Garba Shehu, a media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, says the 43 farmers killed by Boko Haram fighters on Saturday in Zabarmari, Borno State, did not have military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.
Shehu said this during an interview with BBC on Monday.
He said although he was not blaming the victims for the incident, the truth must be said.
Shehu said, “The government is sad that this tragic incident has happened. 43 or thereabout of innocent farm workers, 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.
“Much of those areas have been liberated from Boko Haram terrorists but there are a number of 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.”
Asked if he was blaming the farmers for going to the area, Shehu said, “Not exactly but the truth has to be said. Was there any clearance by the military which is in total control of those areas? Did anybody ask to resume activity? I have been told by the military leaders that they had not been so advised and certainly, therefore, it was a window that the terrorists exploited.”
The United Nations said those killed were 110 people.
But Nigerian military spokesman John Enenche said on Monday that only 43 persons have been confirmed killed.