Nigeria may be consumed if nothing is done regarding the wave of insurgency, other criminal banditry ravaging parts of the Northern region, Nigerian governors have said.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, said this on Wednesday during a visit to Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, over Saturday’s killing of rice farmers in the state, PUNCH newspaper reported.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how over 40 rice farmers were killed by members of the Boko Haram while harvesting their crops on Saturday.
Sources in Zabarmari, a community known for rice farming, informed the newspaper that the farmers were attacked as they were working on a rice field at Garin Kwashebe.
The farmers were attacked on Saturday as residents of the state were voting to elect local government council officials, for the first time in 13 years.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who condemned the attack in a Saturday night statement, noted that his administration has provided the needed support to the armed forces “to take all necessary steps to protect the country’s population and its territory.”
The victims were buried on Sunday, with residents claiming many more are yet to be accounted for.
But in a three-minute video released by Boko Haram group on December 1, that went viral across social media, the terrorist group claimed that it was responsible for the massacre.
The group also stated that it killed about 78 farmers because “the farmers arrested and handed one of its brothers to the Nigerian Army.”
The presidency and the army are yet to react to the video.
The United Nations, however, said that more bodies of the slain civilians are still missing while some are being recovered.
“Farmers have also reported some of the missing women may have been abducted. I call for these innocent women and girls to be immediately released and for their safe return to their communities. The UN resident director, Edward Kallon said.
Meanwhile, Mr Fayemi, who spoke in his capacity as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) during the courtesy visit, described the killings as a massacre and far beyond any imagination. “It was a massacre and it was one that none of us could come to terms with easily.
He also expressed his condolences to the families that lost their loved ones and his counterpart, Mr Zulum.
He said his visit and other governors were not to gratify “ourselves but an expression of our frustration.”
Speaking further, Mr Fayemi recalled that the forum has had several meetings with the President and the service chiefs, without any tangible result.
He also acknowledged that the Nigerian Army was overwhelmed in its decade long fight against the insurgency in parts of the country.
The NGF chairman noted that his observations are not a means of criticising the military but stated that it has become obvious that the army can no longer single handle the menace of insurgency effectively.
He said, “We cannot bring back the people we have lost in the last couple of days but if we do not take the necessary steps, the entire nation will be consumed by this injury.
“This is not a visit to gratify ourselves that we have come to you. No, it is an expression of our own frustration that we have not been able; because we have held a series of meetings, some with Mr President and security chiefs. We highlighted all the issues you have spoken about but we are still where we are.
“We need to stand (with) you, assist in whatever way you want us to, ensuring that our government takes the right position in order to tackle this problem. I want to assure you that we shall not relent as your brothers in conveying this to the appropriate authorities.
“I personally, as a security scholar, can see that our military is overwhelmed. Our military is no longer in a position to single-handedly tackle this menace effectively.
“It is not a criticism of our military, there can even be a coalition that will include our neighbouring countries who are probably more experienced in fighting an asymmetrical war. It will not be a loss of our pride as a country if that were to happen. This is certainly something that we, as your colleagues and brothers, will put before Mr President.
“I know there is an element of fatigue that will creep into this. Every time this happens, we never let you rest with telephone calls. We came here as a delegation and you have spoken to us about what could help us as a nation tackle these security challenges that are depleting our country.
“There is nothing new that you haven’t told us; that you didn’t tell the delegation from Mr President Wednesday. We have all heard directly from you; we have read your six-point agenda. All I can say to you is that we fully and wholeheartedly endorse every single point on that agenda.”
On his part, Mr Zulum said, “We need to address the underlying causes of the insurgency while appreciating the effort of the Federal Government in implementing some policies that are geared towards addressing poverty in the entire nation, Borno State deserves more.
“We have said all, there is nothing new that I can say. But when shall we end this insurgency, that’s something very important.”