By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday dispatched a high powered government delegation to Maiduguri to deliver a message of condolence and solidarity with the government and people of the state over the killing of 43 farm workers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 43 farmers were murdered while unspecified numbers of others were unaccounted for when Boko Haram insurgents attacked rice fields at Koshebe village, near Zabarmari, on Friday.
NAN gathered that nine of the victims were believed to be settlers in search of greener pasture from Zamfara, seven from Kebbi and eight from Sokoto state while the remaining were indigenes of Zabarmari town.
NAN also reports that the victims were buried on Nov. 29.
A statement by Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said members of the high level officials were drawn from the Executive and Legislative arms of government.
He stated that the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan spoke for the team and the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari representing Buhari presented a joint message, on behalf of the President, the government and people of Nigeria.
Shehu said the president’s message was delivered to the state governor, the Shehu of Borno, and the bereaved Zabarmari community, describing the massacre of the farm workers as the worst form of “senseless, barbaric and gruesome murder.”
In the message, Buhari gave strong assurances of his continuous commitment to fighting insurgency and all forms of insecurity in Borno and across the country.
The president committed himself to making more resources available to the military to prosecute the war.
According to him, he will 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 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,” he said.
Buhari commended Gov. Babagana Zulum for his leadership in running the affairs of the state.
In his response, Zulum thanked the president for “ensuring relative peace since his assumption of office”; saying that the ”situation is much better” than he met it.
The governor presented a number of requests on behalf of his people, including that the youths of the state should be enlisted in military and paramilitary organisations to play their roles in the defence of the nation.
He called on the federal government to assist in the repatriation of Borno indigenes in camps in neighbouring countries and requested the National Assembly to hasten the draft budget now before them to allow better allocation of resources for the Northeast sub-region.
At the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar Ibn Garbai, the traditional ruler described as “madness,” the gruesome killings and urged his subjects to pray and offer useful information to the security agencies.
He thanked Buhari 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.
He commended the president for changing all that for the better.
The presidential aide further disclosed that the delegation was also in Zabarmari, Jere Local Government where the incident took place.
The local Imam, Alhaji Idris who responded on behalf of the community, said they were touched by the president’s gesture, saying, “we are happy that the President is with us in our moment of grief.
Other members of the delegation included the House Majority Whip, Tahir Monguno, the Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello, Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, Agriculture (State), Mustapha Shehuri and Works and Housing (State), Abubakar Aliyu.
Others are National Security Adviser, retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu. (NAN)