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Published On: Thu, Feb 27th, 2014

Fury at Nigeria’s military over Yobe deaths

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Fury at Nigeria’s military over Yobe deathsResidents of a town in north-east of Nigeria are the furious at the Nigerian security forces for withdrawing checkpoints ahead of a bloody attack by Islamist militants on a local school.

At least 29 teenage boys died in the raid, blamed on Boko Haram, on a rural boarding, the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe state of the country.

Residents say soldiers guarding a nearby checkpoint were mysteriously withdrawn just before the attack. Another checkpoint on the outskirts of town was also withdrawn a week ago.

The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), , which is an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), while condemning the murder by sect have demanded that government should probe the report that security operatives, posted to keep surveillance on the school, were withdrawn shortly before the sect attacked the school.

The ASCSN urged the Federal Government to “set up a high-powered inquiry into the circumstances that led to the mass murder of the students in order to clear the allegation by a popular foreign television station, which has told the world that security details posted to keep surveillance on the school were withdrawn shortly before the Boko Haram insurgents overran the college.”

Nigerian students living in fear

The authorities have confirmed 29 deaths, but the AFP news agency has reported 42 dead and other sources have claimed even higher death tolls following the raid on Monday night.

Yobe state Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam has also criticised the security forces for their extremely slow response.

“It is unfortunate that up to five hours when this massacre took place, there were no security agents around to stop or contain the situation,” he said in a statement.

The attackers reportedly hurled explosives into student residential buildings, sprayed gunfire into rooms and hacked a number of students at the secondary school to death.

“Some of the students’ bodies were burned to ashes,” Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufa’i said of the raid on the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi.

Most of the school was burned to the ground and at least 11 students were seriously injured.

All the victims were boys – female students were told to go home, get married and abandon education, said teachers at the school.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sin”, has attacked dozens of schools in north-east Nigeria, since it began its bloody fight for an ssIslamic state in the north of the country in 2009.

Last September, 40 students were killed at an agricultural college during another night-time raid, and 300 people have been killed this month alone in attacks blamed on the group.

Military under fire

Boko Haram, which has not claimed responsibility for the attack, says it aims to replace Nigeria’s political leadership and establish a new state under strict Islamic law.

Nigeria’s military said on Tuesday it was pursuing the attackers.

“We assure all law-abiding citizens that we will continue to do what is necessary to protect lives and property,” a statement said.

President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the killings, calling them “heinous, brutal and mindless,” and labelling the perpetrators “deranged terrorists and fanatics who have clearly lost all human morality and (who have) descended to bestiality”.

Our correspondent says Nigeria’s armed forces are facing increasing criticism for failing to protect civilians or to respond to raids by the militants.

Commenting on the attack, the Yobe governor added: “I have also been informed that the military here in Yobe state lack adequate number of troops on the ground.”

Boko Haram has been accused of numerous attacks in the north including one earlier this month in Borno

Wave of violence

The BBC’s Isa Sanusi, from the Hausa service, says Boko Haram tends to attack schools that teach Nigeria’s national curriculum, which the militants consider to be Western.

Earlier this month, militants claimed responsibility for killing a prominent northern Nigerian Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Awwal Albani, because he said the group’s actions were un-Islamic.

Thousands of people have been killed since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009.

But the latest counter-offensive, ordered by President Jonathan in May, has also been blamed for triggering reprisals by militants against civilians.

Addressing a news conference on Monday, the President defended the army’s record, saying it had achieved some successes against Boko Haram and that the militants had been contained to a small area of the North-East close to the border with Cameroon.

He said the two countries were working together to stop the militants from staging attacks in Nigeria and then escaping over the border. The Federal Government also appealed to France for help, two days before a planned visit from French President Francois Hollande.

Correspondents say Yobe state has been relatively peaceful this year, unlike neighbouring Borno state, where at least 250 people have been killed in a series of large-scale attacks by the militants.

Boko Haram began their insurgency to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria in 2009. The sect has in the past stated it was fighting to create an Islamic State but some Nigerians believe there are politicians who stand to gain from the insurgency.

It is not hard to see that the current strategy against the state is failing some communities in north-east Nigeria. Although, President Jonathan has acknowledged serious lapses within his own armed forces, he suggested the military operation against the group popularly known as Boko Haram had at times been undermined by divisions within the security forces. However, the question remains: How many lives could have been saved had it not been for the unhealthy competition and mistakes which the president referred to?

There have been signs that the forces fighting Boko Haram needed re-organising. Security analysts believe that, to contain the insurgency, there needs to be far greater cooperation between Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad as the militants are taking advantage of their porous borders. Setting deadlines for an end to the conflict is widely viewed as harmful.

When Air Marshal Alex Badeh was given the top job of Chief of Defence staff last month, he stated that the insurgency must end by April. “Such statements are like a red rag to a bull,” said international relations analyst, Mr. Aderemi Oyewunmi.

“They lead to more damage being inflicted. No timelines should be given, They should get on with the job, keep their heads down,” he said, adding that the importance of the armed forces working together cannot be overemphasized.

The Boko Haram sore that continues to fester gives credence to the allegations of the President’s incompetence in handling of the insecurity, intolerance, clannishness and inability to rise up to challenges have compounded the situation in a part of the country.

Nigerians, as well as the international community are calling on the President to respond to the seemingly insurmountable challenge decisively. (Source: BBC)

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