Come February 24, it will be exactly four years after Boko Haram fighters attacked the Federal Government College (FGC), Buni Yadi, Yobe State, killing 29 students and setting the whole school ablaze.
In a special report by TheCable, survivors of the attack narrated harrowing and chilling near-death experiences at the hands of the insurgents.
According to a teacher who spoke to the reporter, the school was on holidays as at the time of the attack, but students in Senior Secondary 2 were asked to stay back in preparation for their forthcoming Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE).
The insurgents gained entrance into the school premises through the female hostel of the school and ‘mercifully’ marched the girls to the mosque where they were told to forget everything about western education and get ready to be married off.
They then went to “Niger hostel”, one of the hostels where the male students were housed, marched out 29 of the boys, killed them in cold blood at the spot, and lined their bodies up in front of the hostel.
The number of casualties would have been higher had one of the attackers not shot at the hostel lock in a bid to force it open. The shot sent warning signals to the other students and staff members who immediately started looking for ways to escape.
Usman Ali-Grema, the Administrative Officer of FGC Buni Yadi, narrated the events thus:
“The insurgents stormed the school through the girls’ hostel. One of our matrons, Aisha Ahmad, saw them. She wanted to scream but they shut her up, held her hostage at gun point and requested for the keys to the door of the female hostel, but the matron gave them a fake key. Thereafter they made several attempts to open the door but they couldn’t.
“One of the insurgents became angry and shot at the padlock; accidentally the bullet bounced back and hit him. That shot alerted people and students in the school of the impending danger.
“All the girls were ordered out by them and taken to the mosque where they were instructed to forget about western education and go and get married.
“As the girls immediately left the school, the onslaught began on the male hostel. Niger house hostel was the first to be attacked. The insurgents picked 29 male students and killed them on the spot, lining up their dead bodies in front of the hostel.”
Samson Gali, a survivor of the attack, narrated how he escaped by jumping through the hostel window with his friend, Daniel Audu. Both were hit by bullets as they ran, but while Gali was able to make it to some safety, Audu was not that lucky.
“I remember I was alerted by the sound of the gunshot. At first, I thought it was the military…little did I know that it was Boko Haram,” Gali, now 23, said.
“I was almost asleep after the light-out in Niger House hostel when I heard the chanting of ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is great) followed by sporadic shooting. At that time, I realised it was death knocking on our door. So I quickly jumped through the window and started running.
“They killed a lot of my classmates: Halima, Suleiman, Abiodun and Baburo Sule and many others, who could not make it. My friend Daniel Audu ran with me in the same direction but got hit by the bullet and fell. There was nothing I could do to save him. I managed to escape and hide in an uncompleted building.
“I was also hit by stray bullet on my left hand and my stomach. I was hearing my colleagues crying for help but there was no one to help. I later lost consciousness and was taken to the general hospital in Damaturu where I was admitted for some time. That day was the most tragic moment in my life because I never thought I would survive.”
Isa Mohammed, an 80-year security guard who narrowly survived the attack, described how he carried a co-staff who was ill to safety before he was caught by the insurgents on his way back.
According to him, many of the teachers had ran out of the staff quarters, some of them had little or no clothes on them, before the insurgents could get there.
“I saw David, one of our staff, battling to escape. I realised he could not walk because he was sick. So I carried him on my shoulder and took him to the nearest safe building and left him there,” Mohammed said.
“One of the insurgents argued that working in the school where western education is taught is an act of infidelity. But the insurgents’ commander insisted that I should be spared.”
You can read the complete report titled: Buni Yadi Massacre: Four years of sorrow and tears.
Four years after the Buni Yadi massacre and the subsequent abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, Boko Haram continue to attack secondary schools in North East Nigeria.
The recent attack took place at the Government Girls Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State, on Monday night, where over 90 students were declared missing after insurgents attacked the school.
A student who survived the attack told journalists that she will not return to the school for fear of further attacks.
More than 40 of them were found later on Wednesday as they came out of their hiding places, while some were returned to the school by some good Nigerians who had offered them shelter.
Late on Wednesday, the office of the Yobe State Governor issued a statement saying that some of the students had been rescued by soldiers.
Some residents of Gaidam, where a military base is located, described hearing sounds of army vehicles and horns, as the soldiers celebrated the rescue of the schoolgirls.
“When we went out to check what was happening, we saw soldiers jubilating as they moved into the town in several vehicles, some of which were carrying the Dapchi schoolgirls. Though we were not allowed to go near the military base but from afar, the number of females were plenty,” Halima Umar, a resident of Gaidam, told journalists.