A large crowd of Borno residents, on Wednesday, booed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), as his convoy drove from the Maiduguri International Airport to the centre of the city.
Buhari, upon returning from a five-day trip to Ethiopia for an African Union summit, paid a condolence visit to the North-Eastern state, following a Boko Haram attack on Sunday.
As his convoy moved to the city at 1:30pm, he was booed by residents, who lined up along the airport road.
At the airport, the President did not shake hands with some traditional rulers, who came to welcome him.
During previous visits to Borno State, Buhari received a warm reception from residents of the state, which is regarded as one of his strongholds.
In the last presidential election, Buhari had his widest margin of victory in Borno State, where he polled 836,496 votes out of 955,205 votes that were cast, which constitutes a margin of over 85 per cent.
His closest rival, Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party scored 71,788 votes.
On Wednesday, the people, who were dissatisfied with the upsurge in Boko Haram attacks in the state, lined up along the airport road and shouted in Hausa Bama so! Bamayi!, meaning “We don’t want,” “we’re not interested.”
There have been sustained attacks by insurgents on roads leading to Maiduguri in recent times. On Sunday, no fewer than 30 travellers, including children and women, were burnt to death by insurgents, who invaded Auno, 20 kilometres to Maiduguri.
Two weeks ago, two persons were slaughtered by Boko Haram and their frozen fish carted away. The victims slept in a truck because they could not meet the 5pm deadline when the military usually shut the Maiduguri gate.
On January 6, the insurgents attacked Gamboru in the state, with no fewer than 30 persons killed after an improvised explosive device exploded on a bridge.
Also on January 18, one soldier and four Boko Haram terrorists were killed during an attack on an aid facility in the Ngala area of the state, where at least 20 internally displaced persons waiting for assistance at the facility were killed.
Also on January 20, many residents were abducted in two confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents on the Bama-Gwoza highway.
A day later, eight soldiers were reportedly killed during a battle with the Boko Haram insurgents in Kaga, Borno.
The insurgents had disguised and moved in a police vehicle towards a military base, before opening fire on unsuspecting soldiers near their trench.
But Buhari, in an op-ed in a United States-based magazine, Christianity Today, had last week stated that since he assumed office in 2015, the insurgents had been weakened by the armed forces.
The President’s comment came on the heels of criticisms by prominent Nigerians and groups, including the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, who expressed concern about increasing insecurity in the country.
We can’t travel out of Maiduguri – Residents
Some Maiduguri residents, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday, explained why the President was booed.
They said the people of the state were fed up with the President’s failure to restore peace to the state after five years in government.
One of them, Abba Yusuph said, “The President was elected and equally re-elected on the grounds of providing security and pushing Boko Haram out, up till now that has never been done.
“We asked for the change of the service chiefs, the President did not accede and we are locked inside Maiduguri as if we are prisoners.
“We cannot travel outside the town without fear. We just have to pray that we are not killed on the road while the insurgents keep moving closer on Maiduguri. There is hardly any family that has not lost a loved one.”
Buhari, at the Palace of Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar El-Kanemi, sought the cooperation of residents of the state for the military to win the war against the insurgents.
Addressing traditional rulers and other prominent Borno indigenes at the palace, he said, “The cooperation of your people with our troops and other security agencies by providing credible information could end insurgency not only in Borno but other states of Yobe and Adamawa.”
With the brief advice to Borno monarchs, Buhari proceeded to the Government House, from where he went to the airport to take his flight to Abuja at 3:30pm.
Send troops to Sambisa Forest, Lake Chad, Borno gov tells Buhari
Before the President spoke, the state Governor, Babagana Zulum, had urged him to deploy troops in Boko Haram hideouts in Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad region.
He said the insurgents launched their attacks from their hideouts in the forest and Lake Chad, as well as some of the caves at Mandara Mountains in the Gwoza Local Government Area.
The Shehu of Borno, Alhaji El-Kanemi, pleaded with the President to help the people of Borno State as they were suffering from the problem of insurgency.
He said the Federal Government needed to assist the state more in the area of security to ward off the threat of the Boko Haram.
Buhari fails to visit scene of Sunday attacks
Contrary to the expectations of the public that Buhari was in the state to visit Auno, the community affected by the Sunday attack, the President did not visit the community.
