•Sends delegation to condole with Borno over farmers’ killing
•Zulum: Let’s use mercenaries
The federal government yesterday attributed the delay in effectively routing Boko Haram, which it said it had technically defeated, to global powers that are blocking Nigeria’s moves to acquire weapons to fight terrorism and win the insurgency war.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told reporters in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, that the action of the world powers was frustrating Nigeria’s resolve to end the insurgency war.
Mohammed, who was in Makurdi to visit the state Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, spoke against the backdrop of the outrage generated by Saturday’s killing of no fewer than 43 rice farmers by Boko Haram in Zabarmari, Borno State.
“Nigeria had made attempts to acquire better and more effective platforms to deal with terrorists and for one reason or the other, we have been denied these platforms; and without adequate platforms, we will remain at the mercy of terrorists,” he lamented.
Incensed by the killing, President Muhammadu Buhari in his second comment since the incident yesterday gave the military marching orders to take the battle to the insurgents and crush them.
He also sent a delegation, led by President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and which included his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, to condole with the Borne State government and people.
The presidency, however, explained yesterday that the slain farmers went to the farm without getting clearance from the military as the area is part of Boko Haram’s enclave and people need military’s go-ahead to know areas safe for movements.
But to win the insurgency war, the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, made six recommendations to the federal government, including the use of mercenaries to clear the Sambisa Forest.
The killing of the 43 farmers attracted more criticisms yesterday with the United States condemning the incident.
After meeting Ortom in Makurdi, Mohammed said notwithstanding the frustrations from the superpowers, the federal government would fight terrorism and insurgency to a logical conclusion.
He said: “We will never stop protecting lives and livelihoods. However, we must also understand that we are dealing with terrorists who are financed globally and we also need more support from global partners.
“When people talk about terrorism, they don’t seem to appreciate the fact that terrorism is not a local but a global issue and there is no part of the world that is not experiencing pockets of terrorism.”
He said he was glad that the governor admitted that the federal government had tried to curb insecurity in the state.
The minister, who expressed worry over certain factors frustrating the battle against insurgency, noted that fighting terrorists is not a joke.
According to him, “You must also be able to look at the terrorists. You see, terrorists also use media and publicity as oxygen, so when they go on this kind of mindless killings of the innocent, it is for attention.
“It is just that a dying terrorist group will suddenly spring to life, it does not mean that the government is not doing enough. “Terrorism in Africa and any other place in the world has the same concept; you have a group of people who are extremists in their thoughts, who don’t believe that we and you should be alive.”
Again, Buhari Orders Military to Crush Boko Haram
Also yesterday, the president ordered a persistent and intensive clampdown on Boko Haram insurgents.
The president’s message was conveyed by a high-powered delegation, drawn from both the executive and the legislature, to deliver a message of condolence and solidarity with the government and people of the state following the killings.
Lawan and Gambari both presented a joint message, on behalf of the president, the government and people of Nigeria to Zulum, the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, and the bereaved Zabarmari community.
They described the massacre of the farm workers as the worst form of “senseless, barbaric and a gruesome murder.”
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, the delegation assured the people of Borno of the president’s continuous commitment to the fight against insurgency and insecurity in Borno State and other parts of the country.
The president pledged to make more resources available to the military to prosecute the war, promising to work closely with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of the people. Everything is secondary when security is at a stake,” the president said, adding: “As we mourn the loss of our sons in Zabarmari, the armed forces have been given the marching orders to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis until we root out the terrorists.”
He commended Zulum for the leadership, he has been providing in the state.
As part of its itinerary, the presidential delegation also visited the palace of Garbai, who described the massacre as “madness,” urging the people to pray and offer useful information to the security agencies.
He thanked the president for his efforts in returning normalcy to the state.
“Before this administration came, all 27 local councils and the emirs had migrated to Maiduguri. We had no power from the national grid, telephone services were discontinued and the airport was closed,” he said.
The delegation also visited Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area, where the imam, one Alhaji Idris, who spoke on behalf of the community, said they were touched by the president’s gesture, adding: “We are happy that the president is with us in our moment of grief. Tell him that we are very happy with him.”
Other members of the delegation were House Majority Whip, Hon. Tahir Monguno;
ministers, Malam Muhammed Bello (Federal Capital Territory), Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami (Communications and Digital Economy), Mr. Mustapha Shehuri (Agriculture (State) and Mr. Abubakar Aliyu (Works and Housing (State).
Also on the delegation were the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.) and presidential spokesman Shehu.
Zulum Recommends Use of Mercenaries, Five Others
Speaking during the condolence visit, Zulum made six recommendations to the federal government on the ways to end the war.
