They are members of a deadly sect which has brought grief to many homes. Known as Boko Haram which literally means education is forbidden, they have lived up to this name by the harm they have dealt education – structure, students and teachers. Recently, they struck again killing many male students at the Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi. Michael Olugbode, in this report, did a tieback on similar attacks by this deadly sect and asked when would the North, which is already educationally disadvantaged, be free from the sectâ€™s onslaught
Schools as Killing Fields
It is a known fact that the North has the highest level of illiteracy in the country and lacked behind in almost every indices of development against its southern neighbours. While this may find explanation in history – the Northâ€™s preference for Islamic education, both in the pre colonial and colonial era as against Western education – the deadly campaign of terror by Boko Haram has further compounded the situation. So far, the violent sect has nearly grounded education in the two states of Borno and Yobe, which are among the three states under state of emergency because of the activities of the violent sect. So far, all the unity schools in the area have been shut down by the Federal Government, an action which may afect over 10,000 students.
Many schools have been burnt down, rebuilt and again razed. The government of both states have spent billions of naira in this needless expenditure. Innocent lives have also been lost to deadly attacks launched on schools. Last year alone, Yobe lost 77 students and a teacher. A breakdown of this figure shows eight students and a teacher at GSS Damaturu in June 2013, 29 students at GSS Mamudo in July 2013 and 40 students at College of Agriculture, Gujba in September 2013. Unconfirmed report has it that the state government has to spend $15.6 million to rebuild the destroyed schools. The actual number of students killed in schools in the state remains a mystery as some other pockets of attacks could not be captured. This incessant attacks on the schools made the state government to announce the closure of all schools in the state to enable security measures to be put in place sometimes last year. The closure was on for over a month before students were asked to return back to schools, but the damaged had already been done as many stayed away and the enrollment figure, which was already the worst in the country further dropped.
Huge Impact on Enrolment
The story is about the same in Borno where attacks on schools, is more intense with more impacts as there are still some areas in the northern part of the state where schools have been closed without an actual date when they will be opened. This was attested to by the caretaker Chairman of Dikwa local government area of the state, Alhaji Modu Ali Gana, who lamented that students in both primary and secondary schools in his council have continuously stayed at home in the last one year for fear of being attacked. He lamented that this will create a serious setback not only at the moment but for the future of the council and the state.
He said, â€œ Education is wealth, but it is unfortunate that for the past two years, no school is functioning in Dikwa, students have remained at home because of Boko Haram. This time around we will not only renovate the schools, but also see to it that our students return back to classrooms with their teachers motivated with the scarce resources at our disposal.â€
The fear of the chairman was shared by Borno State Government which had consistently lamented that school attendance across the state had been seriously hampered by the Boko Haram crisis in the past four years. The state government has had to renovate schools destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgents only for them to be destroyed again.
The state Commissioner for Education, Inuwa Kubo, said: â€œI must be frank, the insecurity in Borno has taken a toll on our education sector because we would have moved beyond where we are now but the challenge keeps drawing us back. Imagine each time government spent huge money on renovating burnt schools or rebuilding them, the insurgents would return and destroy them again. It is quite frustrating. It is the same insecurity that is affecting attendance of students.â€
The state government even has to introduce incentives to keep the students at schools. Kubo said the government was aware of the low enrollment into primary and secondary schools in the northern part of the state, stressing that it was for such reason that government introduced incentives for parents and guardians in the area to release their children.
The Unending Expenditure on Repairs
The Borno commissioner further said that: â€œWe are renovating classroom, staff quarters and other structures in most of the school. The investment we are putting in education is not for now but a careful plan for the future of our state,â€ he added. The commissioner said all schools in the state were earmarked for renovation, disclosing that some buildings would be pulled down completely to give way for new structure.
In fact, the activities of the insurgents in 2012 and 2013 have increased the needless expenditure of the state government, the State Universal Basic Education Board Chairman, Professor Tijjani Abba Ali, sometime last year lamented that in the last one year, the fundamentalist group had razed over 50 primary and junior secondary schools in the state and caused government to spend several millions of naira in reconstruction.
Just when the two states government believed that everything was over, the sect started striking again. They have attacked schools at Konduga, killed male students and abducted female students. Just two Mondays ago, they creeped into Yobe state and did not target their attack on any other individuals or institutions but their prime enemy, education and students. This has reawaken the national and international consciousness to the harm of the Boko Haram insurgency, which could but mean no good for everyone in the country.
The Buni Yadi Massacre
They attacked the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State, a few kilometres away from the College of Agriculture Gujba where 40 students were killed on September 29 in a similar raid blamed on the Boko Haram sect.
