110 Borno farmers’ death: Buhari vows to end terrorism

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…as PDP blasts Presidency on military clearance for farmers

…demands apology to Nigerians

By Ayo Fadimu and Laraba Raphael

A team of high level officials representing the Executive and  Legislative arms of government was in Maiduguri on Monday to deliver a message of condolence and solidarity with the government and people of Borno State following the recent Boko Haram killing of 43 farm workers.

The Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan spoke for the team and the Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari representing President Muhammadu Buhari presented a joint message, on behalf of the President, the government and people of Nigeria to the Governor, the Shehu of Borno, and the bereaved Zabarmari community, describing the massacre of the farm workers as the worst form of “senseless, barbaric and gruesome murder.”

In the message, President Buhari expressed the condolences of the government and people of Nigeria and gave strong assurances of his continuous commitment to fighting insurgency and all forms of insecurity in Borno State and all over Nigeria.

The President committed himself to making more resources available to the military to prosecute the war, adding that he will “work closely with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of the people. Everything is secondary when security is at a stake.

“As we mourn the loss of our sons in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis until we root out the terrorists,” said the President.

President Buhari commended Governor Babagana Zulum for his leadership in running the affairs of the state.

In his response, Governor Zulum thanked the President for “ensuring relative peace since his assumption of office,” stating clearly that the situation is much better than he met it.

The Governor presented a number of  requests on behalf of his people, including that the youths of the state should be enlisted in military and paramilitary organizations to play their roles in the defence of the nation.

He called on the federal government to assist in the repatriation of Borno indigenes in camps in neighbouring countries and requested the National Assembly to tweak the draft budget now before them to allow better allocation of resources for the Northeast sub-region, which he alleged is being side-lined.

At the palace of the Shehu of Borno, His Eminence Abubakar Umar Ibn Garbai, the traditional ruler described as ‘madness,’ the gruesome killings and urged his subjects to pray and offer useful information to the security agencies.

He thanked President Buhari for his efforts in returning normalcy to the state.

“Before this administration came, all 27 local councils and the Emirs had migrated to Maiduguri. We had no power from the National Grid, Telephone services were discontinued and the airport was closed,” he said, commending the President for changing all that for the better.

The delegation was also in Zabarmari, Jere Local Government where the incident took place, Alhaji Idris who responded on behalf of the community said they were touched by the President’s gesture, saying, “we are happy that the President is with us in our moment of grief. Tell him that we are very happy with him.”

Aside the Senate President and Chief of Staff to the President, the delegation included the House Majority Whip, Tahir Monguno, the Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Musa Bello, Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Agriculture (State), Mustapha Shehuri and Works and Housing (State), Engineer Abubakar Aliyu.

Others are National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has slammed the Buhari Presidency over reported  comment by  Presidential spokesperson, Shehu Garba on the beheading of 43 farmers in Zabarmari  Borno state by suspected terrorist.

The opposition party described the comment as reckless, bizarre and smacks of support for acts of terrorism in the country.

Garba, was reported to have blamed the slain farmers for not receiving clearance from the military before going to their farms where they were eventually beheaded by insurgents

Reacting, the PDP said the comment by Garba  reads like  an attempt to “rationalize  the gruesome beheading” of the farmers.

The party in a statement  by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan yesterday said it is “outraged by the Buhari Presidency’s claims that the farmers were killed because they failed to get clearance before going to their farms; a statement, which is also an admission that the Buhari administration has been overwhelmed by terrorists and can no longer guarantee our compatriots a normal life.

According to Ologbondiyan, “Our party submits that it is weird, reprehensible and repulsive that the Buhari Presidency now seeks to turn itself into a mouthpiece of terrorists by this subtle attempt to rationalize the killing of innocent and hard working Nigerians.

“This unpatriotic stance smacks of support for acts of terrorism and mindless killing of our compatriots by a government whose Commander-in-Chief had promised Nigerians to lead the battle against insurgents from the front.

“Our party is forced to hold that attitudes such as the unpatriotic remark of the Buhari Presidency embolden insurgents in their ceaseless attacks in our country.”

Ologbondiyan futher accused the Presidency of graduating “from making bogus claims of having degraded terrorism to the embarrassing point of blaming unprotected and helpless Nigerians for falling victims of terrorist attacks.”

The PDP insisted the actions of presidency shows an insensitivity and “huge lack of empathy, which amounts to a spat on the grave of the slain as well as an unpardonable slap on the faces of the generality of mourning Nigerians. “

“Perhaps this also informs why their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has not deemed it fit to have a word of lamentation for the death nor consolation for the bereaved”, the PDP said.

The  opposition party therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately withdraw the offensive statement by his Presidency and apologize to Nigerians, particularly the people of Borno state.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said that the Zambari massacre could have been avoided, as the 43 farmers killed by Boko Haram on Saturday did not have military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.

Shehu said this in an interview with BBC on Monday. He said he was not blaming the victims but that the truth must be said.

The Special Assistant also said the government was sad about the massacre.

“Forty-three or thereabout of innocent farm workers, most of them had their throats slit by a heartless band of terrorists, he said.”

Shehu said “People need to know what it is like in the Lake Chad Basin area. “Much of those areas have been liberated from Boko Haram terrorists. But there are a number of spaces that have not been cleared for the return of villagers who have been displaced. So, ideally, all of these places ought to pass the test of military clearances before farmers or settlers resume activities on those fields.”

When asked if he was not blaming the farmers for going to the area, Shehu responded, “Not exactly. But the truth has to be said. Was there any clearance by the military which is in total control of those areas? Did anybody ask to resume activity? I have been told by the military leaders that they had not been so advised and certainly, therefore, it was a window that the terrorists exploited.”

The Presidential Spokesperson added: “The military is not present in every inch of space in that area. Even if the people are willing to go back, a lot of those areas have been mined and mine clearance needs to be carried out and those areas must be cast as being ok for human habitation or agricultural activity.”