By Abubakar Sule
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed surprise that Boko Haram members have continued to launch attacks on communities despite the huge budgets expended on the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.
The President stated this when he paid a condolence visit to the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar El-Kanemi, in Maiduguri.
Buhari was in Maiduguri to sympathise with the government and people of Borno State over recent attacks by Boko Haram which claimed many lives at Auno in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State.
On Sunday, the terrorists attacked Auno community, killed 30 stranded passengers, destroyed houses and 18 vehicles as well as other valuables.
This came as the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said the attack on travellers at Auno showed the vulnerability of local people who should enjoy full protection from those they elected into office.
President Buhari, who observed that the fight against insurgency could not be executed without good intelligence and support of the people, urged the people of Borno State to cooperate with the military and other security agencies to facilitate successful implementation of the counter-insurgency campaign.
He said: “Boko Haram, or whatever they are, cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs without the local leadership knowing; traditionally, the local leadership is in charge of security in their own respective areas.
“With my understanding of our culture, I wonder how Boko Haram survives up to this end.
“As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, I campaigned in 2015 and last year on three fundamental issues which include security – you cannot preside over an institution or a country if it is not secured.
“This is just common sense, everybody knows this, even those that have not gone to school know this. As Commander-in-Chief, I am dealing with the security institutions and I believe there is improvement in security.
“I urge the people of the state to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies; let us deny Boko Haram access to our loyal citizens and encourage displaced people to go back to their land.”
Buhari acknowledged that youths constitute over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population with many of them below 30 years and reminded them to work hard so that they can have a better future.
According to him, at 77 years, he does not have much time left, but urged the youth to cooperate with government to protect lives and property.
On his part, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State said there was an urgent need for change of strategies in the ongoing fight against Boko Haram.
The governor, who acknowledged successes recorded by the military in the state, recalled that from March 2019 to date, Borno State had witnessed horrific and spontaneous attacks by the insurgents which had resulted in the loss of lives and properties.
Zulum called on the military to take the fight to the insurgents in the fringes of the Sambisa Forest, Lake Chad Basin and other identified hideouts of the terrorists.
He said: “We are calling upon the Nigerian military to change strategies and we can borrow a leaf from the success our military was able to hugely record in 2016 and 2017 with a view to ending the insurgency. We need to keep taking the war to enclaves of the insurgents in the fringes of the Lake Chad, in Sambisa Forest and some notable areas.”
The governor urged the military authorities to foster greater unity between them and the civil authorities with a view to closing the existing discrepancies in their relations.
He said: “We also call on the Federal Government and the military to open opportunities for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), in host communities to have access to their farmlands, livestock and fishing areas so as to upgrade their livelihood.
“I equally implore all the citizens of Borno to be patient, law-abiding and not to forget the past.”
Responding, the Shehu of Borno, Elkanemi, commended the President for the sympathy visit and pledged support of the traditional institutions to end insurgency.
Meanwhile, in a condolence letter to Zulum, the NGF deplored a situation “where a large number of vehicles loaded with goods, shops and houses can be set ablaze by suspected marauding insurgents, who sneak into the town and launch attacks on sleeping travellers barely 24km from a state capital.”
The letter, which was signed by the NGF Chairman, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, noted Zulum’s effort in calling for greater responsibility on the part of the security operatives in Borno State.
Fayemi, who is also Ekiti State governor, commended his Borno State counterpart for his courage, and assured him of the support of other governors.
He said: “I wish to whole-heartedly join the government and people of Borno State in this grief along with all of our colleagues and hope that the people are protected adequately that no further onslaughts ever occur again, not just in Borno State, but in the country as a whole.”