While government authorities said at least 29 people died in the blasts in Mubi, Adamawa State on Tuesday, local gravediggers at the town’s only cemetery said they buried 86 persons.
The Federal Government on Wednesday ordered increased security around markets and places of worship after a twin suicide bomb attack blamed on Boko Haram killed scores of people in the worst civilian loss of life in more than two years.
The authorities said at least 29 people died in the blasts in Mubi, Adamawa State, on Tuesday; but local grave diggers at the town’s only cemetery said they buried 86.
“We buried 76 people yesterday (Tuesday),” said one, asking to remain anonymous. Today, as at 3:00 pm (Wednesday), 10 more bodies were brought in and buried.
“These people died overnight from injuries, obviously,” he told AFP.
Another grave digger, who also asked for his name not to be used, supported the account. “We hope we are done with the burials,” he added.
The figures are in line with the accounts of two residents who, on Tuesday, evening said they attended the funerals of more than 60 people and that more bodies were still arriving.
“I think this is the worst attack Mubi has ever witnessed. The human loss is unimaginable,” said one local, Muhammad Hamidu.
The last time so many people were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram was in January 2016, when at least 85 people lost their life in Dalori, on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
The UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, condemned the latest attack, adding: “Civilians are consistently bearing the brunt of this conflict.
“Close to 200 women, children and men have now been killed in brutal and indiscriminate attacks by non-state armed groups in the north-east since the beginning of the year.”
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, deputising for President Muhammadu Buhari who has been on a visit to the United States, said the government was “shocked and outraged” by the attacks.
“This desecration of a place of worship by criminals is tragic and condemnable,” Osinbajo said in an emailed statement.
“Security agencies have been directed to immediately take steps to beef up security in Mubi and environs, especially markets and places of worship,” he added.
The attacks came a day after US President Donald Trump promised Nigeria more support in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists, whose insurgency has killed at least 20,000 since 2009.
The jihadists have repeatedly used suicide bombers against “soft” civilian targets such as markets, mosques and bus stations across the northeast.
Mubi is a major market town with some 175,000 people and is a trading hub for the region and neighbouring Cameroon.
The UN said six international aid agencies are helping more than 10,000 people in the town and using it as a base to deliver relief supplies in the wider region.
– Conflicting figures – Conflicting death tolls are not uncommon in Nigeria and the authorities have previously under-reported casualties in the Boko Haram conflict.
Information commissioner for Adamawa State, Ahmed Sajo, on Wednesday said 29 were killed; while Imam Garki, from the National Emergency Management Agency, said 30 had died.
Sajo said it was “possible people could have identified their relations and taken them home without going to the hospital.”
“In that case, we have no way of knowing how many of such cases there were. It’s possible some people could have buried their dead without taking them to hospital.”
Since late 2015, Nigeria’s military and government has maintained that Boko Haram is a spent force, but regular bombings and raids suggest otherwise.
Last week, fighters loyal to Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau, attempted to infiltrate the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, but were pushed back by troops.
Security is expected to dominate the run-up to the next election in February 2019, at which Buhari will stand for a second term.
He promised to defeat Boko Haram but is now facing a series of security challenges elsewhere, not least an escalation of violence in a long-running dispute between farmers and herders.(AFP)