Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, says the farmers who were killed by Boko Haram terrorists on Saturday did not have military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.
The terrorists attacked Zabarmari, about 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, killing at least 43 farmers.
In an interview with BBC on Monday, Shehu said military leaders told him that the farmers had not been advised to be on the farms. He noted that it was a window that the terrorists exploited.
“The government is sad that this tragic incident has happened. 43 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,” Shehu said.
“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.”
When asked if he was blaming the attack on farmers, Shehu responded: “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.”
The presidential spokesman, who stated that the military is not present in all the areas, said terrorists had planted land mines in several places in Borno State and nobody ought to go to those places until the military has cleared such places.
“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,” he added.