By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, Kingsley Omonobi & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—Running away from the school assembly ground with his white uniform stained with blood and bits of flesh, a traumatised student of Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School, Potiskum, Yobe State, who survived a suicide bomb attack that claimed the lives of 47 of his colleagues with 79 others injured, yesterday, recounted his experience. The incident was considered one of the worst attacks on schools.
Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, in his immediate reaction challenged President Goodluck Jonathan to explain why more people in the state were being killed by insurgents under a state of emergency declared by him.
The explosion was said to have ripped through an all-boys school in Potiskum just as students gathered for morning assembly before classes began, causing panic and chaos.
The massacre came a day after the release of a new Boko Haram video in which the Islamist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, again rejected Nigerian government claims of a ceasefire and peace talks.
Students at the school were waiting to hear the principal’s daily address when the explosion happened at 7:50 am. Several witnesses described the blast as “thunderous”, leaving the assembly ground littered with abandoned footwear, books, bags and body parts.
Police Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu said: “There was an explosion after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb. We have 47 dead and 79 injured.” He added that Boko Haram was believed to be responsible.
One rescue worker said the wounded had “various degrees of injuries”, while those who survived complained of hearing problems from the deafening blast. The school has more than 1,000 students and caters for boys aged 15 to 20. The victims are all believed to be in their teens.
One of the surviving students, Adamu Abdullahi said those at the centre of the blast near the principal’s office were flung in all directions and others were knocked off their feet. Recounting his experience to AFP, he said: “I found myself under the weight of another student, who fell over me. I’m certain he was dead. I was dazed and disorientated for a moment. When I realised what had happened, I managed to push the body on top of me and started running like everyone else. It was confusion all over. Everybody was hysterical. I saw many people on the ground. Human flesh and blood were splattered all over the place. I ran out of the school and went home. When my father saw me he was terrified. I didn’t realise my white school uniform was stained with human blood and bits of flesh.”
The dead and injured were taken to the Potiskum General Hospital, just 100 metres away.
A teacher at the school, a medic and a rescue worker confirmed the blast happened at the Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School in Potiskum, Yobe State.
One of the rescue workers told AFP that 13 bodies had been taken to hospital with more than 30 others left “with various degrees of injuries”.
One of the teachers who witnessed the explosion but asked not to be identified, said: ”The students had gathered for the morning assembly when something exploded in their midst with a thunderous sound at exactly 7:50 am. The explosion has affected many students but I can’t say how many because we are now evacuating the victims to the hospital which is just 100 metres away”.
A medic at the Potiskum General Hospital, where the victims were taken, said scores of students had been admitted. He said: “We are still receiving casualties from the school which is a stone’s throw from here. Our priority now is to save the injured, so we have not started a headcount of the victims.” A resident, Adamu Alkassim, said there was confusion in and around the school.
Explain why our people are being killed under emergency rule, Gaidam taks Jonathan
Reacting to the attack, Governor Gaidam who demanded explanation from President Jonathan why more people were being killed by insurgents under a state of emergency declared by the President said that the emergency rule had failed to achieve the desired goal.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Press Affairs and Information, Abdullahi Bego, he said: “This is the fifth time in about one year when our schools are being brutally attacked and students killed. Governor Gaidam deeply regrets that all of these dastardly attacks took place under a climate of Emergency Rule declared in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“In theory, the Emergency Rule Declaration was a signal that more vigorous steps would be taken to protect the lives and property of people in the affected states and deploy the full might of the Federal Government to restore peace and security.
“Unfortunately, this has not been fully the case. Instead of forcing insurgents and criminals to flee; the insurgents are forcing innocent people to flee and making life miserable for everyone.”
Israel, America, join Nigeria to flush out Boko Haram from Mubi
In a related development, the Nigerian military, working in concert with foreign military collaborators have commenced a major offensive to retake Mubi, Michika and Madagali towns from Boko Haram terrorists.
Vanguard gathered that the operation to retake the towns which was being prosecuted with Air Force fighter jets and helicopters providing air support to soldiers, was being supported by foreign troops from friendly nations.
The foreign troops include those from Israel, and America. The troops who are in the battlefront with surveillance aircraft and other equipment were said to have recorded several successes in the operation to regain the seized territories.
Towards this end, Vanguard gathered that troops have pursued Boko Haram terrorists to Marara-Mubi which is the outskirts of Mubi town and that the onslaught was moving towards Michika at press time.
A senior military source told Vanguard that unlike in the past whereby such onslaught witnessed a pause and the terrorists had the opportunity to regroup and carry out reprisal attacks, the present offensive would be continuous until the objectives are attained.
Air Force helicopter crash-lands
Meantime, the Defence Headquarters yesterday issued a statement disclosing the crash landing of a Nigerian Air Force helicopter, noting that no casualty was recorded.
Vanguard gathered that the aircraft crashed as a result of technical problems and that an Israeli and two Nigerian Air Force personnel have returned to base.
The statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said: “A Nigerian Air Force helicopter with call sign Shark 23 on a training mission executed a controlled forced landing four minutes after take-off at the runway approach end of Yola International Airport today (yesterday) at about 0930hours.
“There is no casualty recorded as all the crew members have been recovered back to the base.
“The Nigerian Air Force Headquarters has already set up an investigation panel to unravel the circumstances that led to the incident.”
Senate President, David Mark, yesterday, condemned the massacre of students of Government Science School, Potiskum, Yobe State and called on the security operates to step up intelligence and surveillance.
Senator Mark who decried the massacre of students at the Assembly ground by a suicide bomber, described the attack as barbaric and inhuman, adding, “it is condemnable by any right thinking member of the society.
Attacks on schools since July 2013 blamed on Boko Haram
June 17 2013: Extremists kill nine students as they took an exam in Maiduguri.
July 6 2013: Gunmen attack a secondary school in Mamudo, near Potiskum, killing 42 people, many of whom are students.
September 29 2013: Gunmen open fire on sleeping students in a dormitory in Gujba, in Yobe state, killing 40.
February 25 2014: Suspected Islamists kill 43 in attack on sleeping secondary school students in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe state.
February 26-27 2014: 25 people killed during an attack against a Christian school in Shuwa, in Adamawa state.
April 14 2014: 276 high school students, all girls, are kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State.
June 23 2014: Eight people die and 12 are wounded when a bomb explodes at a public health school in Kano.
September 17 2014: 13 people die, 34 wounded in a suicide attack at the campus of the federal institute of higher education in Kano.
November 10 2014: A suicide attack kills at least 47 people and wounds some 79 students at a boys school in Potiskum.