The College of Agriculture in Gujba, 50 km south of the state capital Damaturu, came under attack by gunmen who fired indiscriminately at students, an official seeking anonymity told Xinhua.
"So far, we have recovered at least 47 bodies within and outside the school premises. Many of the people affected were men. It is sad that their lives were cut short by this incident," Ali Mohammed, an auxiliary staff of the college told Xinhua over phone.
Mohammed said tears filled the eyes of many sympathisers who thronged the campus Sunday afternoon and found bodies of the victims laid in an open space. "Some government officials have paid condolence visits to the college. This is a sad incident," he said, giving a hint that a mass burial was being planned for the victims.
According to the college officer, many other students were injured in the attack and most of the injured have been taken to a state-run hospital in Damaturu. More corpses may be recovered as rescuers were still combing the area Sunday afternoon for other dead or injured victims, he added.
Abubakar Bukola Saraki, a serving senator in Nigeria, also confirmed the heavy casualties recorded in the incident when he expressed his grief on Facebook.
"I am deeply saddened by the horrific news of gunmen senselessly claiming the promising lives of over 40 students of Gubja College of Agriculture in Yobe State," the federal lawmaker said. "Today is not a day for us to throw blames (sic) or point fingers of accuse (sic), but rather a day to act swiftly to bring this perpetrators to book and to support our security agencies to prevent this type of attacks in the future," Saraki said.
Earlier, in a telephone chat with Xinhua, Abdullahi Garba, a student of the college, recounted his experience, saying the gunmen shot sporadically. "Surviving students are at the moment fleeing the school premises. We really want to reunite with our families right now," he said. Most of the students have fears of more attacks by the gunmen, he noted.
In a terse statement made available to Xinhua, spokesperson of the military in Yobe state, Eli Lazarus, confirmed the attack, but declined to give details about the casualties.
"The gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists on bikes, Hilux and Golf vehicles, attacked the College of Agriculture in Gujba. "The terrorists surrounded the male hostel and opened fire indiscriminately, leaving several students dead and others wounded.
The terrorists also took away the school ambulance," he said. Security agencies are presently on the trail of the fleeing terrorists, with a view to arresting them, Lazarus added. On July 6, at least 29 pupils and a teacher were killed by suspected Boko Haram members in a pre-dawn attack on a school in Yobe state.
Yobe state, in the volatile northeastern region of Nigeria, is one of three states where President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in May, sending thousands of troops to the area. The Boko Haram sect seeks to enshrine the Islamic sharia law into the constitution and has declared war against Western education.