The United Nations (UN) on Sunday disclosed that the gruesome attack against rice farmers carried out by Boko Haram insurgents in villages near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, has left at least 110 civilians ruthlessly killed, describing the incident as “the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year.”
Reports have it that the terrorists tied up the farmers, who were working on rice fields at Kwashebe in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, before slitting their throat. Although the victims lived in Zabarmari, a farming community in Jere Local Government Area that is famous for rice cultivation and local processing, the attack occurred at Koshebe village.
“No fewer than 110 civilians were killed in the North-East Nigeria attack. The weekend attack on a village in northeastern Nigeria blamed on the Boko Haram jihadist group left at least 110 dead,” UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria Mr. Edward Kallon said in a statement on Sunday.
“We have also received reports that several women may have been kidnapped. I call for their immediate release and return to safety,” Kallon said condemning the attack while calling for “the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice.”
Kallon further stated that such direct attacks against innocent civilians jeopardize the ability of the most vulnerable people to survive the adversity they are facing, which the UN is striving to alleviate. “The entire UN system and the humanitarian community working to provide life-saving and development assistance to the most vulnerable in Borno State is outraged by the incident.
“It is, unfortunately, one of too many such attacks targeting farmers, fishermen, and families who are trying to recover some livelihood opportunity after over a decade of conflict,” added the UN official.
43 of the massacred farmers buried amidst wails
Meanwhile, the 43 rice farmers killed on Saturday were buried on Sunday at the Zabarmari cemetery, their ancestral home, amid wails by residents of Jere Local Government Area of Borno State.
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Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, who attended the burial of the farmers, said residents informed him that the death toll could be as high as 70 because some of the farmers were still missing. Contrary to what the Federal Government would have Nigerians believe, he admitted that “Boko Haram sect is still existing strongly in many parts of our state.”
Zulum noted that it is imperative for Nigeria to forge closer cooperation with its neighbouring countries so as to defeat the insurgency that had ravaged the country for over a decade.
He pleaded with the Federal Government to recruit more indigenes of the state into the military and other security agencies to combat the insurgency, disclosing that he would on his part, recruit more hunters and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) to complement the efforts of the military and other security agencies.
According to him, “We will restrategise and ensure total domination of the Zabarmari, Gonglong, Koshebe axis of the state… recruit more CJTF and hunters so that our people can take the fight to all nooks and crannies of this area… appeal to the Nigerian Army and Air Force to strengthen their support, with a view to defeating the insurgents.”
The Governor further stated that the insurgents who killed the farmers were from Wuda-Taya Game Reserve area, noting that there was a need to raid the area to save the farming community known for mass production of rice.
Outrage trails mindless killings
There has been outrage over the incident by Nigerians, who have expressed frustration over the continuous killings across the country. Most of them took to social media to condemn the act and call on the government to take decisive action against criminals.
The Borno attack is coming after about two weeks of continuous kidnappings and killings across the country, with the north being the worst-hit region. The development led the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, to describe the north as the worst part of the country to live in now.
The Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and that of the northern region, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) also condemned the attacks, calling on the government to protect citizens.
Reacting to the development, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) called on northerners to “rise and protect themselves” from all forms of banditry and insurgency afflicting the region as the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had lost control over “the imperatives of protecting northerners.”
The CNG in a statement by its Spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, entitled: ‘Borno killings: Time for citizen action’, said, “Time has come for citizens to rise and protect themselves. The situation under which all northern communities live today is no longer tolerable and we must all rise to protect ourselves and demand an immediate and comprehensive overhaul of the leadership of the nation’s military and the entire security and law and order assets.
“The President and federal troops keep telling us that they are doing something about the mounting insecurity; but by now, all northerners must have realized that our region has been abandoned at the mercy of a rampaging insurgency that is continuously wasting the greatest asset of North, its population and weakening it politically and pauperizing it.”
Over time, the Boko Haram insurgency has also contributed to declines in agricultural production and worsened food insecurity in Nigeria, as smallholder farmers experience the destruction of productive assets, lose access to farm inputs, and even face displacement.
In figures, total losses in Nigeria’s agricultural sector due to conflict between 2014 and 2015 amounted to $3.7 billion according to an assessment by the Nigerian government. The majority of that loss, up to 64 percent, occurred in Borno state.