Farmers-Herders Clash: Amnesty International Accuses Nigerian Govt Of Impunity, Says 3,641 Killed Since 2016
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian Government of impunity in the way it has been handling killings of innocent citizens in parts of the country.
The Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, made the allegation in her remarks at the launch of the report by the organisation on Monday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
“The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population and end the intensifying conflict between herders and farmers,” she was quoted as saying on the organisation’s website.
“The authorities’ lethargy has allowed impunity to flourish and the killings to spread to many parts of the country, inflicting greater suffering on communities who already live in constant fear of the next attack.”
She condemned the inaction of the government which she said has worsened the situation in the country.
According to the organisation, the government’s failure to investigate communal clashes and bring perpetrators to justice has fuelled “a bloody escalation” in the conflict between farmers and herders.
It said this resulted in at least 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more.
In the new report entitled, “Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders”, Amnesty International said 57 per cent of the 3,641 recorded deaths occurred in 2018.
It alleged that security forces were often positioned close to the attacks, which lasted hours and sometimes days, yet were slow to act.
The organisation also accused the security agencies of receiving prior warning of an imminent raid in some cases but did nothing to stop or prevent the killings.
“Our research shows that these attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles,” Ojigho added.
“Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.”
Amnesty International explained that it started documenting clashes between farmers and herders from January 2016, stressing that researchers conducted 10 field trips to 56 villages in five states between August 2017 and September 2018.
The report, according to it, is based on 262 interviews with victims, eyewitnesses, community leaders, medical practitioners, religious leaders and government officials, including members of the security forces.
It, however, asked the Federal Government to ensure thorough, effective and impartial investigations and prosecution of any person, including members of security forces who perpetrated abuses or deliberately ignored attacks in some states.
The states listed in the report include Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara among others.
The organisation insisted that the findings of the investigations must be made public.
It also advised the government to urgently domesticate the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons into the national laws.
It recommended further that the full and effective implementation of the Convention must be ensured.
On the underlying causes of the crisis, it asked the government to ensure the farmers and herders enjoy their human rights, including rights to land, water and pasture, which were at the heart of the crisis.
“To manage and deal with communal tension, the Nigerian authorities must ensure that areas designated as grazing reserves, corridors and cattle routes are not encroached upon.
“This should include adopting a past system, where people were appointed and stationed at or close to the reserves to make it easy to monitor and manage these areas and prevent encroachment by farmers,” the report stated.
Amnesty International called for the provision of adequate relief such as protection, shelter, food, and healthcare for those displaced as a result of the crisis while the victims should be provided with adequate compensation
Among other recommendations, it said police personnel should be equipped and trained in modern policing techniques compatible with international human rights standards to effectively deal with the current challenges in the country.
It said individual commanders should be investigated and prosecuted for attacks in areas where troops under their command were stationed, especially where there was evidence that they failed to act to stop the attacks.