He suggested the engagement of mercenaries to clear the Sambisa Forest.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had utilised foreign mercenaries, including South Africans, against Boko Haram, which contributed to the successes the military recorded in the few weeks leading to the 2015 general election.
But the Buhari administration stopped the use of mercenaries, promising to equip the military to defeat the insurgents.
However, receiving the presidential delegation, Zulum suggested the use of mercenaries to rout the insurgents.
Zulum made six key recommendations to the delegation to resolve the insurgency.
He said: “One of our recommendations as possible solutions to end the insurgency is the immediate recruitment of our youths into military and paramilitary services to complement the efforts of the Nigerian forces.
“Our second recommendation is to engage the services of our immediate neighbours, especially the government 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 repatriation of out displaced persons currently residing in Cameroon and Niger Republic.”
The governor also called on Buhari to increase federal support for residents of Borno State.
The governor said though the insurgency had dragged on for 11 years, it was persistent because efforts had not been well coordinated.
The governor said one of the major reasons the insurgency persisted was due to a lack of critical infrastructure like good roads in the region.
He said the Federal Ministry of Works had not constructed or rehabilitated roads in the last 25 years “in Borno State and most parts of the North-east.”
Slain Farmers Went to Farm without Military Clearance, Says Presidency
Also yesterday, the presidency stated that the slain farmers did not have military clearance to be on the rice farms where they were attacked.
Shehu, in an interview with the BBC, said he was not blaming the victims for the incident, but that the truth must be told.
“The government is sad that this tragic incident has happened. Forty-three or thereabout of innocent farm workers, most of them had their throats slit by a heartless band of terrorists. 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,” he stated.
When asked if he was not blaming the farmers for going to the area, Shehu said: “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.”
His statement, however, drew an uproar as Nigerians attacked him for being insensitive.
The attack forced him to clarify his statement during the interview with the BBC.
Shehu, in a series of tweets, said: “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 North-east. 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.”
DHQ Accuses Borno Residents of being Boko Haram’s Informants
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday accused the people of frustrating the war against terror by providing information on troops’ movements and activities to Boko Haram.
Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, while answering questions on the killing of the 43 farmers, during an appearance on a television programme, said information gathered from the attack showed that some of the insurgents were already cohabiting with the villagers before the attack.
Asked how the military had no prior intelligence on the attack, Enenche said the army needed information from locals to aid its operation.
“That has been our worry. It’s a concern for us. You need a guide, you need information. Will they tell us? That’s a question that we have to ask. Yes, sometimes. And most times, no. And that was one of the issues we have been ensuring to overcome, with civil-military cooperation activities, reaching out to them, even sending people by proxy to talk to them,” Enenche said.
According to him, since it is not possible to force information out of the people, the military has to be patient with them to gain their confidence.
Enenche debunked a UN report that 110 civilians died in the attack.
According to him, the field commandants “gave me a synopsis of what happened. When the governor was to go and after they had recovered the dead, the troops had to move in there and they counted 43.
“Probably we may count up to the figure he (Kallon) gave in the future but as it is now, what we have counted with the locals is still 43 and we are hoping that we don’t get beyond that.
Enenche also lamented that COVID-19 was affecting the production and delivery of equipment, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are vital for military surveillance operations in the North-east.
He said some equipment had not been delivered by Original Engine Manufacturers because of the pandemic, which disrupted activities globally.
Nigeria, US Agreement on Aircraft Supply Intact, NAF Clarifies
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has said that the agreement between the United States and the federal government for the supply of 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is still intact.
It was reported that the agreement for the supply of the aircraft, which were already paid for, was under threat due to bad runway at the 407 Air Combat Training Group (407 ACTG), Kainji.
But Director of Public Relations and Information, NAF, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, in a statement yesterday, dismissed the reports as incorrect, adding that the US Government has assured Nigeria of its commitment to deliver the aircraft.
The statement added that “for the avoidance of doubts, it is necessary to state that the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft project is on track to be delivered on schedule and in accordance with the terms of the contract.
“Currently, six of the expected 12 aircraft have been produced and are presently being employed for conversion training of six NAF pilots who are in the USA, along with 26 NAF engineers, technicians and logisticians, who are also undergoing various training on the aircraft as part of the provisions of the contract. Another set of 35 personnel are also scheduled to join them early next year. “In addition, a team from the USA is currently in Kainji overseeing the construction of critical infrastructure provided in the contract ahead of the delivery of the aircraft.”
US Condemns Boko Haram Attack on Rice Farmers
The United States has condemned Saturday’s massacre of rice farmers in Borno State.
The US, in a statement yesterday, also condoled with the families and friends of those killed or kidnapped.
It said: “These abhorrent attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States stands with the Nigerian government and people as they fight to defeat terrorism and work to bring the perpetrators to justice.”