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 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 concern about the impact of these killings on farming, especially with the affected villages and farmlands deserted because people fear going back to their homes.
“We are at the peak of farming season, and communities affected by this wave of violence are largely agrarian. But because of fear of attacks they have either been displaced or unable to cultivate their farms, therefore their major source of food and income threatened by the attacks,” said Osai Ojigho
The organisation called on the Federal Government to address security lapses that “make it easier for the killers to carry out attacks and disappear.”
“Making arrests and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible for these attacks are crucial in ending the killings that are gradually turning into almost a daily occurrence. In many instances, these killings happen and no arrests take place,” Ojigho said.
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.”
The Presidency on Thursday took a swipe at the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, accusing it of playing irresponsible politics with the latest attacks in Plateau State that left scores of people dead.
It said the decision of the PDP to declare seven days of mourning for the killings amounted to dancing on the graves of the dead and playing cheap, infantile politics.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, stated this in a statement in Abuja.
Adesina said while the PDP which he described as a “comatose and prostrate party” asked that its flag be flown at half -mast nationwide during the period, the party did not know that those flags had been forcefully lowered since its 2015 loss at the polls, and might remain so for a long time to come.
The statement read, “The sad and unfortunate killings in Plateau State over the weekend have been turned to opportunity to once again play irresponsible politics, particularly by the Peoples Democratic Party which says it is declaring seven days of mourning.
“These are dolorous times that call for deep introspection on how cheap human lives have become, and the proffering of actionable ideas on how to get out of the bind, but the PDP would rather dance on the graves of the dead, playing cheap, infantile politics.
“The comatose and prostrate party is declaring seven days of mourning, during which flags in its offices would be flown at half mast nationwide.
“But unknown to the party, those flags had been forcefully lowered since its 2015 loss at the polls, and may remain so for a long time to come, because Nigerians are politically discerning, and cannot be hoodwinked by cheap antics.”
Presidency lists killings under PDP watch
The presidential spokesman then listed some killings which he described as savage and brutal that took place during the PDP rule between 1999 and 2015 for which no national mourning was declared.
“November 20, 1999. Odi, in Bayelsa State which was invaded on the orders of a PDP President, about 2,500 people killed. No national mourning.
“Between February and May 2000, about 5,000 people were killed during riots over Sharia law in different parts of the North. No national mourning.
“In 2001, hundreds of people, including the old, infirm, women and children were killed in Zaki Biam. No crocodile tears.
“Between September 7 and 12, 2001, Jos, Plateau State, erupted in internecine killings. Between 500 and 1,000 people were killed. Flags were not flown at half mast.
“In February, 2004, at least 975 people were killed in Yelwa-Shendam, Plateau State. No mourning by the then ruling PDP.
“Between November 28 and 29, 2008, Jos was in flames again, with 381 deaths. No mourning. In 2010, 992 people killed in Jos. Mum was the word.
“In 2014 alone, according to Global Terrorism Index, at least 1,229 people were killed in the Middle Belt. No mourning.
“Boko Haram killings in PDP years were over 10,000. PDP flags were still fluttering proudly in the sky,” Adesina added.
The presidential spokesman said the list showed that wanton killings had been with the country for some time.
He said while the present administration was working towards proffering lasting solutions, it should be given the opportunity to do so.
He said those playing politics with tragedies should have a change of heart or lose their humanity.
“Those who take pleasure in twisting statements from the Presidency may claim we are saying that many more people were killed under the PDP than under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be unconscionable to do so.
“The intendment of this statement is to show that wanton killings have been with us for awhile (sic); this government is working towards enduring solutions; and should be given the opportunity to do so.
“Even a single soul is precious, and no man should take a life, which he cannot create. But when tragic situations as had happened in Plateau State occur, such should never be used to play crude politics.
“Those who are wont to do so should have a change of heart, or lose their very humanity,” he concluded.
Show respect for the dead, PDP counsels Buhari
But the PDP, in its reaction, expressed shock by the statement credited to the Presidency. The opposition party said the statement justified the Presidency’s alleged failure to stop killings in Plateau, Zamfara, Benue, Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, Kogi, Taraba and other troubled states.
The PDP said it was indeed reprehensible that the Presidency in its “usual arrogance and insensitivity to the mood of the nation chose to condemn the PDP for declaring a seven-day mourning and flying our flags at half-mast in honour of the dead and solidarity with the bereaved.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, who stated this while reacting to the statement by Adesina, said it was disturbing that even in death, the Buhari Presidency still wanted to deny these victims of callous murder the honour of being mourned.
He said, “The PDP urges the Buhari Presidency to confront the challenge of fulfilling the basic responsibility of governance by providing security for the lives and property of all Nigerians irrespective of their creed, tribe and political affiliations.”
Ohanaeze attacks Buhari
Also, the apex socio-political body of the Igbo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described President Buhari’s comparison of the killings in Plateau State to those in Zamfara State as “most unfortunate.”
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on Media and Publicity, Chief Emeka Attamah, on Thursday, Ohanaeze said “it believes that no human life is greater than the other and that two wrongs do not make a right.”
