Amidst anger across Nigeria and globally over the massacre of over 43 farmers by Boko Haram insurgents in their rice farms at Zabarmari, Jere Local Government Area of Borno State on Saturday December 28, the House of Representatives Tuesday passed a resolution during plenary to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to brief it on the security situation in the country.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila argued that it would be counter-productive and inappropriate to invite the President to brief the House on the security measures being taken by government but found his view very unpopular and outnumbered. The House became rowdy and moved into a closed door session where the issue was resolved and the motion passed.
On Monday, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State in desperation, advised the federal government on a condolence visit to the state, to engage foreign mercenaries to fight the insurgents. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was heavily criticised by the then opposition, the All Progressives Congress, APC for using mercenaries to fight Boko Haram.
He made five recommendations:
“One of our recommendations as possible solutions to end the insurgency is the immediate recruitment of our youths into military and para-military services to complement the efforts of the Nigerian forces.
“Our second recommendation is to engage the services of our immediate neighbours, especially the governments of Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic, in clearing the remnants of Boko Haram hiding in the shores of the Lake Chad.
“Our third recommendation is for him to engage the services of the mercenaries to clear the entire Sambisa forest.
“Our fourth recommendation is for him to provide the police and the military with armed resistant armoured personnel carriers, and other related equipment.
“We are also soliciting the support of the federal government to support the Borno State government in the repatriation of our displaced persons currently residing in Cameroon and Niger Republic,”
Reacting to the massacre on Sunday, President Buhari said, “I condemn the killing of our hard-working farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings. My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace”.
A non-governmental organisation, NGO had reported about 100 farmers killed but only 43 bodies had so far been recovered. “We have recovered 43 dead bodies, all of them slaughtered along with six others with serious injuries,” a local militiaman told the AFP news agency.
At the funeral on Sunday, Zulum lamented, “It is disheartening that more than 40 citizens were slaughtered while they were working in their farmlands. Our people are in very difficult situations; they are in two different extreme conditions. In one side, 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.”
On Monday, Garba Shehu was quoted as saying in a radio interview that the farmers did not get security clearance from the military before going to the farm. This drew the anger of Nigerians and became the top trending item in the internet in the past 24 hours. A humbled Shehu later explained himself better.
“Today, I found myself leading the trends in the social media for the wrong reasons. The State of Borno is essentially a military zone up till now that we are talking and much of what people do; much of where they go are governed by the exigencies of security.
“Routinely, traders, administration officials, and even UN agencies, get the green light to go to many of the areas to avoid trouble. Information from security agencies says that the Zabarmari marshlands are infested with land mines and movements in around those areas subject to military oversight.
“No one is delighted with the massacre in Zabarmari and there is nothing anybody will gain by playing blame games. The question I tried to answer on BBC was: did the security sign off on the area as being free of mines and terrorists? The honest answer is, no. I’m human with tons of compassion and empathy, and could not have said that the victims deserved their fate for ignoring security clearance.
“I was merely explaining the mode of military operations in the war zone of the Northeast. There are areas that are still volatile that require security clearance which is intended to put people out of harm’s way. When tragedies occur, questions arise in terms of how something happened in order to avoid future recurrence. Informing the military of our movements in an area of volatility and uncertainty is intended to preserve public safety.
“Explaining why something happened doesn’t mean I have no sympathy for the victims. I was just explaining the military procedures on the safe movement of the people and not supporting the death of the victims.”