, an international human rights group, the Amnesty International, had in a statement on Monday , quoted a Damaturu resident as having said that 62 bodies were counted at the Sani Abacha General Hospital Mortuary, Damaturu.
“One resident of Damaturu said that on Sunday he counted 62 bodies at the Sani Abacha General Hospital mortuary in Damaturu, Yobe State,”AI said in a statement by its Africa Deputy Director, Lucy Freeman.
The AI called on the government to adopt urgent measures to prevent further killing of students, especially in the North-East.
It observed that the attack on educational institutions and students had increased since 2012 and should be brought to an end immediately.
“Since 2012, we have seen an escalation of lethal attacks against students and schools. On top of the tragic loss of life, children are being prevented from accessing education. It is high time for the authorities not only to investigate these deplorable incidents and take those responsible to justice but to take measures to prevent them,” the group added.
The group stated that the attacks on schools had become more vicious and brutal since the beginning of 2013 with the latest taking place when schools were in session.
The AI said that Boko Haram, its affiliate organisations and individuals “in northern Nigeria must immediately stop all attacks on schools, students, teachers and pupils.”
When contacted, the Director of Defence Information, Brig.- Gen Chris Olukolade, said, “I have not got that report on the number of casualties so far.”
Efforts to get the comments of the Yobe State Director of Press, Abdullahi Bego, did not yield result as calls to his two mobile phones did not go through.
The PUNCH however gathered that Boko Haram members on Monday engaged soldiers in a fierce battle at the deserted college.
Investigations revealed that the insurgents regrouped and engaged the troops who were deployed in the school after the Sunday mayhem.
Another security source confided in one of our correspondents that the soldiers, however, repelled the attack even though no casualty figure was given.
“Several trucks of soldiers have moved into the area. As we are talking, soldiers are also fighting the insurgents at one border community between Borno and Yobe states, where the insurgents burnt a Dangote truck and killed seven people on Sunday,” he added.
But Olukolade said there were no insurgents around the college of agriculture. He confirmed that there was an encounter between soldiers and the gunmen in a forest between Borno and Yobe states.
He said, “There are troops already deployed in and around the school. At the moment, there are no insurgents around the school. Troops are still in pursuit of the terrorists.
“Right now there is an ongoing operation in a forest area between Yobe and Borno states where the terrorists were sighted.”
When contacted Spokesman for the JTF in Yobe State, Lt Eli Lazarus, said he was not aware of the recovery of 28 additional bodies from the school’s environs.
He also said that it was not correct to say that the insurgents attacked troops at a location around the institution.
According to him, the soldiers were on the ground on the institution’s premises and were holding it as a crime scene.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the All Progressives Congress, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, and two former governors – Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Orji Kalu – joined the AI on Monday in condemning the college massacre.
They appealed to the Federal Government and security agencies to step up the tempo against terrorism and bring the culprits to book.
To the Boko Haram, they said: Stop immediately, the senseless killings of hapless people, especially students.
The NLC , which was the first to react, said the killing of the students in their sleep was reprehensible and should not be allowed to happen again.
It said through its Deputy National President, Mr. Promise Adewusi, that the killing represented the height of bestiality which all Nigerians must be united to confront and prevent.
The congress said, “It is a very dastardly act, it is something that every well-meaning human being must condemn. Going and sneaking in like a thief to slaughter innocent students is the height of bestiality.
“Everything must be done to halt it. We have had 22 students killed in the past but this is the height of bestiality that we have had in the country.
“If those behind these heinous acts are fighting for social development or whatever they claim, what have those students got to do with it. The government should take it more seriously; this thing will consume everybody if nothing is done.
“These are no longer Christians alone, there are northerners among them. Let us stop playing politics with this thing. We think the time has come for all Nigerians to come together to fight and defeat this threat of terrorism.”
The APC, in a statement by its Interim National Publicity, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, enjoined Boko Haram to immediately cease all attacks and embrace dialogue in the interest of national peace and security.
The party called on traditional, religious, political and opinion leaders in the North-East to intervene urgently to end the cycle of violence by the sect.
It stated, ‘’It is clear that this Boko Haram menace cannot be resolved by the government alone, hence all stakeholders must urgently intervene to complement government’s efforts to end the insurgency and get those behind it to embrace dialogue.
