Amnesty International has blamed the Federal Government for the killing of 3,641 persons during the clashes between herdsmen and farmers from 2016 to 2018.
In its investigative report on the clashes in parts of the country released on Monday, AI said the Federal Government beyond issuing statements to condemn the attacks did not do enough to “bring those reasonably suspected of involvement in crimes to justice”, The Punch reports.
The body claimed that 2,075 persons were killed in the clashes in 2018 alone.
According to the report, the Federal Government failed in “fulfilling its constitutional responsibility of protection of lives and property by refusing to investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of attacks”.
AI noted that 22 states were affected, with Benue recording the highest number of deaths – 726. Adamawa followed with 540 and Plateau with 492 lives. The report titled, ‘Harvest of death: Three years of bloody clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria’ also said many lives were lost in Zamfara, Taraba, Kaduna and Nasarawa states.
The report partly reads, “This report documents the violent clashes between members of farmer communities and members of herder communities in parts of Nigeria, particularly in the northern part of the country, over access to resources: water, land and pasture.
“The report shows how government’s inaction fuels impunity, resulting in attacks and reprisals, with at least 3,641 people killed between January 2016 and October 2018; 57 per cent of them in 2018 alone.
“Beyond issuing statements condemning attacks after they happen, not enough is being done by the federal and state governments to rein in attackers and bring those reasonably suspected of involvement in crimes to justice.
“Several victims told AI that they recognised some of their attackers. Communities have also sent reports to authorities and in some cases provided information about attacks. But in many cases, no arrests were made. Some local and state officials have also confirmed this failure to AI.”
It added, “Our research showed that these attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles. Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.
“The failure of the government has also been in the area of compensation and resettlement of displaced people. In addition to the loss of lives, the Federal Government reckons that the farmers/herders clashes cost the country N5tn. In May 2018, the Federal Government released the sum of N10bn for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of villages affected by the crisis. It is not clear how the funds will be disbursed and which communities will benefit.”
The body also slammed the military and the police for their failure to address the problems.
It said, “The AI research reveals a disturbing pattern of failure on the part of security forces to protect people from vicious and mostly deadly attacks by armed groups. Eyewitnesses, victims, local officials and others independently interviewed have recounted several incidents where police and soldiers have either ignored credible warnings of impending attacks or abandoned people during or just before deadly attacks by heavily armed groups, suspected to be members of herder or farmer communities.”
AI said it visited 56 communities in Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba, and Zamfara states affected by the clashes and conducted 262 interviews, including interviewing people in remote communities in Nasarawa and Plateau states.
However, the army dismissed the report, saying AI’s aim was to destabilise the country.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Sani Usman, on Monday in a statment, said, “The Nigerian branch of Amnesty International that has hitherto been well respected has deviated from the core values, principles and objectives of the original Amnesty International domiciled in the United Kingdom.
“There is credible information that the Nigerian branch of the International Non-governmental Organisation is determined to destabilise the Nigerian nation. This is noted through fabrication of fictitious allegations of alleged human rights abuses against the Nigerian security forces and a clandestine sponsorship of dissident groups to protest, as well as unfounded allegations against the leadership of the Nigerian military.
“Nigerians should be wary of AI because its goals are to destabilise Nigeria and to dismember it. The army has no option but to call for the closure of AI offices in Nigeria, if such recklessness continues.”