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Mourners attend the funeral of 43 farm workers in Zabarmari, about 20km from Maiduguri, Nigeria, on November 29, 2020 after they were killed by Boko Haram fighters in rice fields near the village of Koshobe on November 28, 2020. The assailants tied up the agricultural workers and slit their throats in the village of Koshobe. The victims were labourers from Sokoto state in northwest Nigeria, roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, who had travelled to the northeast to find work. Audu Marte / AFP

•U.S., govs, others condemn killings
•PDP attacks FG for accusing farmers
•Govt ascribes failure to global denial of weapons
•Defence headquarters faults UN, residents, says crisis long-rooted
•FG delegation visits Maiduguri, Buhari vows to end menace

As Nigeria and the world lament Saturday’s killing of farmers in Borno State, the Federal Government, yesterday, resisted attempts to blame it for the killing. Instead, it attributed the bloodshed to other factors outside government control.

Farmers working in a rice field at Garin Kwashebe in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State were, on Saturday, attacked by suspected Boko Haram insurgents. Scores of them were killed and many injured.

Commenting on the killing yesterday morning, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), said that the slain farmers failed to get clearance from military authorities before going to their farms.

He contended that, if clearance were sought, military authorities would have prepared to provide security for the farmers.

He also noted that visiting certain places in the Northeast under the weight of Boko Haram insurgency was “a window that terrorists have exploited.”

But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said on Monday it was alarmed by “the reckless and bizarre attempt by the Buhari Presidency to rationalise gruesome beheading of scores of innocent Nigerians by insurgents in Zabarmari, Borno state.”

The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was outraged by the Presidency’s claims that the farmers were killed because they failed to get clearance before going to their farms, saying the statement was an admission that government had been overwhelmed by terrorists and could no longer guarantee safety of lives.

It said the Presidency showed “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.”

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

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The Defence Headquarters, also yesterday, said the state of insecurity in the North-East was deep rooted, even as it faulted report by the United Nations that 110 civilians were killed by Boko Haram in the Saturday attack.

Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, stated this while featuring on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.

Enenche also faulted some local residents for limiting the military’s effectiveness to combat the insecurity in the region by not providing relevant information.

He said: “We have been on the issue of insecurity, particularly in the North-East for about 10 years and incidentally I have witnessed it for about 20 years.

“Twenty years ago, I was in the first multinational joint task force as the engineer commander under General Jonathan Temlong (retd.) and we operated severally around Moguno and Baga. It will surprise people to hear that, as far as it were, the criminals who called themselves kwanta kwanta, robbing people and collecting levies and all, we captured some weapons from them. These are the same kind of weapons that we are seeing today. This insecurity is a long-rooted issue.”

Commenting on the killing, Information, Culture and Tourism Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday, attributed the inability of the country to defeat terrorism to global denial of weapons.

The Minister made the claim while fielding questions from newsmen at Government House in Makurdi shortly after he paid a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State yesterday.

He said Nigeria had made attempts to acquire better and more effective platforms to deal with terrorists but was denied the platforms.

“Without adequate weapons, we may remain at the mercy of the terrorists but you see fighting terrorists is not a joke,” he said.

He, however, described what happened in Borno State as quite unfortunate, saying: “We also have to look at the strategy of the terrorists.”

Mohammed was in Benue on official assignment.

Meanwhile, a Federal Government delegation, including the Executive and Legislative arms visited Maiduguri on Monday to deliver a message of condolence and solidarity with the government and people of Borno State.

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In the team was the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari. He 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 as “senseless, barbaric and gruesome murder.”

“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,” the President said.

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

Outrage against the killing heightened yesterday as the United States of America, Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum (NGF), the Senate and others expressed strong condemnation of the act.

A statement by the Information Office in the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy of the United States of America described the attack as condemnable and reiterated the United States’ resolve to support the Nigerian government to defeat terrorism and to work to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the November 28 violent attack in Borno, Nigeria,” the statement, which was made available to The Guardian, read.

“The United States offers our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed or kidnapped.

“These abhorrent attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States stands with the Nigerian government and people as they fight to defeat terrorism and work to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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While the NGF, in its reaction, labelled the killing as morally reprehensible, the Senate said it was embarrassment that such killings could take place in a country which government claimed to have made serious progress in fight against insecurity.

NGF, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday night by its Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, lamented that the attack refreshed sad and ugly memories of unreasonable attacks on soft targets in Borno.

Noting that the farmers were attacked while harvesting their produce, totally ignorant of the danger awaiting them in nearby bushes, Fayemi said the attack was consistent with the senseless bombings of busy markets, bus stations and schools.

“This sad narrative raises serious questions on the general security situation in the country and around the capability of the nation’s security architecture.

“It also raises questions on whether, or not, there are adequate arrangements to protect lives and property.”

According to Fayemi, the forum has become so concerned that the carnage was degenerating beyond explicable limits, promising that the NGF would collectively review those issues in its next meeting.

The Senate also said the killing depicted failure of the Federal Government’s strategies in combating terrorism.

In a statement by the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the caucus said it was saddening that the harvest season had been turned to mourning season.

“We are horrified that our people, particularly the farmers who are toiling tirelessly to sustain the nation’s food security have always become the target of the insurgents,” he said.

Abaribe urged the government to up the ante in the fight against the frightening insecurity occasioned by the resurging Boko Haram insurgents, banditry and kidnapping all over the country.

He added that it was no longer enough for the Presidency to always issue statements condemning attacks and killing of citizens, saying it was time to take decisive action and review strategy.


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