Residents of the volatile Nigerian state of Borno are beginning to worry the more over an increasing spate of attacks and cold blooded killings by the extremist Boko Haram sect, as death toll on reported incidences, in the last two weeks, rose to over 250.
This human casualty figure was first of such recorded deaths within a very short period in Nigeria since the year 2000 episode in the Niger Deltan village of Adeje in which a damaged oil pipeline exploded, killing more than 250 people.
The only difference between the Adeje episode and that of Borno was the time frame.
But the incident had drawn global attention due to the human casualty figure of a quarter of a million.
Some residents even believe the Borno casualty figures could be higher.
“Some of the attacks may not have been reported if they occurred in very remote locations, or did not carry a very significant number of casualties”, said Mr. Lawan Musa, an official of the Civilian-JTF in Kawuri village.
The latest harvest of deaths happened early Friday morning when seven passengers traveling to Gwoza town in an 18-seater Toyota Hilux mass transit bus were killed after their vehicle got bombed by an explosive device believed to have been planted on the highway by the Boko Haram terrorists.
It is not certain if three of the passengers who survived with serious injuries would survive, as they currently lay critical in hospital.
Since January 14 when a massive blast from an improvised device killed 43 persons in the densely populated commercial area of Maiduguri, scores of lives have continued to perish under the feat of Boko Haram in satellite towns and villages surrounding Maiduguri, the state capital.
PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report that no fewer than 31 of such towns, villages and hamlets, mostly occupied by local farmers, have been deserted as residents, who enjoy no security protection from the Nigeria Army and the police continue to flee to zones they consider safe.
An officer of the Nigerian Army at 7 Division, Maiduguri, who wouldn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said most of the attacks currently being carried out by the Boko Haram terrorists “were on remote isolated towns and villages where it would have been difficult to reach in times of attacks as they are far away from most of the military posts”.
Villagers lament that Boko Haram gunmen, who often invade their communities, driving several four-wheel driven vehicles and motorcycles, do come in troops of over 50, armed with explosives and sophisticated guns.
In Kawuri village of Konduga local government area, which the Boko Haram gunmen attacked on Sunday, January 28, and killed 83 villagers, comprising of men, women, and children, villagers said even the military had to flee for dear lives as the terrorists came in in larger number, armed with sophisticated weapons and explosives , shooting and setting houses ablaze.
Over 300 homes were burnt, and about 40 of the injured victims currently hospitalised got burnt while hiding inside their houses. Six of the dead victims were burnt beyond recognition.
A member of the Civilian-JTF, Abubakar Ajimi, told PREMIUM TIMES the gunmen that attacked them on that ill-fated Sunday “came from all directions shooting and driving wildly in pickup vans”.
“It was around 5pm or so when I was trying to get bathing water to some of the soldiers on check post here in Kawuri. I began to hear heavy sounds of shooting from all direction. I and Major and Oga Lebelebe (a nickname of a ranked soldier), and Oga Uta from Bama Barracks and one other soldier began to run for our dear lives.
“The senior Major who was taking his bathe at that time had to abandon his clothing and uniform to join us in running for dear lives. We headed towards the bush where there was no sound of shooting; but suddenly, I had to stop when I realised that my wife and children were in the village and could be in danger.
“I told them that ‘Oga I had to go back to save my children or face whatever might befall them together’. That was how I managed to get back amidst serious shooting and got into my house and found my wife and children hiding under our beddings. I also stayed with them in the dark room while the shooting was going on.
“We heard the Boko Haram gunmen shouting: “Boko Haram yazo, ga goro, kuchi!” (meaning ‘Boko Haram has arrived, here is kola nuts for you to eat’). After saying that, they would open fire into the thatched houses and set fire on them. We were inside the house since some minutes after 5p.m and we did not come out despite the heat until 11:30p.m, at night when the gunmen moved to the other side of the village.
“Though we are members of the Civilian-JTF but we had to run when even the armed soldiers also took to their heels; only a mad man would want to stand against them; the soldiers were outnumbered; they are not up to ten here in Kawuri”, Abubakar Ajimi said.
