The night of June 6th 2016, was the typical normal night around the vicinity of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi.
It was barely past 8pm. The loud sound of a gunshot. Panic. And then a small crowd surrounding a body on the ground bleeding profusely from the head and lower back.
Immediately, obvious assumptions began: the helpless body was that of a student; it was another cult-related shooting.
For years, Uni agric, far hidden from town view, has been deep-rooted in the centre of cult related brutality in the state.
The student, Tobi, a final year student later died from his injuries. He was shot while returning from studying in class, and then his head severely butchered by suspected members of a rival cult gang.
Amid wide-spread reports of rape and robbery by unknown gunmen on campus, the carnage did not stop there.
On the morning of June 8th, this time in a popular hostel on campus, a gory and horrifying scene was witnessed: the hostel was raided the night before by unknown gun men and when they left, four bodies littered the ground. Shot on the head and butchered.
There are different versions as to what happened that night from spared occupants in the hostel.
“Those animals came just around past 11pm looking for someone,” James (Not real-name), an occupant, visibly shaken, while narrating his ordeal on to this Information Nigeria reporter began.
James lives alone and like his neighbors was rounding up his study session at home when the repeated sound of gun fire swallowed the still night.
“I put off my reading lamp quickly and dived for cover on my bed.” He revealed.
But that didn’t save him or his room from curiosity.
“Then my heart sank when I heard a knock on my door,” then another knock and another knock.”
“Soon, I heard voices. Some guys refused to tell the gunmen where their cult friend was so they shot them.”
“Do you think I was prepared to open my door for them? I did not.”
But Kelvin (Not real-name), also an occupant in the attacked hostel told this reporter his own story of what he saw firsthand.
“They just came in, asking for somebody,” he began, “the students cooperated but after robbing them, they shot them. Innocent souls shot. They took their time.”
A University away from plain view
The University’s long distance from town, its surrounding thick forest and lack of viable security has made the institution porous to any kind of encroachment.
During the period of the red-hot crisis just last year between locals and Fulani Herdsmen, a village some miles from the school was invaded by the marauding herdsmen: over 80 villagers were killed and huts razed.
The panic soon spread to students with many fearing for their safety and leaving for accommodation in the town.
“It was a mad house then,” Anna (Not real-name), a 400 level chemistry student recalled.
“I had to leave the hostel because it is close and there are bushes everywhere. You can’t even see what’s coming.”
“Our school did not even station one soldier to protect us in that period. A federal university for that matter.” Anna was quoted saying.
And it didn’t take long for gunmen to prey on the penetrable.
One friday, the only bank in the school was attacked by armed robbers who robbed with unfettered steam for close to two hours.
The robbery forced the bank to shut down for a while to review its security details.
But past misdemeanor and crisis has had no effect in the security plan of the 28-year old university.
And the usual modulus operandi was soon played after the killings:
The Vice Chancellor, Professor E.I. Kucha, 66, visited the scene- In the background, blood splattered on the concrete floor, dead bodies and grim looking sympathizers- He subsequently called for a compulsory two weeks break, much to the fury of many.
“That is all he does, he comes to the bad scenes, calls for a stupid break and the whole cycle repeats when we return, more killings” James angrily narrated.
Jessica (not real-name), a 200 level food and science technology student was more sober yet did not fail to express her thoughts vehemently.
“I am so sad about the dead” She said.
“Just watch,” she beckoned to this reporter, “You just might write another report when we return of another student killed.