But in an interview with journalists in Maiduguri, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said, “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.”
The President’s media aide, in a statement later in Abuja, stated that Buhari, during the visit, promised to deploy “harder”, “vigorous” strategies against Boko Haram terrorists.
Buhari, according to the statement, “maintained that intelligence sharing and synergy between law enforcement agencies and the civil populace are critical towards achieving the objectives.
“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.”
B’Haram can’t attack Maiduguri without local leaders knowing – President
“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.”
Nigerians are tired of Buhari’s excuses – Junaid
There were diverse reactions to the cold reception the President received in Maiduguri. An elder statesman, Dr Junaid Mohammed, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the booing of the President by residents of Maiduguri was a sign that the people were getting tired of excuses.
He noted that the action of the people didn’t come to him as a surprise because the people’s feeling of disappointment with the performance of the service chiefs and other managers of the nation’s security system was conveyed by resolutions passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Twitter handle users also commented on the incident. Mansur Ahmed, in his comment, said, “Kai, not so good for Mr Integrity @MBuhari. These people are not asking for too much, are they @NigeriaGov?”
Similarly, @SGezee, stated, “From this video here the people are really angry.” Abubakar Mohammed also said, “We have to express our opinion because we want justice.”
Adamu Sadiq noted, “Our eyes are open. Now, this is a clear warning to the leaders (that) they should better take note.”
CAN seeks military probe of road closure
On its part, CAN called for an investigation into the military closure of the road where 30 people were killed on Sunday.
In a statement by Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant (Media and Communications) to the CAN President, Dr Samson Ayokunle, the association sympathised with “families of the bereaved, the people of Borno State, our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
It stated, “The military authorities should investigate the circumstances that led to the emergence of the gate instead of adequate provision of security on the road in order to stop the incessant invasion of Maiduguri and terror attacks in the area.
“If the road must be closed, why is the security protection not made available for the travellers who would arrive there after the closure? Was there any evidence that a thorough check was carried out on the travellers and their vehicles to confirm if they were armed?”
Reps seek state emergency on insecurity
The House of Representatives has called on the President to declare a state of emergency on insecurity in Nigeria.
The Chief Whip of the House, Mohammed Monguno, from Borno, had moved a motion on the attack, titled ‘Recent Attack by the Boko Haram Insurgents at Auno Village, Borno State.’
Adopting the motion, the House directed the military authorities to “henceforth stop the keeping of commuters overnight at a particular period on the Damaturu-Maiduguri road,” asking them to allow commuters proceed on their journeys even after 6pm.
Also, Ahmad Jaha prayed that the House Committees on Army, National Security and Intelligence should investigate “the remote causes of the attack.
In his contribution, Jaha, who is also from Borno, said, “As far as I am concerned, this is a national issue. It happened today in Borno, only God knows, tomorrow, where it will happen in the 36 states of the federation because of negligence or complacency by our security operatives.
“There was what was introduced by the Nigerian Army known as Super Camp. It is a contributing factor to all these sporadic attacks from late last year to early this year. The concept of Super Camp called for the closure and withdrawal of all military bases, military checkpoints and all military formations along the major roads and station them in one location or position. I don’t think the entire military operatives were widely consulted for that particular decision. I don’t think the standing committees of this honourable chamber were consulted for them to take that decision and to add the end victims.
B’Haram attacks Maiduguri after Buhari’s visit
Insurgents on Wednesday attacked Maiduguri, few hours after the President paid a condolence visit to the town.
Many residents of Jiddari Polo, 0n the outskirts of Maiduguri, had to flee into the town as insurgents attacked the community at 7:30pm.
Attempts by the insurgents to move into Maiduguri town were repelled by the military who engaged them in a shoot-out, according to the people fleeing from the area.
One of them, Mary Isa, told our correspondent that residents had run out of their homes for fear of being attacked or hit by bullets.
She said, “I have to scale the fence of my house as the sound of gunfire rent everywhere. We are in bushes as we are still afraid to come out of hiding.”
Another resident, Ibrahim Isa, said “Many of us have fled into the town as Boko Haram insurgents have come to attack us again.”
Efforts to get the military’s reaction did not succeed as the spokesman for Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Ado Isa, did not pick his call. He did not reply to a text message, too.