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Amnesty indicts government for killings

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A member of the security forces stands next to a burnt out vehicle in the Nghar Village, near Jos on June 27, 2018, after Fulani herdsmen attacked the village. Plateau State in Nigeria has seen days of violence where more than 200 people have been killed in clashes between Berom farmers and Fulani herders, Nigeria is facing an escalation in clashes between farmers and Fulani herders over land use and resources that is deepening along religious and ethnic lines. STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP

• Accuses govt of encouraging murderers
• Says 1813 killed in 17 states since January
• Presidency, PDP trade words over ‘seven-day mourning’
• Labour, ADP, Wike proffer solutions on insecurity

Amnesty International (AI) has blamed the wanton killings across the country on the failure by the Federal Government to “hold murderers to account.” By so doing, “Nigerian authorities are encouraging impunity that is fuelling rising insecurity across the country.”

The human rights watchdog said it independently verified estimated figures showing that since January 2018, at least 1813 people have been murdered in 17 states. It said this doubles the 894 people killed in 2017 and that the death tolls reflect killings as a result of farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry.

The Federal Government is expected to issue a statement dismissing the indictment, as has been the case with past AI findings critical of the authorities.

“We are gravely concerned about the rising spate of killings across the country, especially the communal clashes between farmers and herders and attacks by bandits across at least 17 states.

“The authorities have a responsibility to protect life and property. But they are clearly not doing enough, going by what is happening. The latest incident in Plateau State, where armed gunmen attacked 11 villages on June 23 for at least seven hours and killed at least 200 villagers without intervention from security forces should be investigated,” said Osai Ojigho, Director, Amnesty International Nigeria.

That the violence in Plateau started after an attack, which was followed by reprisals from Thursday 21, shows unacceptable security lapses, the organisation said in a statement yesterday.

Despite the deployment of security forces, including the military in over 30 states, the escalation of these attacks shows that whatever is being done by the authorities is not working, said AI.

Stressing the urgent need for people who are suspected of committing crimes to be held accountable, it said: “We hope that President Buhari’s commitment to bring those suspected to be criminally responsible for the killings in Plateau State to justice will break the impunity that has spread through the country.

“In addition, government must answer these questions: who are these attackers? Where do they come from? Where do they go after attacks? Who arms them and why is security forces’ response time very slow?”

The organisation disclosed it is currently investigating the rising insecurity that has resulted in the increase in killings across the country. It noted that its investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers. It said that in all cases it investigated, the attackers usually arrived in their hundreds, spent hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappeared without a trace.

The rights body also warned of the impact of the killings on farming, especially with villages and farmlands getting deserted because people fear going back to their homes.

It added: “We are at the peak of farming season and communities affected by this wave of violence are largely agrarian. But because of fear of attacks, they have either been displaced or are unable to cultivate their farms. Therefore, their major source of food and income is threatened.”

In separate statements, the country’s labour unions also criticised the Federal Government for doing little to stop the killings.

The unions consisting the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) condemned the Plateau State attack and urged the Federal Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The NLC specifically said it found the duration of the attacks, the casualty figures and the scale of destruction disturbing.

“Therefore, for the umpteenth time, we condemn these killings. They are senseless and barbaric and threaten to shatter once and for all the bonds of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence. Accordingly, our security, though stretched, must be seen to do more to restore the confidence of the civil populace,” said NLC President Ayuba Wabba.

Also, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called for an urgent review of the country’s security architecture, promising to issue a comprehensive state of the nation report next week.

Expressing worry over the effect of insecurity on the education sector, National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said: “We want government to hold an emergency meeting with all the critical stakeholders, to review the security architecture of the country and come up with a lasting solution.”

The situation would not have been as bad, had Buhari sacked his service chiefs last year, said opposition Action Democratic Party (ADP).

A statement by its National Chairman Yabagi Sani noted that the development engendered low morale among the rank and file and a consequent decline in security.

It said: “After a thorough examination of the situation at hand, we have come to the conclusion that political consideration is the only reason the president subverted the normal succession process in the military with the belief that they (service chiefs) could be deployed to subvert the electoral process in 2019.”


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