Over 45 people were killed in northern Borno on Tuesday when Boko Haram ambushed oil workers, while many others are still missing according to reports from Maiduguri.
Soldiers and civilian JTF providing cover for oil the workers, staff of the University of Maiduguri and some locals were killed in the ambush while cache of arms were taken away by the attackers.
The victims were involved in exploration work spearheaded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Credible sources within the military and at the university said some Hilux trucks had so far evacuated bodies from the scene of the attack and deposited them at mortuaries of the 7 Division Nigerian Army and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
The Nigerian Army said on Wednesday that soldiers on reinforcement had recovered corpses of eight of its personnel and rescued all the remaining civilians; but credible sources dispelled the claim, saying almost everybody in the convoy was killed.
Among the corpses recovered so far were those of a lieutenant, two corporals, a lance corporal, and five privates who were providing cover for the oil explorers.
The bodies of two professors and three others from the university were also recovered while the status of five others from the same university, who were in the same convoy but in a different vehicle, could not be ascertained.
Corpses of many civilian JTF operatives and some drivers were brought to hospitals in Maiduguri even as very few were fully recognized.
It was gathered that some evidence compiled at the scene revealed that the terrorists attacked the convoy with explosives and heavy guns; leaving mangled bodies at the place.
“The army high command said some soldiers have been killed but all the captives have been rescued…This is absolutely not correct; nobody was rescued,” a source said.
“The university community was initially happy on Wednesday when that news filtered but mood suddenly changed yesterday when corpses were brought to Maiduguri,” he said.
Officials of the university have not yet commented on the incident, but a source confirmed the death of the professor and three others, saying five others, including their vehicles are still missing.
But the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, had yesterday confirmed the deaths of five of the university staff while speaking in Kano.
He said, “Nine lecturers of university were abducted by members of the Boko Haram group at an oil exploratory site in Borno state. But from the report I received last night, lifeless bodies of the lecturers were found. We don’t know the fate of the rest abductees as at now.”
Oil exploration suspended
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday announced the indefinite suspension of exploration for crude oil in the Lake Chad Basin parts of Borno State by the NNPC.
Kachikwu, who commiserated with the families of victims killed by the insurgents, however, stated that the corporation got the necessary clearance from security agencies before embarking on the trip last Tuesday.
Oil exploration in the basin was suspended at the height of Boko Haram insurgency around 2012; but activities resumed on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari, in November 2016 around Gubio, Magumeri, Monguno, Kukawa, Abadam, Guzamala and Mobar, after getting security advice from the military.
Kachikwu, who spoke in Abuja, regretted that the team was ambushed by terrorists, saying that no work will happen at the site anytime soon.
The commercial oil found in neighboring Chad Republic had encouraged the NNPC to intensify and focus its exploratory work in the inland basins on the Chad Basin and Benue Trough areas.
The Boko Haram had destroyed much oil exploration equipment in Kukawa and other locations.
Attacks not surprising- Experts
Some security experts spoken to said the Tuesday’s ambush was sad but not surprising.
Salihu Bakari, a retired army officer, said, “We must expect more of this going by Boko Haram tactics; they tend to increase their activities once the military stepped up their actions.
“Ordinarily and for strategic reasons, the order for the arrest of Shekau should have been given to the Theatre Commander in confidence. The Boko Haram are in fear and can do anything to thwart any move that will undermine them,” he said.