At least 23 persons including nine students and one examination official were yesterday killed by gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect in separate attacks in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The incidents came barely 24 hours after seven students and two teachers of Government Secondary School, Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, were killed.
The killings appear to mark the resumption of the sect’s murderous campaign, which has been largely put on hold by military operations in the North following President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
Our correspondent gathered that the nine students killed were candidates writing the ongoing National Examination Council, NECO, exams.
The gunmen, it was learnt, stormed Ansarudeen Private Primary and Secondary School in Jajeri ward of the metropolis and opened fire into the hall a minute after the examination started.
An eyewitness, who did not want his name mentioned, told our correspondent that one of the victims went to write the exams for somebody else, before he met his untimely death at about 3p.m. when the gunmen struck.
“I saw five students sitting for the exams killed on the spot. Four others were killed as they were entering the school premises,” Ibrahim Mohammed, an eyewitness, said on the phone yesterday.
Alhaji Baba, a mortuary attendant at the State Specialist morgue in Maiduguri said he counted nine corpses after the attack. Further details were still unclear as at the time of filing this report.
In a related development, about 13 people, including fishermen and tea vendors, were killed on Monday at the Alau Dam on the outskirts of Maiduguri by suspected members of the sect. Our correspondent reliably gathered that the gunmen ambushed the people around the dam and before they opened fire.
They told their victims: “You are those exposing our activities to security agencies, today your days are over, as we will kill all of you.” Alau Dam is one of the biggest dams and its water treatment plant supplies water to people of Maiduguri and its environs.
It also has vast agricultural land for irrigation to farmers living around the riverine area. Those killed included some youths of Gwange ward of the metropolis, who had went to Alau Dam to buy fish for domestic consumption.
A resident of Gwange and a neighbour of one of the slain victims, Mallam Mohammed Musa said: “One of my neighbours was among the 13 people killed by suspected Boko Haram in Alau Dam on Monday. “It was yesterday after Magreb prayers that the news of the killings filtered into our community.
As I left my house now, I just came to report in the office before going back home to attend the burial.” Meanwhile, some residents of Maiduguri have started to express fear over the fresh killings. They called on the security agencies to allow GSM operators resume their services after one month of total blackout.
Two of the residents, Mallam Ibrahim Modu and Mamman Elbadawi, said that since the declaration of the state of emergency rule in the three states, the JTF had ordered the shut down of telecommunication services and the blockade of some major federal roads to tame the menace of Boko Haram.
They said that the killings of innocent people had remained unabated in the state, citing the recent Yobe and Borno killings. Due to lack of telecommunication service for the past one month in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, the JTF spokesman, Lt.- Col. Sagir Musa, and the Police Public Relations Officer, Gideon Jubrin, could not be reached for confirmation.
A top security official, who did not want his name mentioned, confirmed the separate attacks and killings in Borno State. He said that apart from the killing of the NECO candidates and the 13 people in Alau Dam, another female NECO official was killed on her way to administer questions to candidates in one of the schools in the metropolis.
A volunteer youth group in Bulumkutu area of the Maiduguri metropolis captured one sect member yesterday and handed him over to the JTF.
However, members of the sect yesterday declared war against youths in the two states following the arrests of dozens of their members in Borno and Yobe states in the last two weeks.
The group, which said it was waging a war against the Nigerian state to establish a Sharia legal system, said it had added youths to the list of targets for assassination.
Our correspondent reports that angered by the lingering crises that crippled social and economic life in Borno and Yobe states as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, hundreds of youths organised themselves into vigilante groups, captured scores of insurgents and handed them over to security operatives.
Abu Zinnira, the acclaimed spokesman of the Boko Haram, said in a statement made available to newsmen in Maiduguri that they would also launch a manhunt of their hunters (youths), known as the ‘Civilian JTF’. He said: “We have established that youths in Borno and Yobe states are now against our cause.
“They have connived with security operatives and are actively supporting the government of Nigeria in its war against us. We have also resolved to fight back.”
