•UN puts death toll at 110
•Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Northern govs, others demand more actions
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, James Emejo, Adedayo Akinwale, Michael Olugbode in Abuja, Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Boko Haram’s killing of no fewer than 43 rice farmers at Zabarmari in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State yesterday sparked fresh outrage over the worsening insecurity in the country.
The remains of the victims, killed on Saturday, were interred yesterday after the funeral rites witnessed by Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, among other personalities.
Top public officials, including President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Northern governors as well as
former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Afenifere condemned the carnage and urged the federal government to adopt more stringent measures to win the insurgency war.
The apex Niger Delta socio-cultural group, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) also decried the carnage, which President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday, described as “senseless.”
Boko Haram fighters had slit the throats of the rice farmers in the village near Maiduguri, the state capital.
The terrorists were reported to have first tied up the farmers, who were working in rice fields, before killing them.
However, the United Nations (UN) has said the death toll might be higher than 43, adding that no fewer than 110 civilians were killed in the attack.
Amnesty international also declared 10 women as missing, raising the possibility of them being killed already or captured by the terrorists.
Zulum has also said that Boko Haram still maintained a strong presence in parts of the troubled state, despite the claim by the federal government that the terror group doesn’t hold any territory in the country.
However, farmers under the umbrella of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), have warned of an imminent food crisis as virtually all the Northern states with major agricultural production activities, including Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi, are currently affected by the activities of non-state actors, which have forced many farmers to vacate their farms.
Condemning the killings, Lawan described it as another act of barbarism against innocent Nigerians.
“This incident is heart-rending and again demonstrates why we must all continue to support the security forces to thwart the criminals in their evil determination to impose a reign of terror on the North-east of Nigeria,” he said.
He urged the security agencies to redouble their efforts with a view to bringing an end to the mindless violent crimes in the country.
Gbajabiamila in a statement yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Lanre Lasisi, said it was unfortunate that at a time the country was focusing on self-sufficiency in rice farming, about 50 of the farmers were killed in a most gruesome manner.
The speaker, who expressed sadness over the killings, noted that the incident has once again brought to the fore the need for more military action against the terrorists.
He said the incident was one too many for the country.
“Their lives should not go in vain. This should call for more action from our military. As a House, we are ever ready to give them all the necessary support, especially through budgetary allocation, to deal decisively with the insurgents,” the speaker said.
In their reaction to the massacre, the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) described it as tragic and a setback to the efforts of Nigeria to attain domestic sufficiency in rice production as well as food security.
Chairman of the forum and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, said in a statement yesterday that the country is saddened over the killing of the rice farmers whose only crime was to go to the farm to earn their living.
He stated that the forum has consistently worked with the federal government, security agencies and local support groups to ensure that farmers are protected in order to enable them to farm.
Atiku reiterated his call for the overhaul of the nation’s security system, saying he was heart-broken over the incident and short of words on what to say over the continued killings by Boko Haram insurgents.
He stressed the imperative of rejigging the security network in the country as a measure to counter the continued activities of the Boko Haram insurgents.
Atiku, in a tweet, said: “Heartbreaking. Words fail me. The lives of our citizens should be worth much more than this. The rejig of the nation’s security architecture is long overdue. May their souls rest in peace and may their families be comforted.”
Reacting, the PDP, in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, described the massacre as wicked, devilish and must not be left unaddressed.
It noted that the horrific killing of compatriots comes as yet another of the recurring horrid testament and badge of failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to secure the nation and guarantee the safety of lives and property.
“Indeed, our party is distressed by the escalated killing and maiming of innocent Nigerians by insurgents, bandits, and marauders, who have continued to ravage and pillage our communities, while the lazy and lethargic Buhari administration continues with its lip service, rhetoric, and false performance claims,” it added.
The PDP expressed concern about the failure of the Buhari presidency to take decisive action despite series of concerns raised by Zulum about security compromises in the state.
The spokesman of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told THISDAY yesterday that the group was worried by the incessant attacks and killing of the people in the North-east, especially in Borno State by the Boko Haram insurgents despite claims to the contrary by the federal government.
He stated that with the nation now under siege with many lives being lost, Buhari has become Nigeria’s “Lamentor-in-Chief.”
“We are worried that in spite of the official untruth by the Nigerian government that it has degraded Boko Haram, the terror group daily continues to downgrade the current government as comprehensively incompetent. And on all fronts, the country is under siege with lives being lost on a daily basis and our president is now lamentor-in-chief,” he said.
In its reaction, PANDEF called on the president to immediately overhaul the nation’s security apparatus, including sacking all the service chiefs.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Hon Ken Robinson, told THISDAY yesterday that “those in charge of the security architecture of the country should stop pretending and face reality; things are not alright. The country is in a precarious state; things are not okay and we cannot continue like this.
