By Michael Olugbode
In what appeared to be at variance with its earlier claim that over 110 civilians were killed in the attack on a rice field by Boko Haram in Borno State, the United Nations yesterday said “tens of civilians” were killed in the incident.
In a statement issued yesterday, the United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon said: “I am outraged and horrified by the gruesome attack against civilians carried out by non-state armed groups in villages near Borno State capital Maiduguri.
“Tens of civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack.”
Kallon added that: “In 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.
“I extend my sincere condolences to the families of the civilians who lost their lives in this atrocious attack. I also wish a speedy recovery to those who were wounded in the incident.”
He said: “We have also received reports that several women may have been kidnapped. I call for their immediate release and return to safety,” adding that:
“My thoughts are also with the rural communities in the area, who are shocked by the brutality of yesterday’s attack and fear for their safety.”
Kallon said: “The entire UN system and the humanitarian community working to provide life-saving and development assistance to the most vulnerable in Borno State is outraged by the incident. Such direct attacks against innocent civilians jeopardise the ability for the most vulnerable people to survive the adversity there are facing, and which we are striving to alleviate.”
He restated that. “The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice.
“It is unfortunately one of too many such attacks targeting farmers, fishermen and families who are trying to recover some livelihood opportunity after over a decade of conflict.
“I strongly condemn this attack and any act of violence against innocent civilians and I firmly urge all actors on the ground to respect international laws and humanity.
“Rural communities in Borno State are facing untold hardships. Helping them to farm land and rebuild livelihoods are amongst our priorities and the only way to avoid the looming food crisis in Borno State. They and all other civilians need to be protected and spared from any kind of violence”.