Residents of Zabarmari, Borno State have lambasted the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, over his comments on the gruesome killing of over 43 rice farmers in the community, saying he should tender an apology.
A former Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association in Zabarmari, Mallam Hassan, said it was rather unfortunate for the president’s spokesman to make such claims.
Shehu had said in an interview with the BBC World Service, on Monday, that the killings occurred because the farmers “did not get clearance from the military before they went to the rice fields.”
He had said the government was worried that 43 innocent farmers were slaughtered, but that residents should avoid places that may be dangerous.
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According to Daily Trust, reacting to Shehu’s claims, a former Chairman of Rice Farmers Association in Zabarmari, Hassan, said, “The dead deserve respect; Malam Shehu should have reserved his comments because of the tense situation. We have never collected any clearances from the military or any security operatives. We have been farming in these areas since when I was a child; these places are not far from Maiduguri.
“We have never been exempted from farming. We planted our seedlings during the rainy season and took care of the fields up till this moment without taking any permission from anyone.”
Another resident, Abdullahi Yahaya Ali, said, “It is the responsibility of the government to provide security for us, but we are left helpless. We are surprised that someone living in Abuja would come out and discredit us; he should apologise to us instead of trying to justify the killings.
“We are not going to allow these people to change the narratives; they have failed, so he needs to tender an apology to all of us, the relations of the victims,” he said.
The Chairman of the Civil Society Organisation in Borno State, Ambassador Shehu Ahmed, said the statement credited to Garba Shehu was uncalled for.
“For the past eight months, these people have been farming. I think it would have been better for him to have kept quiet. What he said was like accusing the dead of exonerating the government.”