A video of three University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) faculty and staff members, believed to be abducted by Boko Haram members during last week’s ambush on an oil exploration team in Borno state, was released to news media on Saturday.
Appearing in the video are two men who identified themselves as geology department faculty members and a third, who said he was a driver with the university. The men in the video gave their names as Yusuf Ibrahim and Dr Solomon N. Yusuf, along with a third man called Haruna. They appealed to acting Nigerian president Yemi Osinbajo and the government, UNIMAID officials, as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the media, to support an effort to rescue them alive.
UNIMAID has confirmed to Reuters that the three men who were part of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) exploration team are members of the university community. The news came as the death toll rose to 69 in what has become the most deadly Boko Haram attack this year.
The victims include 17 civilians, 19 soldiers, and 33 members of the Joint Civilian Task Force, a local force fighting Boko Haram in the region, according to aid workers and military sources. Authorities are not yet sure they’ve accounted for all victims, and said the death toll may still rise.
The ambush occurred Tuesday near Magumeri as the NNPC team was in the area. Members of the party included four NNPC personnel, and at least five members from the University of Maiduguri identified by the NNPC as geologists assisting the exploration team.
The NNCP confirmed details of the ambush during a Thursday press conference. Ibe Kachikwu, the Nigerian minister for petroleum resources and a former NNPC managing director, defended the decision to have an oil exploration team in Borno state since the region has been more stable in the past six months and other Lake Chad Basin countries also have resumed oil operations.
The minister said the group had security clearance for their project. Nonetheless, Kachikwu announced that oil exploration activities have been temporarily suspended, although NNPC is prepared to return to the region once security is reestablished.
The university community has been a Boko Haram target since January, with a total of six attacks since then. The most recent was in June, when a suicide bomber and a university security staffer died in a campus attack.