Amnesty International faults FG handling of herdsmen crisis

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Amnesty International has faulted the federal government handling of herdsmen attack that has left over 160 dead in 2018 alone, saying the government approach was totally inadequate and some in cases unlawful.

In a statement on Monday, Osai Ojigho, Country Director of the organisation, called on the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

“Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone. 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.”

She said in 2017, 549 deaths were recorded across 14 states while thousands were displaced.

“In 2017, clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers resulted in at least 549 deaths and thousands displaced across Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Katsina, Delta and Ekiti states,” she said.

“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.”

She also said the military is currently performing operations in 30 states of the country.

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Ojigho said the frequent deployment of the military to communities with clashes undermines the efficacy of the police.

She said in most cases, the military employs “excessive and unlawful force,” often leading to the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property.

Ojigho cited an incident in December 2017, when a fighter jet had fired warning shots in an Adamawa village to prevent reprisals between the villagers and herdsmen.

“The frequent deployment of soldiers has resulted in many cases of excessive use of force, unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions throughout the country,” the statement read.

“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.”

She said as the herdsmen shot people and torched homes, and the air raid resulted in fire, it was not possible to establish how much of the death and destruction was a direct result of the air attacks or attributable to the attack by herdsmen.

“In some villages, the rocket attacks happened at the same time as the herders raids, while in other villages the air force arrived shortly afterwards, witnesses told Amnesty International.”