On January 13, it was reported that at least three persons were killed and several others injured from bullet wounds when gunmen suspected to be of the Boko Haram terror group attacked a village market along the Maiduguri-Kano road. During the attack, the gunmen, numbering about 30, stormed the Ladi-Kayamla market and begun to shoot sporadically. Ladi-Kayamla, 25km away from Maiduguri, is a popular grain market where traders from various towns around the city of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, sell and buy maize, millet, beans and groundnuts.
On the second day, January 14, the Maiduguri explosion occurred and 43 persons got killed and several others seriously injured. The deadly blast were believed to have been detonated by a group of teenagers who all died, except one who was arrested by soldiers. Unconfirmed sources said the teenagers were asked to plant the bomb near a bank, before it accidentally went off while their car tried to beat traffic. Politicians in the state have however engaged in blame games over the blast.
Two days after the Maiduguri blast, an attack was made by the same insurgents on residents in Tuba village of Mafa Local government area, 40km away from Maiduguri, in which five persons died from gunshots.
Tijjani Muhammed, a resident of Tuba, told journalists that the attack was targeted at the youth vigilante popularly known as Civilian-JTF, but a young civilian was hit in the stomach by a stray bullet, while the four others were innocent villagers.
On January 17, six security operatives, comprising two soldiers and four police officers, as well as an unspecified number of civilians were killed by the Boko Haram sect during an attack on Banki town.
The Nigerian military had deployed both land and air troops to battle the Boko Haram insurgents who invaded the town at about 2 a.m. But the military did not give clear report as to whether the operation resulted in the killing of any of the terrorists who often flee into the Cameroon territories around the area.
About 15 farmers in the neighbourhoods of Mobbar local government farming communities were killed on January 19 in separate attacks on Gashigar community and surrounding villages. The Borno state police authority confirmed the incident but said no arrest was made. The gunmen also reportedly looted over N6 million from the local traders in Gashigar.
In a village called Alau, about 6 kilometres away from Maiduguri, Boko Haram gunmen attacked local vegetables farmers there killing 19 and setting their houses ablaze. The incident occurred on January 20.
An Alau village resident, Yawale Aji, lamented: “We lost 19 people during the attack. We buried 17 at noon but we later found two bodies in the bush which we just finished their burial”.
On January 22, gunmen shot two secondary school teachers in a border village of Wugo in Gamboru-Ngala local government. The attack on the two teachers left one dead and the other with serious bullet injury.
At least 18 persons were reported killed when gunmen of the Boko Haram group attacked Kaya, Mude and Kwajiri villages – all at the outskirts of Maiduguri – on January 24.
Borno residents are beginning to get worried by the continuous carnage on human lives. There is even a deeper fear when these attack, being launched on isolated remote villages, are now forcing villagers to flee into cities.
A member of the House of Representatives, Peter Biye Gumtha, representing, Chibok,Damboa, Gwoza Federal Constituency of Borno state, told PREMIUM TIMES the situation is fast getting out of hand.
Mr Biye, who had lost his house in his country home in the first week of Janurary when Boko Haram gunmen attacked and set it ablaze said “it would be inhuman for any one to even think of conducting the 2015 elections up here in the face of the present killings”.
A Borno politician, who contested the House of Representatives seat on the platform of the PDP and lost in 2011, said “the spate of killing is becoming alarming and government should stop playing politics and be serious about this increasing loss of human lives. If nothing is done, these groups will one that take over our state”.
The Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, had while in Kawuri described the spate of killings going on in his state as barbaric, wicked and evil.
According to him; “this is not Islam, if that is what Boko Haram is claiming to advance; this is evil, because none of the holy books of Islam has sanctioned killing of fellow humans; Islam that we practice, preach peace and good neighbourliness; it does not teach us to take up arms against one another”.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, said the Boko Haram insurgency will end by April.
Some Borno residents say they are not impressed by the defence chief’s assurance due to the increased attacked that proceeded his promise.
“We want action and genuine commitment to ending the Boko Haram; and not mere boastful talks that had failed others in the past,” Ibrahim Gwamna, a resident said.