‘’There can be no justification for Boko Haram to continue to kill and maim innocent citizens, especially because the victims are not just fellow Nigerians like them, but most are actually their kith and kin.”
Also, the ACF and the Sultan Abubakar Sa’ad lll-led JNI said the killing was barbaric.
The ACF, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, therefore urged the intelligence community and security agents to brace themselves and nip such wicked acts in the bud.
It called on the Boko Haram members to lay down their arms and embrace peaceful means of resolving their grievances.
The statement reads in part, “The report of cruel killing of many students of College of Agriculture in Yobe State by gunmen is dastardly as it is aimless, precisely because students have not done anything in the society or government that can possibly grate the nerves of those who have committed the gruel- some acts.
“As to those who relish in violence, it bears repeating that there can be no way killing of innocent people and students can address their concerns. More so that all religions preach peace and love of neighbour.”
“Our hearts go to those who have lost their wards to the dastardly acts in the hope that God will provide them with the fortitude to bear the irreparable losses,” it said.
On its part, the JNI said that it received the news of the Yobe killing and that of Attakar Chiefdom in the Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State with consternation.
Its Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, said in a statement that the killings were utterly callous and condemnable.
The group called on the Federal Government to restore the use of GSM to the affected states to facilitate security alert/tip-off in situation(s) where insecurity, has wreaked unprecedented havoc.
It said, “JNI will continue to ask questions: Who are these blood thirsty fellows? How did they gain access to the college? Why were they not prevented or arrested? What was the motive behind such heinous act? Isn’t intelligent gathering supposed to aid security operatives and why is it not yielding the desired results? Indeed there is much more than meets the eyes.
“We make bold to say that Muslims are worst hit in this quandary situation. We therefore call on government at all levels to do everything possible as a matter of urgency to stop these evil acts of terror repeatedly being unleashed on innocent souls and restore the use of GSM in the affected states to facilitate security alert/tip-off in situation(s) where insecurity, has wrecked unprecedented havoc against innocent citizens.”
Also, Tambuwal described the attack “as ignoble, wicked and horrendous.”
The speaker said killing defenceless students was “inhuman”, especially coming about two months after gunmen murdered another set of students at the Government Secondary School, Mamudo, also in Yobe State.
Tambuwal, who tasked security agencies to bring the killers to justice, noted that they must also introduce new strategies to be a step ahead of terrorist groups.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Imam Imam, the speaker called on Nigerians to be vigilant and assist security agencies with information on the hideout of suspected criminals.
Part of the statement reads, “We in the House of Representatives feel the grief and pain of the families of the victims.
“In this their hour of need, we will stand with them hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder.
“We want to assure them that as brothers, we will continue to confront the threats of terror confronting our nation, and we know we will come out stronger and victorious.”
On its part, the National Congress of Nigeria Students described the killings as shocking.
The group, in a statement in Abuja by its National President, Abdulsalam Abdulfatah, said the incident was a display of barbaric mentality.
It said that it had raised the alarm that schools in the North should be provided with adequate security.
“It takes a government that does not value the lives of its citizens to turn a deaf ear to such a call. This shows how far the Nigerian government values the life of its citizens,” the group said.
A former Lagos State Governor, Ashiwaju Tinubu, condoled with the Governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, over the incident, which he said, “jars the conscience and reminds us of the sinister nature of the enemy our nation now faces.”
In a statement to The PUNCH, Tinubu said, “I was moved to deep sorrow upon hearing the news of the tragedy that befell the college.
“As a governor, you are the father of all residents in your state. Thus you carry the heavy grief of a father; but you don’t carry this grief alone; Nigeria grieves with you.”
Urging Gaidam to “look beyond the death and spilled blood of these innocent children, he added that “in times like these, it is easy to give up and retreat into the shadows these evil forces have created but we must not give way to sorrow.”
“This is a contest for the soul of Yobe State and Nigeria; we dare not lose it. Should these murderers accomplish this, they will only attack another institution, then another, until they are all flattened,” Tinubu said.
Kalu, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Oyekunle Oyewumi, charged security agents to put a stop to the killings to restore confidence of Nigerians in the country.
“It is sad that despite the efforts of the government, very little appears to have changed,” he said and prayed that such would not occur again