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Borno gov. Shettima weeps during meeting as Buhari meet with Borno elders in Abuja

Valentine Chinyem

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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met with Borno State Governor Ibrahim Shettima and elders from the state at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja.

But, Shettima could not hold back tears while speaking during the meeting over the resurgence of Boko Haram activities in his state.

He, however, expressed confidence in the ability of the President to restore normality to the state as he called for speedy action on the delegation’s request to end the crisis.

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 and women into domestic slaves and they publicly executed parents in the presence of their own 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 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, the 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 rebuild communities in 14 local government areas, including Bama. “

The governor added: “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.

“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 problems 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.

“They have done so much with our consistent support and we seriously have supported and 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.”

The governor, thereafter, handed over the delegation’s request to the President.

The meeting, which was initially open to reporters, later went into a closed door 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, however, reasserted his administration’s unwavering support to equip the military to overcome the insurgency in the Northeast.

The President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, 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 Northeast, a GOC in the region and very familiar 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 the insurgency in the Northeast.

He hailed 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.

Buhari thanked Shettima for demonstrating leadership in the state during these difficult times.

Other stakeholders from the state, who spoke at the meeting, 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, 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.

Chief of Defence Staff, National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno, Director General of the Department of State Service(DSS), Yusuf Magaji Bichi and 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.