“Mr. President needs to take some drastic and pragmatic actions, now; including the overhaul of the entire security architecture of the country. A change in the leadership of the nation’s security high command is long overdue.”
While the ACF condemned the killings, it, however, declined to make comments on the way forward to tackle the security challenges in the country, saying, it has repeatedly spoken on the issue.
Spokesman of the forum, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, told THISDAY that the ACF cannot say anything more than what it had said before concerning the security situation in the country.
“We cannot say more than what we said in our October communiqué and the recent statement we issued about a week ago. We cannot say anything on insecurity again because if we say anything, it won’t be new,” he added.
The forum in a statement on November 24 had berated the Buhari administration over the rising insecurity in the North.
It had urged the president to live up to his oath of office.
Also, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) described the Buhari administration as the worst in the history of the country.
The spokesman of the group, Mr. Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said the federal government and federal troops could no longer be relied on to protect northern communities.
The coalition said it has heard enough of excuses and fake promises of action from the Buhari administration.
CNG described as unacceptable a situation where the people of the North will continue to live under a high level of exposure to criminals who attack, kill, maim, rape, kidnap, burn villages and rustle cattle while the president and security chiefs issue threats and promises that have no effect.
“The president and federal troops keep telling us that they are doing something about the mounting insecurity, but by now all Northerners must have realised that our region has been abandoned at the mercy of a rampaging insurgency that is continuously wasting the greatest asset of North; its population and weakening it politically and pauperising it economically,” it said.
Bodies of 43 Farmers Buried
Meanwhile, the remains of the 43 victims of the Boko Haram massacre were interred yesterday as residents told Zulum the death toll may rise above the 43 buried.
During the burial, the governor was told by residents who were involved in the retrieval of the bodies that it was still early to determine the number of those killed.
They said some of those that went to the farms on Saturday were still missing.
One of the residents, who preferred anonymity for security reason, said: “Your Excellency, as you have seen here, 43 corpses were buried, but others have not been retrieved from the scene of the incident. Nobody can tell you the exact number of people killed. Some of the victims are still missing.”
Boko Haram Still Strong in Borno, Says Zulum
Zulum has said that Boko Haram still maintained a strong presence in parts of the troubled state.
The governor, during his condolence visit to the people of Zabarmari community after he attended the burial of the 43 people killed in the attack lamented that Boko Haram exists in many parts of the state and are a threat to over six million people living in the state.
He noted that the sect still holds strong in Sambisa forest and the Lake Chad regions in northern Borno, stressing that this is worrisome.
He asked governments of border countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon Republic to work with the Nigerian government to address the lingering crisis in the region.
Earlier, during the burial, Zulum had told the bereaved community that his administration would work with the military and others to trace those missing.
“This is very sad. We are still appealing to the federal government to ensure recruitment of more of our youths in the CJTF and hunters into the Nigerian military and the Civil Defence so that they can form part of the agro rangers that will protect farmers,” he stated.
UN Puts Death Toll at 110
In a related development, the United Nations yesterday said over 110 civilians were killed in the attack.
A statement by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, while describing the attack as horrifying, said no fewer than 110 people were killed. Many others were also injured in one of the deadliest attacks by the terrorist group, who have laid siege to the North-east for over a decade.
Kallon said: “At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack.
“In the early afternoon of 28 November, armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields in Koshobe and other rural communities in Jere Local Government Area. Reports we are receiving are indicating these innocent farmers were the victims of this callous violence.”
Kallon also lamented that many women may have been kidnapped in the attack.
“We have also received reports that several women may have been kidnapped. I call for their immediate release and return to safety,” he added.
Farmers Warns of Food Crisis
Farmers under the umbrella of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), have warned that the worsening insecurity in the North, which has impaired farming, may plunge the country into a food crisis.
It added that the insecurity, especially in all the Northern states with major agricultural production activities, including Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Kebbi has forced many farmers to vacate their farms.
The group called on the federal government to work harder to urgently improve the security situation in the country and safeguard the lives of farmers.
President of AFAN, Mr. Farouk Rabiu-Mudi, while reacting to the recent killings of about 43 farmers in Borno State, told THISDAY in an interview that though the government had been working hard in recent times to address the security challenges, “but they have to work harder this time because it affects the farmers.”
He added that the development has further limited the farmers’ ability to contribute to the development of the economy.
Rabiu-Mudi said the security situation had prevented the Borno chapter of the group from assessing the area affected by the killings in order to properly evaluate the quantum of destruction inflicted on the community.