…Zulum asks FG to engage mercenaries, lists other ways to clear insurgents
…Take fight to insurgents, Buhari tells military, sends Chief of Staff to Borno
…Military disputes UN report, insists 43 farmers killed, adds civilian informants sabotaging operations in North East
…Security operatives selling weapons to Boko Haram – Donald Duke alleges
…Senate Minority Caucus urges FG to wake up in fight against Boko Haram
…US, EU condemn killings in Borno State
By Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru, Peter Duru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Ndahi Marama & Victoria Ojeme
In the wake of the massacre of 43 farmers in Borno State, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, yesterday, that Nigeria is currently at the mercy of terrorists because the country is being denied access to needed weapons to fight the insurgents, despite efforts to do so.
This is even as Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, yesterday, gave the Federal Government six recommendations on how to win the war against Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, insurgents terrorising the north-eastern region of the country.
The Military High Command also, yesterday, disputed the report by the United Nations that 110 civilians were killed by Boko Haram in Saturday’s massacre of farmers in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, insisting that only 43 of the farmers died, while several others were still missing.
It also expressed frustration that some locals in the North-East are declining to provide useful information to security agencies.
It will be recalled that Boko Haram insurgents on Saturday beheaded no fewer than 43 farmers at Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, and placed their severed heads on their backs.
‘Slain farmers not cleared by military’
Also speaking on the massacre in Borno yesterday, Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the slain farmers ought not to be in their farms without clearance from the military.
He told BBC that though the military is in “full control of all parts of Borno, the farmers and residents ought to get clearance before visiting certain areas.
He blamed the farmers whom he said failed to do due diligence by first obtaining clearance before visiting their farms.
“People need to understand what it is like in the Lake Chad 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.
“Ideally, all these places ought to probably be allowed to pass the test of military clearance before settlers or even farmers resume activities on those fields.”
Asked by the BBC if he was blaming the farmers on the attack, Garba Shehu said: “Not exactly, but the truth has to be said. Is there any clearance by the military which is in total control of those areas?
“Did anybody get advice to resume activities? I have been told by the military leaders that they have not been so advised.”
He said visiting certain places in the North-East, which have come under the weight of Boko Haram insurgency for more than 10 years, is “a window that the terrorists have exploited”.
Garba Shehu added: “The military is not present on every inch of space in that area. Even if the people are ready to go back, some of these areas have been mined and mine clearance has to be carried out first.”
But speaking while on courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State in Makurdi yesterday, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said terrorists are enjoying global funding and will require an equally global collaboration to defeat.
He said: “When people talk about terrorism, they don’t seem to appreciate the fact that terrorism is not a local issue but a global issue and there is no part of the world that is not experiencing pockets of terrorism.
I am glad that Governor Ortom himself has said the Federal Government has assisted a lot in curbing the issue of insecurity in Benue State.
We will never stop protecting lives and livelihood of the people, but you must understand that we are also dealing with terrorists who are financed globally and we also need more support from global partners.
At the mercy of terrorists
For instance, Nigeria has 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 these weapons and without adequate weapons and adequate platforms, we will remain at the mercy of terrorists.
But you see, fighting terrorists is not a joke because what actually happened in Borno State was quite unfortunate.
“You must also be able to look at the strategy of the terrorists. You see, terrorists also use media and publicity as oxygen. So when they go on this kind of mindless killings of innocent people, it is just that a dying terrorist group will now suddenly again 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 which is, you have a group of people who are extremists in their thoughts, who don’t believe that you and I should be alive.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Governor Samuel Ortom commended the efforts of Federal Government in curbing insecurity in the state.
He said: “This is the reason Benue is relatively calm and the issue of herdsmen attacks have been reduced to the barest minimum.
The governor warned that the state would not hesitate to apprehend and prosecute any herdsman caught violating the law prohibiting open grazing in the state.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently release the N10 billion promised victims of herdsmen attacks to enable Benue rebuild homes of farmers sacked from their ancestral homes.
Ways to deal with Boko Haram —Zulum
Also yesterday, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State yesterday gave the Federal Government the recipe on how to deal with Boko Haram and its ally, the Islamic States of West Africa Province, ISWAP, insurgents terrorising the north-eastern region of Nigeria.
He made the recommendations when he received members of a presidential delegation who visited Borno to commiserate with the people of the state, following the killing of 43 farmers in Koshobe village.
The governor said engaging mercenaries, as well as immediate recruitment of youths into the military to boost its strength will go a long way to defeat the insurgents.
He said it is also important to secure the collaboration of neighbouring Niger Republic, Chad, and Cameroon to clear the remnants of the insurgents in the Lake Chad region and the Mandara mountains.
Governor Zulum, who urged the Federal Government to ensure the provision of mine resistant armoured personnel carriers and other equipment for the military, police, and other security agencies involved in the insurgency fight, equally asked government to support the repatriation of internally displaced people in Cameroon and Niger Republic, as well as increase the livelihood support for the people of Borno State.
Armed Forces given marching orders — Lawan
In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who led the delegation, condoled with the government and people of the state over the ugly incident.
He informed the governor that President Muhammadu Buhari has asked him to assure the people of Borno of his commitment to fighting insurgency.
Lawan added that the armed forces had been given marching orders to fight the insurgents wherever they were hiding.
According to him, the Federal Government is intensifying bilateral cooperation to ensure insurgents have nowhere to hide when they are chased out of Nigeria.
Buhari’s order to Armed Forces
President Muhammadu Buhari has also given marching orders to the military to take the fight against terrorism to the Boko Haram insurgents on continuous basis until they are wiped out.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja.
