The mindless killing of dozens of children of the Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi in Yobe State, Tuesday has incurred the wrath of the global community which Wednesday strongly condemned the massacre.
The incident in Yobe has also compelled the government to consider the temporary closure of all its federal government colleges, also known as unity schools, in the three states currently under emergency rule in North-eastern Nigeria.
However, unity schools in Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi would not be affected, as the states have been relatively peaceful.
Security would also be beefed up in unity schools in all the six states to protect students and the facilities of the colleges.
THISDAY gathered that a high-level meeting was held for several hours yesterday at the Federal Ministry of Education to decide on the next line of action in all the unity schools in the three states.
An authoritative source told THISDAY yesterday that the government was seriously shocked at the degree of the brutal destruction of lives, buildings and facilities by members of Boko Haram,
“These are just children, little children, imagine the horror they must have experienced before they were just wasted. It does not make any sense to keep the schools open. “People would prefer to keep their children at home. Education is important, yes, but in these circumstances, it is no longer primary. Safety of their children’s lives comes first for all parents,” the ministry source said.
On the identities of the pupils who were killed, the source said the names of the murdered students had not been released, adding that considering the outrage that greeted the news, it might not be in the best interest of the nation, security wise, if the names and states of origin of the students were released.
“We cannot rule out the high possibility that some of the murdered students are from other parts of Nigeria, outside the North-east, since it is a unity school.
“Although in recent times, there have been a lot of lobbying at the Federal Ministry of Education by parents to stop their children from being sent to unity school in the north since the Boko Haram menace started.
“When some of these parents realise that their lobbying has not worked, they just turn down the admission slots instead of allowing their children or wards to go there. It is just the same thing happening with the NYSC (National Youth Service Corps), no one wants to go where there is a crisis,” the source disclosed.
When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Education Minister, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, confirmed that a meeting to decide the next line of action concerning the unity schools in the region was ongoing as at press time.
He however clarified that the Ministry of Education could not by itself take any decision concerning the schools without “higher authorities”.
“This is why the minister first directed that security must be beefed up in the schools in the region,” he said. Nwakaudu also clarified that 30 and not 43 students, all of them boys, were murdered by the suspected terrorists.
He said: “Based on reports submitted to the ministry by the principal of the affected school, there were also six bodies that are yet to be identified.”
He also confirmed that no member of staff of the school was killed and no female student was killed or abducted by the insurgents.
“According to the report, when they (murderers) got to the girls’ hostels, they assembled the girls and told them to go and marry and never go back to any school,” Nwakaudu added.
Eight unity schools would be affected if the consideration to temporarily shut the schools is adopted.
They are Federal Government College, Ganye, Adamawa State (co-educational); Federal Government Girls’ College, Yola, Adamawa State; Federal Science and Technical College, Michika, Yobe State (co-educational); Federal Government College, Maiduguri, Borno State (co-educational); Federal Science and Technical College, Lassa, Borno State (co-educational); Federal Government Girls’ College, Monguno, Borno State; Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi, Yobe State; and Federal Government Girls’ College, Potiskum, Yobe State.
FGC in Buni-Yadi, where the attack occurred, has already been closed on the directives of the supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike.
Supporting the move to shut down the schools, albeit temporarily, the Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) also called on the federal government to immediately close down the eight unity colleges in the three North-eastern states under emergency rule.
President General of USOSA, Alhaji Kabiru Nuhu Koko, while reacting to the murder of the students, yesterday in Abuja, said the unity schools in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States should be closed down with immediate effect.
Koko also demanded the immediate transfer of students in the eight colleges to other federal government schools across the nation so as to enable them continue their studies without fear. He added that “government should deploy sufficient security personnel to secure the unity schools located in the three states, pending the transfer of students to a safer environment”.
Meanwhile, an outpouring of grief and outrage have continued to trail the murder of the students yesterday with the United Nations, major political parties and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, among others, condemning the attack on the school by Boko Haram insurgents Tuesday.
Also, the Senate Committee on Defence and Army asked the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Kenneth Minimah, to henceforth relocate to the Seventh Division, Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, with a view to tackling the rising insurgency in the North-east.
The committee also tasked the army to ensure that schools and health institutions in the area are henceforth provided with special security in order to guarantee the safety of innocent pupils and patients.
The committee also directed Minimah to re-strategise and devise new ways of curbing the insurgency in North-eastern part of Nigeria, just as it tasked the army boss to immediately present a budget proposal which it promised to quickly approve to serve as an incentive against the menace of terrorism.
It also directed the COAS to mobilise all available military resources to confront the menace of insurgency head on.
Yesterday’s directive by the committee took place when Minimah led other top military officers to the Senate to defend the 2014 budget proposal for the Nigerian Army.
The session had hardly begun when a member of the committee, Senator Babafemi Ojodu, raised a point of order, drawing the committee’s attention to the latest Boko Haram massacre in Yobe State.
According to him, the situation required drastic and urgent attention, even as he urged the committee to mandate the army to immediately take urgent steps with the aim of averting further massacre by the Islamist sect.
Ojodu’s point of order was sustained by the committee chairman, Senator George Sekibo, who along with other members of the committee condemned the incessant attacks in the North-east, notably the mindless killings of innocent students.
Thereafter, the committee issued a communique condemning the attacks and urged President Goodluck Jonathan “to mobilise all needed resources for the Armed Forces to face this national challenge”.
