From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
Residents of Zabarmari, a remote community in Borno State, are still in shock. Their pains and grief will not go away easily as they had watched helplessly as Boko Haram insurgents last week behead over 60 farmers working in their farms.
Thus, one week after, the people are still licking their wounds and recounting the ugly incident, which attracted national and international outrage.
One of them, Mohammed Saleh, who lost two of his nephew (brother’s sons), said that his own son escaped the Boko Haram knife by divine intervention as he was tied and ready to be slaughtered by the insurgents.
He told Sunday Sun that the escapee boy now lay in his room recuperating from the psychological trauma he went through by being tied to be killed.
“The Boko Haram men have already tied the boy. Then they asked him to move back. The killer then went into a small bush. That was how the boy escaped.
“It is Allah that permit whatever happens to man in life. When it is not yet someone’s time to die, the person will be spared. It is because it is not yet his time otherwise the boy would have been killed like his other two brothers,” he said.
Community still resilient
Residents of the community have vowed not to leave their farming occupation despite the attack last weekend, as well as security threats in the area. Zabarmari located some 20 minutes drive to Maiduguri, the state capital, has existed for about 100 years, according to Sunday Sun checks.
The inhabitants are mostly farmers and the entrance into the community accentuates this as one meanders through a bumpy road with hectares of onion farms, rice, tomatoes, pepper and vegetable farms seen on both sides of the road.
“We are not deterred by what happened though we are sad,” Hassan Usman, 57, told Sunday Sun. He planned to be on his rice farm by noon last Saturday after the local government election, but the sad news of the attacks held him back.
He recounted the heart-broken story of how the insurgents took turn to behead the farmers.
“It was terrible. My son who escaped told me the Boko Haram people came with big dagger. He said all of them are boys with two commanders. He ran away before they started picking the people,” he disclosed.
Why Boko Haram struck?
There have been claims and counter-claims in Borno on why Boko Haram struck in Zabarmari and killed the local farmers in such gruesome manner. Some alleged that Boko Haram men have been sneaking into the farmlands at Koshebe, the centre of the weekend orgy, demanding for foods and money.
Others claimed that the insurgents have coerced the people into some sort of tarde collaboration until recently.
Some residents confirmed to Sunday Sun of the arrest of a Boko Haram insurgent, but they declined to confirm or deny if any collaboration existed between them and Boko Haram.
It was unclear if these claims were responsible for the issuance of a statement on Thursday night by the military.
“Despite the obvious implications and the dangers of collaborating with Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists and other criminal elements in the society, some unscrupulous elements engage in it,” the spokesman of Operation Lafiya Dole, Col Ado Isa, said in the statement.
He listed the levels of alleged collaboration and support to include provision of information and intelligence on troops and law abiding citizens, logistics supply and “trading with the terrorists.”
He particularly mentioned Benisheik, Jakana, Mainok, Magumeri, Gajiram and Gubio, though without Zabarmari as the areas affected.
On the other hand, Boko Haram in a video on Tuesday night claimed it carried out the attack to avenge the arrest and handover of its members to the military by the Zabarmari farmers at Koshebe farmlands. However, the community said that they are willing to return to the farmlands to continue their life, but asked the authorities to provide security for them.