According to the people of the town, gunmen stormed the school in nine Hilux vans shortly before midnight on the fateful day and blocked the entrance to the hostel, gathered male students and opened fire on them, while some were slaughtered. It was gathered that most of the corpses were burnt beyond recognition in the razed buildings. The insurgents were accused of setting fire on 24 buildings in the school, including hostels, administrative blocks and staff quarters. Though hospital sources revealed that 59 corpses were brought into the morgue of Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital Damaturu, the Yobe State Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufaâ€™i, claimed 29 male students were killed. He said: â€œAll the 29 killed were male students; none of the female students was killed.â€
Survivors said the gunmen gathered the female students together before telling them to go away and get married, with a warning that those who remained in the school could be killed later.
Aliyu Ayuba, a JSS 3 student, who escaped the attack with a bullet in his back, said: â€œThey were young men and boys dressed in military uniforms and mufti. They asked us to gather in one place and continued shooting sporadically. I cannot tell how I managed to escape but all my roommates were killed and burnt inside the hostel.â€
â€œWe shouted for help but nobody came to our rescue, not even Police and military men, to help,â€ he added.
Malam Samaila Idris, a teacher, told journalists that the attackers drove into the school premises in nine Hilux vans at around 11.20pm Monday and started the operation which lasted for more than five hours.
â€œIn fact, we were all thinking they were military personnel because some that stayed at the gate were playing music, until the gun shots started. We in the staff quarters fled our homes before they came and burnt all the structures,â€ he said. Idris said seven students who sustained various wounds were taken to the hospital.
Residents in the town lamented that the security checkpoint in the area was removed just a day to the attack. â€œWe were surprised when the checkpoint disappeared on Sunday and at this trying moment. The secondary school pupils were left to their fate,â€ a resident said.
A student who escaped with a cut on his throat and a broken arm claimed that no female student was hurt. He said: â€œBut, I overheard them warning them to stay off school or risk being attacked whenever they return.â€
A resident of Buni-Yadi, who was part of early rescue operation, said it was the most horrible experience he had ever seen. â€œMost of the dead students were burnt beyond recognition.â€
One of the students who was injured in the attack, Ibrahim Musa Lampo, a-14 year old JSS 2 student, taken to hospital for treatment, said: â€œI was shot on my left leg, while I was sleeping. When I woke up, I could not walk and was later taken to the girls hostel where the insurgents gathered us with the female students. They selected some of the female students and went away with them, while they left some of us groaning in pain from gun shotâ€.
Ibrahim recounting his ordeal amid groans while receiving treatment for gunshot injuries at the General Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital, Damaturu with his mother, Hajiya Hauwa Lampo, seated beside him on the hospital bed, lamented the inability of government to protect the lives of the innocent students. The mother passionately appealed to the Federal Government to â€œprovide adequate security for all unity schools in Nigeria, particularly in the north eastern region of the country by constructing a fence that will shield the students from intruders, insisting that if the government cannot deploy adequate security personnel, they should despatch sniffer dogs into the schools to patrol every nook and crannies as this â€œwill go a long way in curbing the insurgency.â€
Ibrahimâ€™s father, Mallam Musa Lampo, an immigration officer was still in shock over the incident and simply said: â€œI have committed everything into the hands of God.â€
Response from Authorities
Yobe Governor Ibrahim Gaidam urged President Jonathan to deploy more troops to contain insurgency in the state, describing the attack as â€œmost unfortunateâ€. He said â€œin the past one year, we have experienced these ugly and dastardly attacks by insurgents four times.â€ He added that: â€œThis attack, like others before it, is barbaric, wicked, callous, and we totally condemn it. We are devastated.â€
He said: â€œIt is unfortunate that up to five hours when this massacre took place, there were no security agents around to stop or contain the situation. I have also been informed that the military here in Yobe State lack adequate number of troops on the groundâ€¦Even so, they must change their strategy of operation.
â€œIf the military was pulling out some troops from the town and taking them somewhere for an operation, there must be some others left on the ground to deal with any unforeseen circumstance which might arise. So, I think, they should change their strategy.
â€œIt is unfortunate that our children in schools are dying from lack of adequate protection from the Federal Government and this thing is happening only in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in the northeast part of the country.
â€œI also want to use this opportunity to call on the President of the Federal Republic and the military high command to, as a matter of urgency, send more troops to Yobe so that they deal more effectively with the insurgency because currently there is not enough number of troops on the ground to cover all our schools in Yobe.