The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, has said his comment that the farmers killed in Borno State did not obtain military clearance to visit their farms, was a response to a question on security operations in the North East.
On Saturday, suspected Boko Haram members attacked Zabarmari community in Jere local government area of Borno State, and killed 43 farmers.
Shehu told the BBC on Monday that farmers and residents ought to get security clearance before visiting certain areas in Borno, adding that the military is in “full control” of all parts of the state.”
His comment, however, sparked outrage on social media, as many Nigerians argued that he was blaming the farmers for the killing.
However, in a series of tweets later on Monday, the presidential spokesperson explained that Zabarmari marshlands are filled with land mines and movement is usually subjected to “military oversight.”
He said as a human, he could not have said the victims deserved their fate for “ignoring security clearance.”
“Today, I found myself leading the trends in the social media for the wrong reasons. The State of Borno is essentially a military zone up till now that we are talking and much of what people do, much of where they go are governed by the exigencies of security.
“Routinely, traders, administration officials and even UN agencies get the green light to go to many of the areas to avoid trouble. Information from security agencies says that the Zabarmari marshlands are infested with land mines and movements in around those areas subject to military oversight.
“No one is delighted with the massacre in Zabarmari and there is nothing anybody will gain by playing blame games. The question I tried to answer on BBC was: did the security sign off on the area as being free of mines and terrorists? The honest answer is, no.
“I was merely explaining the mode of military operations in the war zone of the Northeast. There are areas that are still volatile that require security clearance which is intended to put people out of harm’s way.
“When tragedies occur, questions arise in terms of how something happened in order to avoid future recurrence. Informing the military of our movements in an area of volatility and uncertainty is intended to preserve public safety.
“Explaining why something happened doesn’t mean I have no sympathy for the victims. I was just explaining the military procedures on the safe movement of the people and not supporting the death of the victims,” he wrote.