Tears flowed freely as over a thousand residents of Zabarmari, a farming town near Maiduguri, Borno’s capital, gathered round the bodies of the 43 murdered farmers wrapped in white clothes near the mass grave at the outskirts of the community, yesterday morning.
The farmers were slaughtered on Saturday by Boko Haram insurgents during an attack on a rice farm.
Governor Babagana Zulum, who joined the Muslim prayers described the attack and killings as disheartening.
“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; on the one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation, on the other, when they go out to their farmlands, they risk getting killed by the insurgents. I am told some persons are still missing. We have been discussing with the military since yesterday. Insha Allah, the remaining people will be traced soon,” he told journalists after the burial.
He admitted that the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, exists in many parts of the state and were threat to over six million people in the state. The governor said the presence of the deadly sect still holding on Sambisa forest and the Lake Chad regions in northern Borno is worrisome.
He said though his administration had launched a security outfit called ‘Agric -Ranchers’ which comprises military, paramilitary and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force and local hunters, there was need for collective responsibility, especially on the part of the Federal Government. He also said governments of border countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon Republic should work with the Nigerian government to address the lingering crisis in the region.
“What happened in Koshobe community yesterday (Saturday) is very sad and I can admit that the dreaded Boko Haram sect are still existing strongly in many parts of our state.”
The governor assured that his administration would soon recruit additional Civilian Joint Task Force to complement efforts of the security operatives in the fight against Boko Haram.
He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the voice of the people to ensure “formation of a coalition” to defeat Boko Haram in the North East. He also asked the Federal Government to consider recruitment of more youths from Borno into the police and army.
Reprisal, survivors’ tales
Some residents said the Saturday killing was the sixth in the series of coordinated attacks in the over a decade of insurgency in the state.
Residents said the latest attack may have been fueled by the arrest of a Boko Haram member who came to the farmland few days earlier following his (Boko Haram) demand for money. The farmers reportedly handed over the suspected Boko Haram to the military, an action they said may have angered the insurgents to stage a reprisal.
Usman Ismaila, 25, told Daily Sun how he escaped from the scene of the attack by divine intervention.
“They came and beckoned to some workers on the farm. There was a small argument and thereafter, they grabbed the workers and started slaughtering them one after the other. I later realised the Boko Haram were many and had surrounded the farmland. I saw my friends being slaughtered,” he said in tears.
He said bags of rice and grains belonging to the farmers were abandoned as the insurgents took turn to behead farmers. He said the scene was a gory sight, asking God to visit the perpetrators in anger. He said some bodies were still on the farmland yet to be recovered.
Another farmer, Hassan Mohammed, said he was planning to join his two children on the rice farm when the incident occurred.
“My children rushed home with the sad news that Boko Haram was beheading our people on the farm. They were lucky to have escaped from the farmland,” he said.
Heinous crime -Lawan
Similarly, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, decried the killings as another act of barbarism against innocent Nigerians minding their own business.
“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…
“This heinous crime is particularly sad given the ongoing spirited efforts by the Federal Government at ensuring food security in Nigeria through the many programmes that have been put in place to support the agriculture sector.
“I urge the security agencies to redouble their efforts with a view to bringing an end to mindless violent crimes in our country,” Lawan said.
UN, EU react
The United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), also condemned the attack.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, in a statement issued in Abuja, said he was outraged and horrified by the gruesome attack against civilians carried out by non-state armed groups in villages near Borno State Capital, Maiduguri.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” Kallon said.
He recalled 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.
Kallon added that reports the UN received indicated that the innocent farmers were the victims of the callous violence.
In his reaction, the EU Foreign Policy and Security Spokesperson, Mr Josep Borrell, in a tweet, said: “Deeply shocked by yet another horrific attack targeting innocent civilians in the North-East of #Nigeria.
“We have to continue our collective engagement against terror and violence to provide peace, security and stability for all people in Africa.”
Setback in efforts to attain domestic sufficiency in rice production – Govs
Reacting, the Northern Governors Forum, in a statement by its Chairman and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong in Jos, said the entire country was deeply saddened.
He said the killing was a great setback to the efforts of Nigeria to attain domestic sufficiency in rice production as well as food security.
Lalong said the Forum have consistently worked with the Federal Government, security agencies and local support groups to ensure farmers are protected in order to enable them carry out farming activities.
B’Haram, Abubakar Shekau must be wiped out – Fani-Kayode
Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation Minister has called out Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram sect over the killing.
Fani-Kayode described Boko Haram and Shekau as the greatest plague that ever afflicted Nigeria.
In a tweet, the former minister insisted that these terrorists must be crushed and wiped away from Nigeria.
Food crisis looms
Agriculturist and Managing Director of Wal-Wanne Group, Dr. Abiso Kabir, said the sad incident would not only cause instability in the zone, but would also lead to poverty and make the people to be over dependent on aid.
In a statement, Kabir appealed to the Federal Government to take proactive security measures to put an end to the attacks on farmers across the country. He added that already farmers had deserted their farm across the region for the fear of being kidnapped and killed.
“Just when we thought we have gotten our farmlands back to support agricultural development and fight hunger in the country, we keep waking up to sad events.
“We can’t continue to go out to our farmlands and risk being killed by the insurgents.
“The government should also establish series of measures to enhance public confidence in the security and intelligence agencies.
“We may be facing a severe food security crisis due to the destructive activities of bandits who are not only destroying farms but also killing farmers,” he said.
Nigeria’s security situation coloured with nepotism – OPU
The Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), yesterday, claimed the security situation in Nigeria is coloured with nepotism, sectionalism and lack of competence.
Rising from a summit meeting involving all executive council members, leaders and top delegates of the 17 European countries, where the OPU is currently established across Europe, the group lamented that the ship of state appeared to be rudderless as insecurity, banditry, Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani herdsmen, all appear to be having a field day.
The group, in a communique issued at the end of the meeting said: “OPU is disturbed with the news coming from home, regarding the killing of a first-class Yoruba monarch, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Adegoke Adeusi in Ondo state.
“We also condemned in totality the dastardly acts of Fulani herdsmen who yearly burn down Chief Olú Falae’s farm. In the same vein, we commend Àmòtékún in the rescue of the wife of the Chief of staff to the governor of Ondo state.”