Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari
Photo credit: Channels TV

Michael Adeshina

Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, has received backlash from the residents of Zabarmari village.

The residents also demanded an apology from the Presidential aide for saying the 43 farmers killed in Borno village did not seek permission before they went to their farms.

Shehu had stated this in an interview with the BBC World Service, on Monday.

He said that he was not blaming the dead farmers but: “the truth must be told considering that they did not get clearance from the military before they went to the rice fields.”

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Garba Shehu added that the Buhari-led administration was worried about the tragic incident but quickly added that the people should avoid some places that may be dangerous.

“The government is sad that this tragic incident has happened; 43 or thereabout of innocent farmworkers, 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,” he said.

“Much of those areas have been liberated from Boko Haram terrorists but there are some 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,” he said.

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Reacting to Shehu’s explanation, a former Chairman of Rice Farmers Association in Zabarmari, Mallam Hassan, slammed the presidential spokesman.

“The dead deserves respect; Malam Shehu should have reserved his comments because of the tensed situation,” he said.

“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 took care of the fields up till this moment without taking any permission from anyone,” he said.

Another resident, Abdullahi Yahaya Ali, said, “It is the responsibility of 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.

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“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.