A total of 168 Nigerians were killed in clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna states in January 2018 alone, the Amnesty International has said.
In a report released on Tuesday, the international rights organization described Nigeria government’s response to these crises as “totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful.”
“The government must totally overturn its response to these deadly clashes to avoid this crisis getting out of control. They need to investigate and bring suspects to justice,” said Osai Ojigho, Director Amnesty International Nigeria.
“Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder.”
“In some cases where the Nigerian security agencies did respond to communal violence, they used excessive or unlawful force resulting in even more deaths and destruction.”
On 4 December 2017, Nigeria’s air force sent fighter jets to fire rockets at villages as a “warning” to deter spiralling communal violence, as hundreds of herdsmen attacked at least five villages in Adamawa state to avenge the massacre of up to 51 members of their community, mostly children, the previous month in Kikan.
Ojigho said an Amnesty International team visited the villages in the aftermath of the air raids and gathered witness testimony from residents who described being attacked by a fighter jet and a military helicopter as they attempted to flee.
“Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard. Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful, outrageous and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect,” he said.
According to him, Amnesty International is calling on the Nigerian Air Force – which has received intensive training from the UK and US militaries in recent years –to hand over the footage of the incident and all relevant information to the authorities, including the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for investigation.
“This is unlawful and excessive force on a catastrophic scale. It is yet another tragic example where Nigeria’s armed forces are found applying deadly military tactics to law enforcement situations.
“The Nigerian authorities must investigate these attacks and, where these investigations indicate criminal responsibility, prosecute those responsible and bring them to justice.”
He further revealed that the air raids occurred in the villages of Lawaru, Dong, Kodomti, Shafaron and Nzuruwei, where Amnesty International interviewed a total of 15 witnesses.
Locals in each village also provided Amnesty International with lists of the dead, which totalled 86 names.
Ojigho added that clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers in 2017 resulted in at least 549 deaths while thousands were displaced across Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Katsina, Delta and Ekiti states.
He lamented that the violence has spiralled further since the beginning of 2018 with attacks and reprisals killing 168 people in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondoand Kaduna states.