Author(s): Sylvester Awenlimobor
August 13, 2013
Everyday, Mallam Yahaya goes to work at Government Secondary School, Mamudo, where he serves as the vice principal; to meet soldiers, a few teachers and no students. His life is a nightmare as he relives the massacre of twenty-two of his students and one teacher.
Every day, since that tragic day – July 6, 2013 – he goes to school and tries to clean up evidence of the massacre. Try as much as he can, the blood remains. The surviving students are too traumatised to resume; their parents are not sure they ever will.
Mamudo, near Potiskum in Yobe State, has become a ghost town. The residents talk in hushed tones and wonder how the world could have moved on so quickly after the massacre. Usman, who offered to guide Nigerian Telegraph around the town and the school, is bitter. Apart from the comforting presence of the soldiers, nothing else shows that the country cares for the community that suffered such a tragedy.
Gunmen suspected to be members of dreaded Boko Haram sect stormed the boarding school at dawn on July 6. In what many have described as the most horrific attack since the insurgency begun, they rounded up some of the students, shot some at close range, smothered others with pillows, and burnt the rest alive. By the time the attack was over, 22 students, one teacher and a villager were confirmed dead. Four other students were injured and taken to hospital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and no arrests have been made since then.
“They rounded the ones from the front blocks up, laid them on the mat and shot them,” the commanding officer of the soldiers deployed to the school after the attack told Nigerian Telegraph. “Then look at that room (Nasarawa Block), they used pillows to suffocate the children inside that room. The rains have fallen now so the blood on the floor have been washed away; but before there was blood everywhere.”
The officer, who did not want his name published, said there were fears that the attackers may strike again. “They are everywhere around here,” he said. “We are just here to ensure that they don’t make any move and to protect the environment. The way these people attacked shows that they must be animals and we have to ensure they don’t come back.”
Evidence of the gruesome nature of the attack abound everywhere, but the most striking is the spot where the teacher, identified as Mohammed Musa, was shot. “See, these are some of the shells on the floor; we counted about 15,” said the soldier. The apartment where the teacher lived was still scattered, with a mat in the sitting room and his clothes placed in a heap on a corner.
The conflicting statistics
Conflicting media reports trailed the massacre, with some giving the casualty figures as forty-two.
Mallam Yahaya is aghast that the figure is under contention, even after he had submitted a list of the victims to the government; as well as accounted for all surviving students of the school. Before the attack, the school had 1,200 students registered on its books.
“I don’t know what these people are trying to achieve by lying about the figures,” he said. “See, only 22 students were killed; one teacher. How many is that? And then they now killed one man outside in the village. That makes how many people? That is simple maths. So I don’t know where they got 43 or 44 from.”
However, a staff of the Potiskum General Hospital, where the dead and injured were taken to, gave a different version. “We received 42 dead bodies of students and other staff of Government Secondary School,” said the employee, who did not want his name published. “There were 42 bodies, and most of them were students. Some of them had parts of their bodies blown off and badly burnt while others had gunshot wounds.”
Picking up the pieces
Efforts to speak with some of the families affected by the tragedy were unsuccessful as most refused to relive the massacre, and also feared of any reprisal attacks that may occur.
One of the injured students, who gave his name as Musa, said four fingers of his right hand were blown off as he tried to ward off a gunshot. He said the attackers woke them all up. Startled, some of the students were, however, able to escape into nearby bushes.
Those who were not so fast fell to the bullets and fire. According to him, some of the parents were unable to identify their children from the badly charred bodies.
Musa is not sure he will be going back to the school. Mallam Yahaya is not sure his life will ever be the same again.