The Presidency has said that the rice farmers killed by the Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State at the weekend could not get security protection because they failed to get military clearance before proceeding to their farms.
Senior Special Assistant to President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, made this disclosure yesterday in an interview with the BBC.
According to him, even though the military is in “full control” of all parts of Borno, the farmers and residents ought to get clearance before visiting certain areas.
He added that visiting certain places in the North-East, which has come under the weight of Boko Haram insurgency for more than 10 years, is “a window that the terrorists have exploited”.
At least 44 farmers were reportedly slaughtered by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Zabarmari, about 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, at the weekend. This attack was described by the United Nations (UN) as “the most violent attack” targeted at civilians in 2020.
Responding to the attack, Shehu blamed the farmers for their failure to observe due diligence by first obtaining clearance before visiting their farms.
Shehu said that “the government is sad that this tragic incident has happened”, saying that most of the 43 or thereabout innocent farm workers had their throats slit by a heartless band of terrorists.
He 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 okay for human habitation or agricultural activity.”