A witness who survived the horrendous attacks by the Nigerian army at Hussainiyyah during the infamous Zaria massacre of December 2015, Sister Fatima Yahaya Magume, has described how the wild rampaging soldiers invaded the Islamic compound and shot at everything that looked like a human being, not sparing even those they had previously injured or killed.
Fatima Magume survived to narrate the harrowing story, but her undergraduate daughter was among those killed by the soldiers. Another son of hers was initially thought dead too. She recalled how she went to Hussainiyyah that day quite early to put finishing touches to preparations for the flag changing ceremony that would have taken place later. It was an Annual event that in previous years went without hitches. Like all others, she therefore never had any premonition of what was to befall the Hussainiyyah and all its occupants in just a few hours.
She was inside doing her work when she heard a loud siren outside. She along with many others came out to find out what was happening. “On coming out,” she said, ” we saw soldiers disembarking from their trucks with boxes of ammunition.”
Explaining further, “as people curiously asked them what was the matter, I overheard them saying that they were passing and their helmet fell down and they stopped to pick it, and some other incoherent talks like that.” They were kindly requested to leave. “They did as they were going to leave, but turned and opened fire,” she said. As they scampered for safety, she remembered seeing the soldiers drag a number of their victims into a large truck. A number of the victims were also brought into the Hussainiyah, with some of them already dead.
“They reenforced and cordon off the entire compound,” she explained. From then till midnight, there were sporadic gun shots from outside. It wasn’t clear whom they were shooting. “We intensified our shouting for Divine help, (Allahu Akbar and Ya Mahadi) each time some sound of gunshot or explosive was heard.”
“At well past midnight, they started announcing that everyone inside should come out or they will break into the compound and kill us all. So many of us were praying. The light suddenly went off momentarily and then the whole of Hussiniyyah was illuminated with a very bright light from where they camped. That was followed by a very loud sound of a blasts, which brought down the fence on the northern side of the compound. We were then seeing each other clearly. They saw many of us offering prayers and there were no weapons in our hands.. Yet, they kept shooting at us,” she said.
Sister Magume went on to say, “they shot in all directions at anything with human shape, including those who were lying down already shot and injured or killed.”
“In the morning, they broke into the compound and were everywhere shooting and pouring petrol at places and setting them on fire. They were unmindful of the fact that there were children in our midst, who by that time were exhausted with hunger and lack of sleep and frightened with sounds of gunfire and explosives. They had witnessed people being killed everywhere!”
“I took some of the children to hide in a close by room. However, the soldiers still came and set the building ablaze with the children inside! We had to get out. As we came out, we were face to face with the soldiers, who took aim at us to shoot. They saw I was with small children and we had to go through fire and smoke to get out, but he still took aim at us! I lost my undergraduate daughter, Nusaiba and one other son, Muhammad was thought killed.”
When we escaped from the fire, they laid us down and ordered us to remove our hijab. I resisted and told them that hijab is a religious dress that can’t be removed anyhow. That angered them very well. They beat the hell out of me. Someone hit me with a mortar on my head. They tied us and dragged us on the ground to their trucks. They hauled us in, along with the children and stacked corpses of those killed over us and drove us to their barracks.”
Magume further explained how they were battered and tortured in the military barracks. “A soldier kept beating me until I could not see,” she said. They were then thrown into a swimming pool along with “some other small children, who told us that they spent the night in the pool. They were many, numbering about 30 of them. ”
“I have never ever imagined that any human being could be so wicked in life before until I met these beasts,” she concluded. “They verbally assaulted us as they physically battered us. They alleged that we blocked their Chief of army, but the whole thing was done in my presence. Nobody blocked anyone of them. But God is the judge, and he would avenge for us.”