President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Maiduguri blamed the leaders of Borno communities for not doing enough in terms of cooperation with the military to end the Boko Haram insurgency.
He said: "This Boko Haram or whoever they are, cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs to attack without the local leadership knowing."
Mr Buhari said this while responding to Governor Babagana Zulum and the Shehu of Borno's comments on the insurgency.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how days after the Auno village massacre of travellers, President Buhari visited Maiduguri to commiserate with the people.
Mr Buhari was also on Wednesday booed in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, as residents who are unhappy with his administration's handling of security, thronged the streets.
Over 30 stranded travellers, who could not gain entrance into Maiduguri on Sunday, were attacked and killed by members of the Boko Haram insurgents.
The development generated condemnation across the country.
The military had blamed the killings on the travellers, whom they said defied a curfew placed on the route linking Borno and Yobe states. But Governor Babagana Zulum blamed the military for its inability to protect the highway and citizens
The president visited the Shehu of Borno's palace where he delivered his condolences and expressed his concerns over the unending Boko Haram war.
The monarch, Abubakar Gabai, commended the president for coming to commiserate with the state.
He acknowledged that the security situation in the state had once improved until recently when "it has resurfaced."
"We appeal to your Excellency for urgent attention. You have done well for us and you are still doing much for us and we appeal to you continue in that direction. The people of Borno are very grateful that you have to cut short your engagement in Addis-Ababa to come and visit us," the monarch said.
Mr Zulum also thanked the President for visiting the state.
The governor, however, faulted critics who insisted that the situation was better before May 2015 when Mr Buhari came to power compared to now.
The governor said he was surprised that Nigerians have "so quickly forgotten the past; some have tried to compare the situation in Borno now with what it was prior to the 29th May 2015 when all the major roads leading to Borno were closed except the Maiduguri-Kano road".
"There were sporadic killings and attacks even here in the Maiduguri metropolis. About 20 local government areas of Borno State were displaced.
"But from May 2015, we have recovered most of the displaced local government areas. By the year 2016 and 2017, we have almost celebrated the demise of the Boko Haram insurgency. But from March 2019, we have started recording simultaneous attacks and increased activities of the insurgents which have resulted in the loss of lives of our people.
"We are calling on the Nigerian military to retrace their steps and replicate the successes they have recorded in 2016 and 2017 so that we can end this insurgency once and for all. We want them to take the war to the insurgents in the fringes of the Lake Chad. We also want the Nigerian military to foster unity between themselves and the civil populace. Also, (we) call on the Nigerian military to assist our people to gain access to their farmlands."
Buhari blames Borno leaders
But Mr Buhari, while responding to the state officials, laid the blame on community leaders.
"I am delighted with what the governor of Borno State and the Shehu of Borno have said; especially both of them have recognised the efforts this administration in the area of security by comparing the situation in 2015 and now," the president said.
"I am happy that the governor has advised the military to work hard to restore the situation in the state. But it cannot be done without good intelligence. And to my understanding, good intelligence by my experience, having been a soldier before, means cooperation with the local population.
"This Boko Haram or whoever they are, cannot come up to Maiduguri or its environs to attack without the local leadership knowing; because traditionally the local leadership is in charge of the security in their own respective areas. In my understanding of our culture, I wonder how Boko Haram survives up to this time.
"As commander in chief, I campaigned in both in 2015 and 2019 on three fundamental issues and one is security because you cannot properly preside over a country without security, even those who don't go school know that.
"Secondly, it is the economy; we have vibrant and energetic youth in this country where 60 per cent are below the age of 30. We have to remind them that they must help us to stabilise this country so that they can have a better future. If they don't cooperate with the government, they are endangering their future. I am already 77 years old and how many more years do I expect under normal circumstances.
We are working for you in this country.
"As the commander in chief, I will deal with the security situation. I believe there is an improvement in security. Economy-wise we worked hard in the area of agriculture and have seen the result in the agricultural sector; three results. One, which is fundamental, is food security. Officially, we don't import rice because we want to defeat the smugglers; and we saved hundreds of millions of dollars. And this happened because the farmers went back to the land."
Buhari shuns Auno, scene of attack
Meanwhile, Mr Buhari did not visit Auno, the location of the massacre along the Maiduguri-before he departed Maiduguri.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the villagers in Auno had gathered to welcome the president whom they believed would visit their community to sympathise with them directly.
However, the president left Borno around 4 p.m. without visiting Auno, which is about 15 km from Maiduguri airport that is normally reached in less than 20 minutes of driving.
In his statement after the president's visit, his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, gave no reason for the president not visiting Auno.
Mr Shehu highlighted the president's speech in Maiduguri and his commitment to improve the security situation.