After blaming slain rice farmers for their own massacre, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, has doubled down without offering an apology.
Recall that suspected Boko Haram terrorists reportedly killed at least 110 rice farmers near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Saturday. President Buhari responded by “technically” blaming the military whom he said he had given everything needed to keep Nigeria safe.
Shehu then blamed the slain rice farmers for going to farm without military clearance.
“The truth has to be said,” Shehu said on Monday morning.
“Was there any military clearance from the military who are in total control of the area? Did anybody ask to resume activity?”
After the comment generated controversy online and off it, Shehu issued another statement in which he insisted that the truth had to be said. The president’s spokesperson typed and posted 280 words without saying “sorry” for his earlier comments which many Nigerians deemed insensitive.
“Today, I found myself leading the trends in the social media for the wrong reasons,” Shehu said on Monday evening.
“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’m human with tons of compassion and empathy, and could not have said that the victims deserved their fate for ignoring security clearance.
“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.”