Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna states have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone, Amnesty International Nigeria said in a statement yesterday.
In 2017, the rights group said the clashes claimed at least 549 lives and displaced thousands across Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Katsina, Delta and Ekiti states.
AI, in the statement, said the Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence was totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful.
“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,” said Osai Ojigho, Director Amnesty International Nigeria.
“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,” he added.
The rights group said it gathered witness testimony from residents, who described being attacked by a fighter jet and a military helicopter as they attempted to flee attacks.
The air raids occurred in the villages of Lawaru, Dong, Kodomti, Shafaron and Nzuruwei, where Amnesty International said it interviewed a total of 15 witnesses.
Experts identified the munitions as French-made SNEB rockets, which are known to be used by Nigeria’s Alpha Jet aircraft, the group claimed.
“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,” Ojigho said.
He noted that the frequent deployment of soldiers has resulted in many cases of excessive use of force, unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions throughout the country.
“The Nigerian authorities must investigate these attacks and, where these investigations indicate criminal responsibility, prosecute those responsible and bring them to justice.”
Ojigho said the wave of bloody communal violence must be addressed, and all herders and farmers responsible for killings and the destruction of property must be brought to justice.
“The Nigerian government must ensure adequate reparations for the victims of this violence, including the families of those killed.”