President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday met with the Borno State Governor, Ibrahim Shettima and elders from the state at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, as the governor broke down in tears recounting the resurgence of Boko Haram activities in the state.
Wiping tears with his hands and with his voice cracking, the governor expressed confidence in the ability of the President to restore normalcy to the state and called for speedy action to end the crisis.
However, while the Borno elders were meeting with the President in Abuja, Auno, a village in the State, was attacked by Boko Haram. Shettima said: “Borno State suffered its worst times between 2013 and 2014. In that period, Boko Haram abducted our children, attacked and took firm control of 20 of the 27 local government areas of Borno.
“In these 20 local government areas, they established caliphates and put in place sovereign administrators who strictly enforced tax systems and violent laws. They abused our young daughters. They forced young men to join their fighters.
“They turned old men, women into domestic slaves and they publicly executed parents in the presence of their children and wives for allegedly offending laws that are even alien to the religion of Islam. While administering our 20 local government areas, Boko Haram operated from council local secretariats in headquarters of local government areas and lived in palaces of traditional rulers, military barracks and police stations.
“On the other hand, from 2015 to 2018, the Nigerian military with you as Commander-in-Chief, was able to liberate all the 20 local government areas hitherto under the Boko Haram. The military even took control of Boko Haram’s main operational base in the Sambisa forest. “With these successes, Borno State government was able to rebuild more than 30,000 homes in various communities with all public facilities restored.
“With Mr. President’s leadership, many of our hitherto displaced brothers and sisters, including some of our traditional rulers, voluntarily returned to rebuilt communities in 14 local government areas, including Bama.
“Mr. President, I recollected all these for the sole purpose of establishing the irony in our visit today. As I explained, between 2013 and 2014, we witnessed the most daring and most vicious evil of the Boko Haram, losing 20 local government areas.
Why we visit the Villa — Shettima
“However, we rushed here because Boko Haram threatened to retake Kukawa. And Kukawa is just one of the 20 local government areas we had lost in the past but which the military regained under your leadership.
“Mr. President, the truth is that in the past, we were regarded as the problem rather than the victims. Government, elders and the people of Borno State were seen as undermining the war on Boko Haram. We were treated with suspicion.
“Mr. President, from 2013 to date, more than 20,000 youth volunteers, among them young women, have offered themselves in fighting Boko Haram under the Civilian JTF. These youths are sons and daughters of the same people of Borno State that were accused of undermining the fight against Boko Haram.
“From 2013 to date, our administration has been solely responsible for funding hundreds of successful operations carried out by the Civilian JTF. We have been responsible for their recruitment after thorough vetting by the DSS. We fund their training, kit them, provide them operational vehicles and maintain these vehicles.
“We pay their allowances, supply them surveillance gadgets and we deploy them on the advice of security establishments. Most importantly, these Civilian JTF are good in gathering local intelligence and they are experts in identifying Boko Haram members, no matter how they try to conceal themselves.
“They have done so much with our consistent support and we seriously have supported and will continue to support all security agencies, particularly the military, yet, in previous years, we were termed enemies of the state.
“Mr. President, Sir, we are here because we knew you would warmly welcome us without any suspicion or contempt. We knew you would listen to us with absolute sincerity and compassion. We are here because since 2015, Mr. President, you were able to restore our hope.
“Sir, you have demonstrated empathy for Borno and the overriding commitment to ending Boko Haram. This is why we rushed here on witnessing some setbacks. We are here because we trust that Allah will use you to fully reclaim Borno’s traditional glory of being the home of peace.
“Mr. President, we are here as a people who worked, prayed and waited for your Presidency in the firm and undying belief that with you as Commander-In-Chief, Boko Haram will become history in Borno. “Mr. President, we have not and insha’Allah, we will not lose hope in you because as I said, we have witnessed and survived worst moments before you came. We do not feel hopeless. Our hopes are very much alive and they are very high.
“Your Excellency, we came with some observations and 10 specific requests for urgent presidential intervention. These observations and requests are products of discussions in the aftermath of our extraordinary security meeting held one week ago. “We didn’t rush to come after the meeting. We felt the need to travel to northern Borno, interact with displaced persons and the military so as to strengthen public confidence.
“I will like to recall with profound gratitude, that in our extraordinary meeting last week, we brought on board, leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Borno State and we took them into confidence. “True to their promise, none of what we discussed in that meeting was revealed through any media platform. Such an attitude displayed by the media is a further proof that Nigerian journalists are without doubt, devoted to sincere measures in the fight against Boko Haram.”
The governor handed over the submission on behalf of his delegation to the President. The meeting which was initially opened to the media, later went into a closed door session, with lawmakers representing the three senatorial areas from the state, members of the House of Representatives, All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, traditional and religious leaders in attendance.
Buhari promises to equip military Receiving the delegation, President Buhari reasserted his administration’s unwavering support to equip the military to overcome the insurgency in the North-East.
The President in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, also told the delegation that the collective safety and security of civilians would continue to remain paramount in the administration’s strategy to restore peace and stability in the region.
He said: “Having been a former governor in the North East, a GOC in the region and very familiar person with the terrain, I assure you that as Commander-in-Chief, I’ll raise the standard of the Nigerian Armed Forces and get the resources to encourage them to do better than what they are doing.”
The President told the delegation that he was impressed by their leadership roles and participation in helping the government deal with insurgency in the North East.
He commended the contributions of the stakeholders from Borno State, particularly the need for more air support for troops on the ground and coordination among different security agencies.
“I am getting at least a weekly situation report from the services and, of course, from other sources. I encourage the commanders to remain committed,” he said. President Buhari thanked Governor Shettima for demonstrating leadership in the state during these difficult times.
He said: “I have an idea how much you are doing and I very much appreciate it. I’m sure that has earned you more respect from the people.”
Other stakeholders from the state who made comments included Bishop Mohammed Naga, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno State; Dr Bulama Mali Gubio, Secretary, Borno Elders’ Forum; Maina Ma’aji Lawal, former Governor of the State, HRH Muhammad Masta II bn Al-Amin El-Kanemi, Emir of Dikwa, representing the Shehu of Borno; Senator representing Borno North, Abubakar Kyari and Senator Ali Ndume, Leader, Borno Caucus, National Assembly.
The Chief of Defence Staff, National Security Adviser, NSA, General Babagana Monguno, Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, Ysuf Magaji Bichi and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin were also in attendance.