In the message, President Buhari expressed the condolences of the government and people of Nigeria and gave strong assurances of his continuous commitment to fighting insurgency and all forms of insecurity in Borno State and all over Nigeria.
The President said he committed himself to making more resources available to the military to prosecute the war, adding that he would “work closely with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.”
He said further: “Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of the people. Everything is secondary when security is at a stake.
“As we mourn the loss of our sons in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis until we root out the terrorists.”
President Buhari commended Governor Babagana Zulum for his leadership in running the affairs of the state
Members of the Presidential delegation included the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello; the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Pantami, and the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mustapha Shehuri.
Other members were the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
The delegation was received on arrival at the airport by Borno State Deputy Governor, Usman Gadafu.
43, not 110 killed, says DHQ
In a related development, the Military High Command yesterday disputed the report by the United Nations that 110 civilians were killed by Boko Haram in Saturday’s massacre of farmers in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State.
Major-General John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, insisted that as at yesterday morning, 43 corpses were recovered from the scene of the incident at the Zabarmari area of the northeast state.
Enenche, who spoke on Channels TV breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said the troops counted the corpses together with the locals and that 43 deaths were recorded.
“I knew it (the issue) is going to come up, particularly because it is coming from the United Nations and not a source that does not want to be identified. This is a source that has identified itself that a 110 specifically (were murdered).”
Disclosing that he personally contacted the field commanders on ground, Enenche said: “They gave me a synopsis of what happened. When the governor was to go (to the scene) and after they had recovered the dead, the troops had to move in there and counted 43.
“Of course, some people ran into the bush and they started coming back. As at 2pm on Sunday, I called them and they got back to me at about 7pm, still counting, looking if they will recover more corpses. We call it Exploitation after Action Review,” he said.
Noting that the search for more remains of victims was still on, Enenche insisted that 43 corpses were retrieved from the scene as of yesterday.
He stated further: “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.
“This is the real situation. I did not sleep; we had to follow it because this is very relevant coming from the United Nations.”
The Defence spokesman also said the military is worried about the trend of some locals in the North-East declining to provide useful information to security agencies.
He said: “That has been our worry. It’s a concern to 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.
“That was one of the issues we have been trying to overcome, with civil-military cooperation activities, reaching out to them, even sending people by proxy to talk to them.
“Those are the things that have been one of the banes of the final success in the whole of this operation. Our patrols will pass through a route in a village, by the time you are going, some people are looking at you. When you are coming back, the next thing is that you meet an IED planted on the road.
“People see them, they won’t tell you. So that’s the area I think we are all working together as stakeholders. It is not possible to force information out of people. It’s not possible, just like they say you can force a horse to the river, but can’t force it to drink water.
“So all we are trying to do is to build up their confidence in the system and encourage them that look, this is not good for you.”
Asked what the military’s position was on the issue of refreshing the military top hierarchy, Enenche declined to respond.
“You are not being fair to me, asking me that question about change of service chiefs. It is beyond me,” he said.
Security men sell weapons to Boko Haram — Duke
Also commenting on the killings in Borno, former governor of Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke, alleged that security operatives sell weapons to Boko Haram.
Duke, who made the allegation on Channels Television programme on Sunday night, said there was need to investigate the source of the insurgents arms and ammunition.
Noting that most of the weaponry used by Boko Haram come from military armoury, Duke said: “Most of the weaponry used by Boko Haram come from our armoury. We will need to look into that. Why are we selling weapons to the enemy?”
Duke said there was need for a “complete revamp of our security network” to avoid losing the country.
He said there should be police presence every five kilometres, adding that their “presence is a deterrent”.
The ex-governor said graduates who could think like perpetrators of crime should be recruited into the force to improve intelligence-gathering, and asked the Federal Government to train and motivate policemen and soldiers fighting the insurgents.
“The level of people we bring into the force is a bit too low. Crime is a lot more sophisticated than that. We need people who can think alongside the perpetrators of the crime. We need to up the ante and train them and motivate them. There has to be an insurance scheme to look after them.
“Motivate the soldiers in the North-East. I think they are under-motivated. We need to task them on intelligence gathering. More of intelligence than firepower.
“On the other front, by now, we need to develop a strategy on kidnapping. Are the police properly motivated? I doubt it, and they don’t have enough weaponry,” he said.
Wake up, Senate Minority Caucus tells FG
Similarly, the Senate Minority caucus yesterday called on the federal government to wake up in the fight against Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping all over the country.
According to the caucus, the time has come for the Federal Government to take decisive action and review its strategy.
In a statement by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), the caucus expressed deep sadness over the gruesome killings of rice farmers in Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents.
The statement read: “We are horrified that our people, particularly the farmers who are toiling tirelessly to sustain the nation’s food security have always become the target of the insurgents.
“This is so horrendous and heart-wrenching and, of course, the unmindful slaughter of our people in such dastardly manner is becoming way too many.
“It’s embarrassing to the country and calls to question the government’s strategy and capacity to tame the rising wave of insurgency and banditry ravaging a large swathe of our dear nation, particularly in the Northern region.
“It is no longer enough for the Presidency to always issue tepid statements by condemning attacks and daily killing of our citizens, saying now is the time to take decisive action and review its strategy since it seems the current one has failed woefully.”
The caucus commiserated with the government and people of Borno State, while praying that God will console the families of the victims.
US, EU condemn killings
Reacting to the killings, the United States condemned it in the strongest terms, saying ‘’the United States offers our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed or kidnapped.
“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.
In his reaction, the European Union Foreign Policy and Security spokesperson, Mr Josep Borrell, condemned the killings.
Borrel said on his Twitter handle: “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.”