Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, says he is “human with tons of compassion and empathy”, stressing that his explanation on Saturday’s killing of rice farmers by Boko Haram terrorists in the Zabarmari area of Borno State does not mean he has no compassion.
Shehu stated this in a string of tweets this afternoon following an interview he granted BBC on Monday.
The Presidential spokesman had stated that the 43 rice farmers massacred by the insurgents had no military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.
But in the statement posted on his Twitter handle this afternoon, the President’s aide, who was part of a Federal Government delegation to Borno today over the tragedy, denied blaming the victims for the unfortunate incident.
According to the statement, “Today, I found myself leading the trends in the social media for the wrong reasons.
“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.”
The massacre of the rice farmers, who were buried Sunday has attracted strong international and national condemnations with some Nigerians calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the service chiefs and overhaul the security architecture of the country.