Gunmen on Saturday, Nov. 28 killed over 40 farm workers in rice fields near Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The attack, which injured six other people, took place in the village of Koshobe in Zabarmari area of the state. A member of the local militia, Babakura Kolo told news agency AFP that the fighters tied up the farmworkers and slit their throats. He said Boko Haram was likely behind the killings. “It is, no doubt, the handiwork of Boko Haram who operate in the area and frequently attack farmers.”
The workers were from Sokoto state and had travelled roughly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) to the northeast to find work, another militia member Ibrahim Liman told AFP. Eight others are missing and are presumed to have been kidnapped by the militants, Liman added.
Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, over the weekend released a video in which he explained that the killings were retaliatory. In the three minutes and 37-second video, a masked man accused the farmers of arresting one of its members and handing him over to the Nigerian military. He said in the video, “You think you can nab our brother and hand him to soldiers and live in peace. You think Allah will forget what you have done to our brother. The third message is on those who notoriously nab our brethren and hand them to the military or give them a clue on us. You should know that, unless you repent, what happened to your people is awaiting you.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, also over the weekend, released a statement condemning the massacre. His media spokesman Garba Shehu disclosed that the President expressed grief over the killings at Zabarmari, describing them as insane. “I condemn the killing of our hardworking farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings. My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls Rest In Peace,” Buhari said. He quoted the President as having said he has given all the needed support to the armed forces “to take all necessary steps to protect the country’s population and its territory.”
This latest massacre comes a month after Boko Haram fighters killed 22 farmers working on their irrigation fields near Maiduguri in two separate incidents. Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) — its “Islamic State”-linked rival which is also active in the region — have increasingly targeted loggers, herders and fishermen, accusing them of spying and passing information to the military and the local militia. Saturday’s attack took place as people voted in local elections in Borno state. The elections had been postponed repeatedly because of the increasing attacks.
Last Saturday saw Boko Haram at its deadliest yet. No longer having the resources and reach to attack military facilities and troops, the sect has turned on soft targets. We condemn this targeting of unarmed civilians. We also lament the military’s seeming inability to protect these poor civilians in the theatre of war, given that the President said he had given them “all the needed support”. Perhaps, this is the time for the President to change his service chiefs. They have overstayed their welcome and are unable to think out of the box in the fight against an enemy that is constantly changing tactics.