SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 20, 2017

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Maiduguri

Region & Country:Western Africa | Nigeria

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On May 20, 2017, an unidentified individual attempted to bomb a residence hall at the University of Maiduguri, killing only himself. This was the third such incident at the university in one week.

At approximately 10:00 am, the attacker arrived just outside the campus, near a residence hall and a secondary school managed by the university. When a security guard spotted him and approached, the attacker quickly detonated his explosives, killing himself.

Three security guards were injured in a similar May 18 attack (see report), and one guard was killed and another injured in a May 13 attack (see report). Both attacks involved suicide bombers.

As of this report, the identity of the attacker from the May 20 incident remains unknown and no group has publicly claimed responsibility; however, media reports suggest that the attacker was a member of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Following a January 13 attack on the University of Maiduguri, which resulted in people killed and 15 more injured, a person purporting to be Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, released a recording in which he claimed responsibility for that attack on the group’s behalf (see report).

Scholars at Risk condemns this extreme, targeted, violent attack on the higher education space. Such attacks target the core values of the university, including academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility. State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to State authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.