Anguish but few answers at scene of Mubi student massacre

A man tries to cover with sand blood-stained ground at the premises of the private hostel where students were killed (AFP, Pius Utomi Ekpei)

A man tries to cover with sand blood-stained ground at the premises of the private hostel where students were killed (AFP, Pius Utomi Ekpei)

AFP – His voice trembling, a man points towards a partially burnt house where seven people were gunned down in a yet to be solved massacre which left at least 40 dead.

“This is human blood,” shouted the man who runs a nearby provisions store next to the house as he kicked some dust away from the ground to expose dried blood, a crowd of about a dozen people grimly looking on.

The massacre overnight Monday to Tuesday has shaken Mubi, a university town and commercial hub in northeastern Nigeria near the border with Cameroon.

Days later, Nigerian authorities have given little indication over who was behind it.

Residents seemed divided over who the culprits may have been, with Christians often accusing Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and Muslims blaming it on tensions linked to a student election at a nearby polytechnic college.

A man who identified himself as a caretaker at the house said “this is obviously a Boko Haram attack.”

Others aren’t so sure. Officials have said that some of the victims were candidates in the recent student election and there have been suggestions of regional or ethnic tensions in connection with the vote.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is split between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south, and divisions regularly lead to violence.

But no one has explained how a student dispute could lead to such shocking bloodshed, even though campus elections in Nigeria have resulted in violence in the past.

“What Boko Haram does is very bad, but we should not attribute every atrocity to them while all signs point to a different direction,” a Muslim resident and electronics seller said.

“The attackers came asking for the names of their victims, which suggests that they knew who they were after. There is a cover-up.”

Nigerian security forces have mentioned both possibilities. School officials say however they have no evidence the killings were linked to the campus vote.

Police initially said they had made many arrests in connection with the killings, but reportedly denied it later. A police spokesman said Friday he was not available to speak.

Police have said that at least 22 of the victims were students, including 19 from the polytechnic. The head of the polytechnic says only six of those killed were students from his school.

Boko Haram, blamed for more than 1,400 deaths as part of its insurgency since 2010, has carried out scores of attacks in northeastern Nigeria, and the group was the target of a high-profile military raid in Mubi about a week before the massacre.

Residents described a chaotic scene at the time of the attack, saying they first heard shots before gunmen descended on the area near where a large number of students live, located near Federal Polytechnic.

Only one mobile phone network has been working in the town after attacks on cell towers claimed by Boko Haram last month, making communications difficult.

Attackers shot their victims and slit their throats, calling some out by name, and set fire to certain buildings and a church.

The house the trader pointed to was divided into 25 rooms for students and appeared deserted, the rooms inside padlocked.

“They came in this house after firing several shots on the street which woke me up from my sleep,” said one student who said he escaped through a hole in the ceiling of his room.

“I heard them asking my next-door neighbour, ‘Where is Carter?’ And he said he was in the school. They asked for Carter’s phone number before asking my neighbour to go and lie in his room before shooting him dead.”

The identities of the victims have not been officially made clear, though residents have previously said they appeared to be both Christians and Muslims. Some residents claimed on Friday that the majority of victims were Christians.

At another house about 200 metres away, two cousins said they were shot in the attack and pretended to be dead to avoid being killed. Another of their cousins was killed when the attackers went to his nearby room.

One of them had a gunshot wound to his wrist and shoulder, while the other was also wounded in shoulder.

“We were inside the room. They just entered after breaking the door and started shooting us,” said one of them, aged 20.

“We lay on the floor and pretended to be dead, which was what saved us. They went to my brother’s (room) who was not home at the time and set it on fire.”

An evangelical church in the area was also attacked, with the pastor’s wife saying the gunmen partially set the building on fire, but rain helped put it out. No one was at the church at the time of the attack.

“They shot the padlock on the entrance door and came in,” she said. “They used car tyres to set the musical instruments on fire.”

The town remained tense on Friday, with soldiers patrolling and school officials considering when they could reopen.

“In the 30-year history of this institution, we’ve never had anything like this,” said Sadiq Yahaya, head of the polytechnic.

Leave a Reply