President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday flew directly to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, from Ethiopia, where he had gone to attend the African Union (AU) Summit, to console the state and its people over the carnage in Auno, a village in the state, where suspected Boko Haram members killed no fewer than 30 people on Sunday night. In addition, a yet-to-be ascertained number of people, mostly women and children, were abducted while 18 trucks and some houses were razed in the Auno attack.
During the visit, which is a follow-up to his earlier condolence message to the people and state government on Monday, the president, who arrived at the Maiduguri International Airport, at about 1.30p.m, accused community leaders of knowing about protracted attacks by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.
He called on the people to cooperate with the military and other security agencies to crush all terror cartels in the North-east.
He said the federal government would take more proactive and decisive measures to end Boko Haram attacks.
He listed intelligence sharing and synergy between law enforcement agencies and the civil populace as being critical to winning the war against terrorism.
He said: “I assure you that improvement in security will be pursued vigorously. The military will work harder and strategise with tactics to deal with the insurgents. This is, however, not possible without good intelligence and cooperation with local community leaders.
“Boko Haram cannot come up to Maiduguri or environs without the local leadership knowing because traditionally, the local leadership is in charge of security in their own respective areas.
“I want to call on the leadership at various levels to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and let us deny Boko Haram access to our loyal citizens. We will do our best and I hope history will be kind to us; to recall what was on the ground when we came and what will be on the ground when we leave.”
A statement by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, said Buhari, who was at the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, was accompanied by the state Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum.
Buhari sympathised with the traditional ruler and other victims of the Auno attack and prayed for the repose of their souls.
The governor, in his remarks, thanked the president for identifying with the state in these trying times, praising the efforts of the military so far and wondering why some people compare the security situation now with what obtained before the Buhari administration came on board.
“Roads were closed, there were sporadic bombings everywhere even within the metropolis. Close to 20 local government areas were under Boko Haram. We are surprised that there seems to be resurgence in 2019,” he said.
Buhari later proceeded to the Government House, Maiduguri, for his lunch and prayers before returning to Abuja by 3.30p.m.
Earlier, Zulum had canvassed new strategies in the ongoing fight against Boko Haram.
The governor, who, however acknowledged successes recorded by the military in the state, spoke in presence of Buhari at the Shehu of Borno’s palace in Maiduguri.
“Your Excellency sir, between the period of March 2019 to date, we have started witnessing horrific and spontaneous attacks by the insurgents, which have resulted into the loss of lives and property of our people. We are calling upon the Nigerian military to change strategies and we can borrow a leaf from the success our military was able to hugely record in 2016 and 2017 with a view to ending the insurgency. We need to keep taking the war to the enclaves of the insurgents in the fringes of the Lake Chad, in Sambisa forest and some notable areas,” Zulum stated.
He, however, commended the president for his commitment to ending the insurgency.
He recalled the gains recorded in 2016 and 2017 and also thanked him for being consistent in showing empathy to the people of Borno.
“Let me appreciate Mr. President for associating with us at this our very trying moment. I am so surprised that we have forgotten the past,” Zulum said.
The governor noted that the people of the state still remember the days when 20 out of the 27 local government areas in the state were in the hands of Boko Haram while all the five routes into the state were largely inaccessible with exception of the Maiduguri-Kano road.
He urged the president to deploy troops in Boko Haram hideouts in Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad region.
He said the insurgents launched their attacks from the forests, including some of the caves at Mandara Mountains in Gwoza Local Government Area.
Contrary to the expectations of the public that the president would visit Auno, where the 30 people were killed, the visit was cancelled.
“There is no need to go to Auno, as the president’s visit to Borno was to condole with victims and people of the state,” said Shehu.
Again, Boko Haram Attacks Maiduguri
However, few hours after the president left Maiduguri, Boko Haram made a push for the troubled town.
The insurgents, at about 7pm, attacked an outskirts of Maiduguri, Jiddari Polo, causing many residents to flee into the town.
But the military foiled the push of the insurgents into Maiduguri as they engaged them in a shootout, according to the people fleeing from the area.
One of the residents of Polo Jiddari, Margaret Ibrahim, told our correspondent at about 7:30pm that residents had fled from their homes for fear of being attacked or hit by bullets.
She said: “I ran into the bush on hearing sporadic gunshots.”
Another resident, Yusuf Abbas said: “Many of us have fled into the town as Boko Haram have come to attack us again.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has charged Buhari to go beyond his sympathy visit to Borno State and take decisive steps to end the killings in the state and other parts of the country.
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party called on the president not to limit his visit to Borno State but to visit other parts of the country, including Kaduna, Kano, Benue, Plateau, Yobe, Adamawa, Zamfara, Kogi, Niger, Taraba, to test the feelings of Nigerians as well as view the national devastation his poor handling of security and infrastructure has caused the nation.
The party hoped that the visit to Borno State, which it said, came only after the PDP and Nigerians criticised the president for his aloofness, particularly over the Auno killings on Sunday, was not part of the usual presidential media stunts that will not be followed with a corresponding action to track down killers and end terrorism.
The PDP also urged the president to go on subsequent visits by road in order to see and feel the agony Nigerians are being subjected to, as a result of the parlous state of road infrastructure and security network under his administration.