Borno Elders’ Forum has described President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to Borno and Yobe states as counterproductive. It said more than 500 civilians were allegedly killed by soldiers few days after the President left.
The elders accused Jonathan of inciting soldiers against civilians in the area.
Jonathan had visited the two states between March 7 and 8, 2013. He had at a town hall meeting in Maiduguri warned against killing of security operatives, saying, “We will not, and I repeat, we will not accommodate it.”
Secretary of the forum, Dr. Bulama Gubio, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said the people were considering a referendum to cede the area from Nigeria to join a neighbouring country.
He said, “The President came and preached violence. So, it is now violence. He came with soldiers to continue killing people. The President came to Borno and preached violence; that is all. Immediately he left, not less than 500 was killed within few days after he left.
“Our Shehu was bombed, he did not sympathise with him; our deputy governor was bombed, he did not sympathise with him; so many prominent people among us were killed, he did not condole us and then he went ahead to say if one soldier died, he would not forgive anybody.”
When asked if he could prove that the President gave such orders, he said, “He did not give any order but when the President visits a place where people have been dying for four years and he does not sympathise with the people. It means it’s because of a soldier that he wants to lose millions of ordinary citizens, or what does it mean? He doesn’t care about so many people dying and he only cares about one soldier dying.”
Reacting to Jonathan’s invitation to the elders to sign a security agreement with the government before the joint task Joint Task Force could be withdrawn from the area, Gubio asked whether the elders in Bayelsa, Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Jos (Plateau) and Kano states were responsible for the killings in their areas.
The President had said, “If anyone of you wants the Federal Government to withdraw JTF troops from the state, he should come and sign an agreement that if anybody is killed after signing the document, I will hold you responsible according to the law of the land; I assure you that before I go back to Abuja, all the JTF troops will leave the state.”
Gubio however said, “Is that done anywhere in the world? Who is the chief security officer of this country? Does it mean he is giving his powers to the elders on Borno to protect the people? What kind of thing is that? Is there anywhere in the world that the president of a country has given his power on security to other people?
“You should read between the lines. I have never seen any president in the world since the beginning of time that vests his security powers to members of the state. Do we have superior policemen or what powers do we have to stop the killing of people?”
However, the apex socio-political group of the North, Arewa Consultative Forum, said it agreed with Jonathan that the JTF could not “easily” be withdrawn from clash points across the country without any viable alternative arrangement to secure lives and property
The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Anthony Sani, said, “It may be true, like (former British Prime Minister) Tony Blair once said, that since Boko Haram members live within the people, it means they are shielded by such people. But such people are by far in the minority.
“I believe Mr. President wished to say that the leaders should do more and make the majority opposed to Boko Haram to overwhelm the minority shielding the sect.”