The communique also stated that “this battle must be won to sustain our nation’s stability and unity, as it is only in the atmosphere of peace and tranquility that development can be carried out”.
The committee also promised to undertake a tour of the three states under emergency rule when the Senate resumes plenary on March 11.
The communique read in part: “The Senate Committee on Defence and Army condemns the atrocity being unleashed by the Boko Haram element on innocent citizens of the country, especially in the North-eastern part of the country.
“We regret what happened yesterday (Tuesday) in the killing of innocent students in cold blood.
“The Committee on Defence and Army hereby issues a directive that the Chief of Army Staff take the following actions: restrategise on possible new ways of curbing excesses; mobilise all available military resources and face the insurgency; relocate temporarily to the Seventh Division in Maiduguri and that you take urgent and appropriate steps to quell the situation; and from today, all schools and health institutions should be provided with special security as we do not want a repeat of these killings of our innocent citizens.”
Similarly, the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, strongly condemned the brutal slaying of the students at the college.
In a statement, his spokesman said Ki-Moon expressed his sincere condolences to the bereaved families and hoped that the perpetrators would be swiftly brought to justice. “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the increasing frequency and brutality of attacks against educational institutions in the north of the country,” the statement said. “He reiterates that no objective can justify such violence.”
In his statement on the massacre, Tambuwal described the killing of dozens of students at the school as ignoble, wicked and horrendous.
In the statement issued in Abuja by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal tasked security agencies to redouble their efforts and change their tactics especially now that those engaged in the killings had increased their attacks on softer targets.
He said the only way to console the families of the victims and Nigerians was by fishing out perpetrators of the dastardly act and bring them to justice.
“While attending prayers organised to mark the 89th birthday celebration of former President Shehu Shagari in Sokoto, my attention was drawn to the horrendous act of barbarity visited on innocent college students in Yobe State.
“My first thoughts go to the families and friends of the kids brutally gunned down in an act of cowardice by people whose humanity must be called to question.
“While we must all join hands to bring this insanity to an end, we must however bear in mind that we are running out of excuses in our responsibility to our citizens.
“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 assure them that as brothers, we will continue to confront headlong, the threats of terror facing our nation, and we know we will come out stronger, and victorious,” he said.
In addition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it has been grief-stricken since it received the news of the gruesome killing of the students in Yobe State.
The PDP, in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, yesterday described the attack and killing of the harmless students as “monstrous and extremely shocking.”
“The massacre of these harmless students cannot be justified under any guise. Indeed, the PDP is heart-broken and extremely devastated by this act of wickedness, which can only be associated with the devil. “The PDP bleeds inside as we mourn the slaughtering of these promising young ones. Our hearts go out to the parents and families of these innocent students. We share in their anguish, their pain and their despair and we earnestly pray that those behind this act must not escape judgment for spilling the blood of the innocent. No man commits such wickedness and gets away with it,” the statement said.
On a similar note, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday condemned the horrific attack on the school by blood-thirsty insurgents.
In a statement by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party urged the president to immediately visit the state to offer succour to the families of the victims.
The party said the attacks, which were extremely gory, even by the scorched-earth tactics of the terrorists, plumbs the depth of horror.
“What a sad day for Nigeria and indeed for all of humanity, when innocent school children were used as soft targets by a group of cowardly terrorists, who have shed their toga of humanity on the altar of a meaningless ideology.
“We condole with the families of the victims as well as the government and people of Yobe State over this abominable crime. We urge the state and federal government to work together to ensure that schools in the state are adequately protected,” it said.
In its reaction, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) gave the federal government low marks in the various security tactics adopted so far to quell the activities of the insurgents.
In a statement issued yesterday in Kaduna, the ACF urged the federal government to ensure that funds budgeted for equipment and welfare, get to the troops engaged in the operations against the terrorists in the North-east.
The forum in the statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Muhammadu Ibrahim, condemned the attack on the college by the Boko Haram sect, saying it was cruel, gruesome and inhuman.
The ACF wondered why the attacks on schools and villages in the North-east had continued unabated despite the state of emergency and the heavy presence of security operatives in the three states. According to the forum, the massacre of the students and innocent people was completely against the tenets of Islamic religion and appealed to members of the sect to embrace the federal government’s call for dialogue.
The statement further slammed the president for his attack on the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who recently stated that members of the terrorist group were better armed than the Nigerian Army.
Amidst all the reactions, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has denied that the military command withdrew its troops hours before the outlawed group invaded the Federal Government College.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, while responding to THISDAY enquiries yesterday, refuted the allegation purportedly carried by the foreign media that soldiers deliberately gave way prior to the massacre.
Olukolade said there was no iota of truth in what was reported, explaining that soldiers, as an operational procedure, are usually not static but on constant patrol as the situation demands.
He noted that it is practically impossible for soldiers to be deployed to every nook and cranny of the state and country at the same time.
He added that the soldiers deployed in the state had always acted in a professional manner and often responded to distress calls, especially if informed and aware of any impending attack.
“There was never a permanent checkpoint near FGC, Buni Yadi. Rather it was the soldiers in Buni Gari, about 7 kiolmetres ahead of Buni Yadi town, who were recently re-assigned to beef up the offensive action on some discovered terrorist locations. The sector was involved in patrols and ambushes in line with intelligence reports,” he said.
On the students’ massacre, the defence spokesman said the situation was unfortunate and urged members of the public to always volunteer information to security personnel, as they could not succeed without their cooperation.