On Sunday, 29th November, 44 farmers, most of them young and agile, were buried amid tears, wailing and lamentation at Zabarmari community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State.
They were part of, according to the United Nations (UN), at least, 110 rice farmers murdered the previous day by Boko Haram members while working on their farms at Koshebe village of Zabarmari community.
Thirteen of the famers were from Zabarmari, five from Baga while the remaining were from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states. Zabarmari village, a famous rice cultivation community, is 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, while Koshebe village, where the incident occurred, is four kilometres from Zabarmari.
The farmers were not just murdered, they were, according to reports, slaughtered. It is barbaric, sickening, nauseating and disgusting, to say the least, that the “decimated” terror group could still muster the agility, in a nation, which prides itself as the giant of Africa, to kill no fewer than 44 people, in the 21st Century, without an iota of challenge, no matter how feeble or subtle, from the Nigerian armed forces.
During the funeral prayers and burial, the state Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, who burst into tears, described the killing as disheartening. He said: “Our people are in very difficult situations. They are in two different extreme conditions – on one side if they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation. On the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents.
“This is very sad… We will not lose hope because we have to remain optimistic about ending the insurgency.” It is truly disheartening that life no longer has meaning, especially to the Nigerian leadership. It is not every day, not even in war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, among others, that one gets to hear of atrocious killings on a large scale as the Saturday massacre in Borno State.
Officially, Nigeria is not at war, yet atrocities committed against Nigerians, on a daily basis, far outweigh what Syrians are facing. Anyway, a nation, which glosses over mass murder of its citizens, is actually at war against itself. Curiously, however, a vigilante in Zabarmari told journalists that the military was aware of the impending disaster, yet did nothing.
The man said the murder was a revenge for the killing of the Boko Haram members arrested by the CJTF, vigilantes and the military. He alleged that they had an intelligence report that Boko Haram was planning revenge and that they told the military, but nothing was done about it. Everything, absolutely, points to the fact that the service chiefs have woefully failed.
They have failed their immediate constituencies, the nation and the president who appointed them and refused to let them go in the face of glaring inadequacies. It beats every strain of moral reasoning for President Muhammadu Buhari to still continue to hold on to the Nigerian security architecture, as presently constituted.
To do that would be the height of arrogance on the part of the president. It is a slap on the face of the generality of Nigerians and a spit on the graves, many of which are still being dug, of those senselessly murdered.
What just happened in Borno State is a graphic explanation of failure of governance because one of the cardinal responsibilities of government is to provide security, aside food, for its citizens. What was witnessed in Borno on Saturday was probably reminiscent of the World War II pogrom.
The Chairman, Zabarmari Rice Sellers’ Association, Alhaji Hassan Zabarmari, said the victims were deceived and led to a slaughter room one after the other. He said: “When our people were working on their farms, as early as 5:30a.m. some insurgents came and asked them to gather in one place; that they wanted to talk to them. After some time, they said the leader of the sect (Ameer) wanted to talk to them (the farmers).
They took them to a house at Koshebe… and started slaughtering them one after the other. They did not know that they were being slaughtered, as they were asked to see the Ameer one after the other. “They killed all our young farmers and left two of our elderly farmers to come and relay the message at home.”
The mass killing of farmers is a deliberate message from Boko Haram that it wants hunger to ravage the land. It is a direct attack on efforts by the Federal Government to ensure food security, especially in the face of daunting hunger wrought on the country by COVID-19.
We appeal to the Federal Government to take the issue of provision of security of lives and property more seriously. It is not demeaning for the Federal Government to seek help from other countries to wage real war against Boko Haram and other groups taking up arms against Nigeria.
An African adage says ‘you can fall down while walking, so prostrating for your in-law should not be a big problem.’ It is not only Borno State that is hurt or grieving; the entire Nigerian nation is bleeding. Will government stop the free flow of blood? Only time will tell.