However, some of the youths who promised to continue to fight the Boko Haram insurgents in Maiduguri said they would not be deterred from carrying out their mission.
Aleader of the youth group said: “What the Boko Haram said is an empty threat because the time of war of terror, war of attrition and killing of innocent people with impunity is over.
“We, the youth, have resolved to take our destiny in our hands and will continue hunting the insurgents.” Also, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday restated his call for greater global cooperation and coordination in the war against terrorism.
Speaking at separate audiences with the new ambassadors of Israel, Russia, Greece and Algeria, who presented their letters of credence to him at the Presidential Villa, Jonathan said that Nigeria would welcome increased cooperation from countries that are more experienced in such matters for its ongoing operations against domestic terrorist groups to succeed.
Jonathan told the new Israeli Ambassador, Mr. Uriel Palti, that he looked forward to visiting Israel later this year and discussing ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He also assured Mr. Alekos Oikonomopoulos, Mr. Nikolay Udovichenko, Mr. Belkacem Smaili and Mr. Amadou Habibou, the new ambassadors of Greece, Russia, Algeria and Senegal respectively, that the Federal Government would fully support their efforts to strengthen existing cordial relations between Nigeria and their countries.
The new ambassadors all expressed their delight at being posted to Nigeria and promised to do everything possible to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties between their countries and Nigeria.
In a related development, the Federal Government has assured Nigerians that the ongoing onslaught on terrorists would soon lead to the achievement of peace in the region and other parts of the country.
Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, gave the assurance at the ongoing Ministerial Platform in Abuja, saying the emergency rule was part of government efforts to restore peace in the areas affected by the insurgency.
Reviewing activities of the past year, Moro lauded the superlative efforts put in place by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in ensuring the protection of critical national assets, including oil pipelines and prevention of oil theft through bunkering.
He said the NSCDC has also embarked on aggressive training and retraining of its standing armed squad, adding that a sizeable number of its armed personnel are trained and working jointly with the Nigerian Army to enhance their capacity to tackle headlong the present security challenges facing the nation.
He, however, lamented that the country’s illegal borders are marked by makeshift barriers made of wood and disused tyres. He said the 1,497 illegal routes and 84 legal routes identified by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, since the advent of the present administration had revealed certain irregularities abandoned by previous administration.
“The condition of our borders is alarming. It is unfortunate that the illegal routes are barricaded by tyres and wood, which create an easy route for terrorists into the country.
I want to assure you that we will contain the situation that has beclouded our country for a long time,” he said, adding that the government has procured more equipment to improve security and border patrol.
He stated: “HP CDAN Voice and Data Radios have been procured and being installed in 59 Immigration locations nationwide. This will provide effective communication links between the State Commands and Border Control posts.”
The Minister also said that the e-passport registration embarked upon by the NIS would replace the era of duplication where one person could duplicate over 20 passports. “The new system of e-passport which we currently have in place will go a long way to addressing the irregularities that pave way for illegal immigrants to enter into the country.
This administration will not create an easy access for illegal immigrants. The NIS is viable to contain the challenge and restructure the system. We must also work towards ensuring a peaceful environment for citizenship and non-citizens alike”.
On the vexed issue of prisons congestion, he said: “We all know that the prison is a correction ground for inmates. But unfortunately, the congestion has made it impossible for that progress.
That is why the ministry and the Nigeria Prisons Service, NPS, is putting hands on deck to provide the inmates with the best training that they will enable them to help themselves and the society at large.”
He also added that the NPS has concluded arrangements to use the Public Private Partnership, PPP, model to manage the Prisons Farm Centres in joint venture partnership with a private firm for an initial pilot phase of five years.
The Minister also recalled the recent approval by the Federal Government for the establishment of 265 fire service stations across the country.
He equally stated that the NIS would soon commence the construction of Border Control Plazas as well as Mobile Border Patrol Units to ensure effective surveillance