The shocking slaughter of as many as 40 people at a Nigerian college the day after student elections has reverberated across Nigeria, as officials make large-scale arrests in an intense effort to find each of the perpetrators of the violence, which consisted of gunmen rounding the students up and calling them by name before they shot or stabbed them.
While officials have put the death count at 25, because that’s the number of bodies that were taken to the morgue, a local resident and a school official have been quoted as saying at least 40 were killed, with the remaining 15 bodies being whisked away by relatives.
The killing took place at Federal Polytechnic Mubi, a college in the northeastern town of Mubi in the state of Adamawa.
Many Nigerians suspect the brutal slaughter was the work of the militant group Boko Haram,which is fighting to establish Islamic law in Nigeria—killing an estimated 1,000 people thus far—and which came to prominence in the bordering Borno state. But there are signs that it may be related to the student union election, which was held the day before and was marked by a division along religious and sectarian lines.
According to reports of the incident, men in military uniform barged into the resident hall outside the main campus shortly after midnight, gathered students outside their rooms, and methodically began shooting or stabbing them. After they were killed, the bodies were left in lines outside the building.
Ken Henshaw, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Ken Henshaw, told the BBC that the killings were “simply shocking.”
“It seems to make a lot of sense that it could have been an outcome of the elections that were held the previous day,” he said. “You may want to know that the rector of the polytechnic is from south Nigeria and he’s a Christian and the fact that he is rector had caused some tensions in the institution already. And, surprisingly, the person who won the election is a Christian. So I think that that was a breaking-point and the whole thing just flipped over [into violence].”
There are reports that the newly elected leader of the student union at the Federal Polytechnic Mubi was among those killed. BBC Hausa service editor Mansur Liman says rivalry between different groups of students, sometimes influenced by national politics, religion and ethnicity, is common in Nigerian colleges. Many view leadership positions on campus as a possible stepping stone for a national political career, which Liman says many in Nigeria see as a license to get rich quickly.
Police spokesman Mohammed Ibrahim told Agence France-Presse that they have “arrested many suspects.” One school official said most of those arrested were students, including several who were trying to flee the town with most of the rest of the student body.
Ibrahim told Reuters there were signs it had been an “inside job.”
“Relatives of the slain students said the assailants called their names out before killing them. The majority were killed with gun shots or slaughtered like goats,” Ibrahim added.