The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, on Thursday expressed concern over violent conflicts between farmers and herders in countries across West and Central Africa, particularly the Plateau attacks that claimed the lives of over 86 villagers on Saturday.
But the Amnesty International has said by failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government is encouraging impunity that is fuelling rising insecurity across the country.
The Director Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, stated this in a report released by the international agency on Thursday.
AI stated that its independently verified estimated figures indicated that since January 2018 “at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states, which is double the 894 people killed in 2017.”
Ojigho stated, “The death tolls reflect killings as a result of farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry.
“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 lives and property, but they are clearly not doing enough going by what is happening.”
Ojigho added, “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.
“That the violence in Plateau started after an attack, which was followed by reprisals from Thursday, June 21 shows unacceptable security lapses.
“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 authorities is not working.
“There is urgent the need for people who are suspected of committing crimes to be held accountable.
“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, why is security forces’ response time very slow?”
He explained, “Amnesty International’s investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers. In all cases Amnesty International investigated, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappeared without a trace.”
Amnesty International added that it was investigating the rising insecurity that had resulted in the increase in killings across the country.
The agency also expressed concerned about the impact of these killings on farming, especially with the affected villages and farmlands deserted because people fear going back to their homes.
The organisation called on the Federal Government to address security lapses that “make it easier for the killers to carry out attacks and disappear.”
The UN chief however in a statement by his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, on Thursday. called on all concerned governments, regional organisations, civil society and other relevant actors to work together to find acceptable and lasting solutions to the conflicts.
He spoke a few days after attacks by suspected herdsmen left scores of people dead in Plateau State. Guterres described the trend as being detrimental to regional stability.
He said the UN was ready to support national and regional efforts to resolve disputes between farmers and herders.
The statement read, “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the increasing frequency, intensity, complexity and geographic scope of violent conflict between farmers and herders, as well as related banditry, extortion and cattle rustling, in several countries across West and Central Africa.
“He condemns the resulting loss of life, property and livelihoods, as well as population displacement, which undermines peaceful coexistence between communities in many of the affected countries. It is also detrimental to regional stability.
“The Secretary-General stresses that all attacks targeting civilians violate international humanitarian law.
“He urges all concerned governments, regional organisations, civil society and other relevant actors to work together to find acceptable and lasting solutions to these conflicts, in full compliance with existing regional regulatory frameworks and international humanitarian and human rights law.
“The Secretary-General expresses the solidarity of the United Nations with the people and governments of the affected countries. He reiterates the readiness and commitment of the United Nations to support national and regional efforts to resolve disputes between farmers and herders.”