•How suicide bombers landed in University of Maiduguri
From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
Like a thief in the night, two Boko Haram suicide bombers sneaked into the heavily guarded University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), last week, and in minutes, wreaked havoc, killing, in the process, a professor and two others. The incident is the first terror attack in any university in Nigeria since Boko Haram heightened violent attacks in the northeast. The sect, which opposes Western education, adopted suicide bombings late 2014.
Established 40 years ago, UNIMAID has remained a major pool centre in producing manpower needed in both public and private sectors in the northeast zone, in particular, and in Nigeria, in general. But despite several threats from Boko Haram between 2013 and 2016, the university never witnessed any terrorist attack as it was closely monitored and heavily guarded by crack security operatives from the Nigerian army.
The university located about seven kilometres to the business district on the outskirts of Maiduguri, is, from along Konduga-Bama road, located a few kilometres from Sambisa forest, the insurgents’ former stronghold. The military has battled hard to push off the insurgents’ incursion into the city through the route, on some occasions, firing along the area to repel Boko Haram attempts. A bullet once landed on the campus from such firing though without any casualty. In 2013, explosive devices buried on major highway leading to the university killed an army lieutenant and injured others but the university moved on with its academic activities.
Sources said the bombers may have sneaked into the campus at dusk and waited somewhere to perpetrate their evil act. According to the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Damian Chukwu, the suicide bombers sneaked into the university quarters through Gates 4 and 5 at the rear, before detonating the explosives strapped to their bodies. As the darkness of the day was dissolving into brightness, one of the bombers defied the chilly weather, entered a mosque around Gate 4 and detonated explosive devices right on its corridor. The professor of veterinary medicine and Director of UNIMAID Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Aliyu Mani became a casualty. About 15 other worshippers were said to have been seriously injured in the bomb blasts.
His colleagues in the university described Prof. Mani as an asset. “He was an easy-going person. He and other colleagues took the Department of Vet Medicine to what it is today,” says Prof Danjuma Gambo of Mass Communication Department and Director of the University radio station.
Why the university was not shut down
Shutting down the university because of Boko Haram threats was what the management insists it will resist. In a chat with The Sun Education, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ibrahim Njodi, gave the reason the university chose to maintain that position in the face of threats. “As you know, almost all the communities in Borno and several others in Adamawa and Yobe have been destroyed by the terrorists. Our staff could no longer go to their towns and communities because their houses and family quarters have been raised by Boko Haram. The insurgents have stampeded many of us and therefore, if we close the university where will they go?,” he asked, adding that shutting down the university was like acceding to Boko Haram wild ideology of opposing any form of Western education. “If you close down the university, it is as good as saying we succumb to Boko Haram wish and Maiduguri will be dead,” he stated.
Njodi regretted that the bomb attack came at a time when people thought the Boko Haram insurgency was coming to an end. “Sadly we lost the professor and two sons of our staff,” he added. He said the university management resolved to continue with its ongoing exam after meeting and assessing the situation with the military and security chiefs. “We only suspended the exams slated for that Monday till another day but we continued with others the following day,” he explained. He described late Prof Aliyu Mani as a rare gem whose exit has created a big vacuum in the institution.
Mani, born on April 11, 1957 in Katsina town, Katsina State, attended Kayalwa Primary School, Katsina, between 1964 and 1970 before proceeding for further studies to Government College Kaduna in 1971. He finished his secondary education in 1975) and did his basic studies at the School of Basic Studies (SBS) ABU Zaria (1975-1976).
Thereafter he gained admission into the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) to read veterinary medicine and graduated in 1981. He did his National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) at the School of Agriculture, Asaba, Delta State and later had a stint with Niger Basin Development Authority, Ilorin, Kwara State.
He left Asaba in October 1982 to join the services of the University of Maiduguri as an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Veterinary Medicine.
He later attended the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, United Kingdom (1984 and 1985) where he obtained his Masters degree in veterinary medicine. He later bagged his PhD at the same school. He returned to the University of Maiduguri in 1994 and became a Fellow of the College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2010.
He served as the Director of UNIMAID Veterinary Teaching Hospital between 1997 and 2000 and was Head of Department of the Department of Veterinary Medicine (2005-2010), Acting Dean, Faculty of Vet Medicine (2008-2010).
During his lifetime, he held several other positions in committees of associations both within and outside the University, including the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA). Until his untimely death, he was the Director of UNIMAID Veterinary Teaching Hospital.