KILLINGS: Nigeria Is Not Alone, Presidency Responds To Damning Daily Trust Editorial

The Presidency has responded to a damning editorial by Daily Trust in which the widely circulated newspaper in northern Nigeria alleged that human life has lost value under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The newspaper highlighted the daily horror northern residents suffer at the hands of bandits in the article titled “Life Has Lost Its Value Under Buhari’s Nigeria”.

The article cited the recent burning to death of 23 travelers in Sokoto, the killing of 15 worshipers at a mosque in Niger State and the gruesome murder of a serving commissioner in Katsina State, amongst others, as proof that life has lost its value “under a President voted en masse five times by the same populace.”

Responding on Sunday night, the Presidency acknowledged the points raised by the national daily but claimed that Nigeria is not isolated as Africa was suffering general rise in insecurity.

Buhari’s senior media assistant, Garba Shehu, while reacting to the editorial, said “Nigeria is not unique. Violence and terror have risen steadily across the entire African continent over the last decade.”

The newspaper had noted that, “Only a few years ago President Buhari too bemoaned these very events, even when they occurred at a much lower scale than now, and that his bemoaning them was part of the very reason he was elected to the presidency to solve them. It is the very people who lined up under the rain and shine to cast their votes for him to become president—at the fourth time of asking—who are routinely killed, maimed or taxed by bandits and terrorists of all hue under his watch today.”

“Votes and elections are expressions of hope. When has mass death become the reward for voting a candidate or party to power? And yet, President Buhari has scarcely seen it fit to visit the families of the victims or the leaders of the communities affected, to at least demonstrate compassion and solidarity with them, if not to lead a counter-offensive against the terrorists as a Commander-in-Chief. True, the President dispatched a high-level delegation of military, police and intelligence chiefs to two of the states affected, but he himself was, of course, in attendance at a book launch of a party chieftain in Lagos.”

But in his response, however, Shehu dismissed the suggestion that his principal does not care about the victims of the terrorists.

“The growing instability and violence in the North of Nigeria and elsewhere is unacceptable. No one, not least the Presidency underestimates the seriousness of the situation,” he said.

Shehu added that every day, President Buhari “holds the victims and their families in his thoughts and prayers,” adding that “he wishes to reassure them – and all Nigerians – that tackling the scourge of banditry and terrorism remains this government’s first priority.”

He attributed the worsening activities of bandits to economic impact of COVID-19, saying “The economic instability that the pandemic has wreaked has proven an effective recruitment tool for bandits and terrorists across the continent.”

The statement further reads: “Indeed, the Daily Trust has correctly identified the source of the violence as “an amalgam of many complex issues” such as poverty and unemployment. It is equally right to note that, in tackling the violence, “force alone will not be enough.” It is quite wrong, however, to suggest the problem of insecurity is intractable, and more wrong still to claim apathy on the part of the government.

“So, what is the government doing? First, our military efforts have not let up. It is true that in the face of today’s growing number of threats from Boko Haram, kidnappers and IPOB to your run-of-the-mill bandits, our forces are stretched increasingly thin. But our dedicated soldiers are working around the clock to keep Nigerians safe.

“Second, alongside military force, this government is seeking to address the violence at its economic source. Massive infrastructure projects like the coastal rail and new train from the southern coast through the north-east to our neighbour Niger, aim to expand employment and opportunity across the country, bringing hope to our more remote and poorer regions where bandits and terrorists thrive.

“Third, even as the West continues to extricate itself from Africa militarily, we are lobbying our Western allies aggressively for partnership, investment and support in other areas, such as proscribing Boko Haram, bandits and IPOB as terrorist groups, which would severely dent their funding; for investment in trade and infrastructure, to help lessen economic instability; and to help with technical assistance, advanced weaponry, intelligence and ordinance.

“This will likely be small comfort to the families and loved ones of those already lost. But make no mistake: this is a battle we are fighting without let up. The Daily Trust’s suggestion that the President exchanges violence for the support he got electorally is beneath a publication that claims any kind of political neutrality or integrity.

“Now is not the time for this sort of lurid political journalism. Now our focus as Nigerians must be on coming together and ending the violence. As President Buhari wrote recently of the terrorists in the UK paper, The Financial Times: “We will defeat them, one highway, one rail link – and one job – at a time.””

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