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Presidency says murdered Borno farmers should have gotten clearance before working on rice fields

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Presidency spokesman Garba Shehu says Nigerian  farmers who were brutally murdered on a rice field in Borno’s Zabarmari village should have obtained military clearance before resuming farming activities in the area.

Mr. Shehu who spoke to BBC newsday said the government was sad about the tragic incident, but added that the “people need to understand what it is like in the Lake Chad Basin area.”

According to him, though much of the area has been liberated from Boko Haram terrorists, there are still a number of spaces that have not been cleared for the return of villagers who have been displaced.

“The truth has to be said. Was there any military clearance from the military who are in total control of the area?” Mr. Shehu queried. “Did anybody ask to resume activity?”

Mr. Shehu emphasised that he had been briefed by military authorities that the villagers did not seek military advice before exposing themselves to “a window that the terrorists have exploited.”

“So ideally, all of these places ought to probably be allowed to pass through proper military clearance before resettlement or even farmers resuming activities on those fields,” he said.

A gruesome massacre against farmers killed at least 110 people, the United Nations said, raising tolls initially indicating 43.

“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said in a statement on Sunday.

“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added, noting that several women are believed to have been kidnapped.

“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice,” Kallon said.

Earlier on Sunday, Borno Governor Babaganan Umara Zulum told journalists that at least 70 farmers were killed. He was speaking in Zabarmari village after attending the burial of 43 people whose bodies were recovered on Saturday.

Zulum urged the federal government to recruit more soldiers, Civilian Joint Task Force members and civil defence fighters to protect farmers in the region.

He described people facing desperate choices.

“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation; on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.

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