“Rather than compare the number of casualties, the Federal Government should rejig its security apparatus, stop further killings and appease the families and communities affected by the senseless killings,” the pan-Igbo body said.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo expressed fears that “from the trend of events, it appeared as if General T.Y. Danjuma’s outcry that there was a grand design by some people to carry out ethnic cleansing in the country and that government was colluding with them was justified.”
Ohanaeze called on Buhari to allay the fears of the people, “especially with the double standard being exhibited by the Federal Government in the handling of the issues of IPOB and the suspected Fulani herdsmen.”
The association restated its call on the Federal Government to declare the Miyetti Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body of the herdsmen, as a terrorist organisation, as was done to the Indigenous People of Biafra.
“While the Federal Government proscribed IPOB, a harmless organisation, Miyetti Allah which has openly claimed responsibility for most of the attacks for just the killing or rustling of their cattle has gone around unscathed.
“If government could label IPOB a terrorist organisation, there was no reason the Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body of cattle herders, should not be proscribed and their leaders prosecuted.
“If the Federal Government was not being partisan, why the silence on the utterances of Miyetti Allah who also attributed the killing of their cattle in the Benue massacres to their attacks there?
“How many suspected herdsmen have been taken to court for either the killings in the country or for carrying Ak-47 rifles about in the full glare of security operatives, contrary to the provisions of the law,” the statement said.
Sultan’s JNI condemns killings, says attacks orchestrated
However, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll-led Jama’atu Nasril Islam, condemned the killings.
The Sultan of Sokoto is the President General of the JNI and the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, an umbrella body of all Nigerian Muslims.
The Secretary General of the JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu on behalf of the Sultan, described the incident as “sad” after three years of peaceful coexistence in Plateau State.
The group noted with grave concern that after three years of peace, it was disheartening that such a success story, was about to end.
It noted that the recent attacks were well “orchestrated with political and religious mindsets.”
The JNI stated, “We also advise that serious security measures should be taken on all the identified villages that have been notorious in causing distress to motorists, particularly in Kaduna and Plateau states.”
This, the religious body said, “is informed by the simple fact that most often than not, if per chance a crisis erupts in Plateau and Kaduna states, Muslims are always the soft targets on the Southern Kaduna Road to Jos.”
Governors to meet security chiefs
Also, state governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, will meet with security chiefs to evolve a holistic solution to insecurity challenges confronting the country.
The Chairman of the forum, who is also the Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdul’aziz Yari, disclosed this while speaking with journalists after the NGF’s meeting which started on Wednesday night but ended in the early hours of Thursday in Abuja.
Yari said that the governors also condemned attacks in Plateau State where scores of Nigerians were killed, and called for the prosecution of the perpetrators.
He said, “The forum strongly condemns recent attacks in Plateau State and the spate of insecurity in the country.
“Members commiserate with the government and people of Plateau and other states, including victims who were caught in transit travelling to and from neighbouring states.
“Governors unanimously called for the prosecution of the perpetrators of the attacks and resolved to find a quick and common solution to the security crises.
“The forum resolved to pay a condolence visit to Plateau State to commiserate with the government and people of the state.’’
Obaseki commiserates with victims
On his part, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, condemned the killings and commiserated with the victims.
In a statement, the governor, who said that it was regrettable that such wanton attacks could be meted out to fellow countrymen, stressed the imperative for peaceful coexistence and tolerance in curbing conflicts among different groups.
He stated, “The recent killings would weigh on the conscience of any Nigerian, who values human life and stands for peace and progress of our country. I stand with the people of the affected families and local government areas in this sad moment of our history as a people.”
PENGASSAN urges change of security strategy
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria condemned killing of innocent Nigerians across the country.
The group, in a statement by its National Public Relations Officer, Fortune Obi, called on the security agencies to change their strategies of tackling the crisis.
PENGASSAN also criticised a statement by Meyatti Allah that the killings were in response to rustling of about 100 cattle in Plateau State.
It urged the Federal Government to rise above just condemning such killings and “courageously do all it takes to protect the lives and property of citizens which is the whole essence of governance.”
Wike seeks reordering of security architecture
Also, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, called for the immediate re-jigging of the nation’s security architecture.
Speaking when he received the Management of Businessday Newspaper at the Government House Port Harcourt on Thursday, Wike said that the current approach to national security was no longer functional.
He said, “This time, criminality is targeted at some communities. Every time, when they kill over a hundred innocent Nigerians, the security agencies claim that three persons have been arrested.
“After the deaths, they announce that Special Forces have been deployed in invaded communities. Will the Special Forces revive the slain persons?
“We must talk of re-jigging the security architecture. The present setting is not yielding results. We must introduce persons with new ideas and new thinking to check the ugly trend of insecurity.”
He regretted that most of his colleagues (governors) were not interested in working for the people as they were more concerned with battling for second term.
According him, some governors rather than stand for the people in terms of the growing insecurity, prefer to hobnob with the President, begging for second term support.