Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, has said that the 43 farmers slaughtered by Boko Haram in Zabarmari, Borno state had no clearance to access the rice farms from the army when the attack happened.
Garba Shehu said this in an interview with the BBC World Service on Monday, adding that he did not blame the dead farmers but the truth must be said.
He said the government is worried that 43 innocent farmers were slaughtered, but that the people should avoid some places that may be dangerous.
“The government is sad that this tragic incident has happened. 43 or thereabout of innocent farmworkers, 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.”
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Responding to the question of whether he was blaming the farmers for going to the area, Shehu said the victims should have asked for permission from the army who are in control of the area.
“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.”
He said there are places in Borno where terrorists disturbed the most and that people should avoid such places until they are cleared by the military.
“The military is not present in every inch of space in that area. Even if the people are willing to go back, a lot of those areas have been mined and mine clearance needs to be carried out and those areas must be cast as being ok for human habitation or agricultural activity.”