AI says herdsmen, banditry violence killed 371 in Northwest Nigeria since January

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) – International human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), on Tuesday said that 371 people were killed in Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria, since January this year.

Zamfara State has been facing a deadly conflict since 2012 as a result of clashes between farmers and herders. Gradually, the conflict turned into armed banditry, with the first major attack in ’Yar Galadima in April 2014 when 200 people were killed.

In a statement, released in Abuja, the Director of AI Nigeria, Ms. Osai Ojigho, said daily killings and kidnappings by armed bandits have left villagers in the area under constant fear of attack.

According to Ojigho, “this is Nigeria’s forgotten conflict. The authorities’ failure to act has left villagers in Zamfara at the mercy of armed bandits, who have killed hundreds of people over the course of two bloody years.

"When we visited the region, villagers told us that they had pleaded with the government to help them after receiving warning letters from the bandits ahead of attacks but had received no protection. The Nigerian authorities have repeatedly claimed to be tackling the situation, but the mounting death toll tells a different story.”

AI regretted that out of the 371 people killed, “at least 238 of these killings took place after the deployment of the Nigerian Air Force”, accusing the federal government of neglecting the most vulnerable communities in the region.

The human rights body described the security situation in the state as “escalating”, with daily killings and kidnappings by armed bandits.

AI noted that “the armed bandits raid villages and kidnap for ransom. On 22 November 2017, the government ordered the deployment of a Special Forces battalion in Zamfara after gunmen attacked communities in Shinkafi and Maradun LGAs.

On 4 April 2018, the Nigerian Air Force deployed Special Forces in the state following attacks in Bawan Daji village in Anka LGA. On 6 June 2018, following a National Security Council meeting held between security chiefs and the president, the Inspector General of Police announced that 2,000 special security personnel comprising the military, police and civil defence would be deployed to Zamfara.”

According to AI, “on Friday 27 July, 18 villages in the Mashema, Kwashabawa and Birane districts of Zurmi local government area of Zamfara state were attacked, leaving at least 42 people dead. At least 18,000 residents of the affected villages who were displaced over the weekend are now taking refuge at various locations in the local government headquarters.

"The following day, a further 15 people were kidnapped in Maradun local government area.

“On Saturday 28 July, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the deployment of 1,000 troops to Zamfara. This is the third time since November 2017 that the authorities have deployed the military in response to attacks, but villagers told AI that this has not translated into protection for remote, vulnerable communities.

“Previous military interventions have failed to end the killings, especially in rural areas of Zamfara," AI said, adding that "The government is still neglecting the most vulnerable communities in this region."

AI quoted an unnamed senior police officer in Zamfara as saying that  the police lack the logistics and manpower to deal with the crisis in the state.

“The crisis in Zamfara is making life hell for villagers, yet it is clearly low down on the list of government priorities. These killings must stop immediately, and those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials."

The Nigerian authorities have a responsibility to protect the lives of everybody in the country, including people in poor and rural communities,” said Ojigho.
-0- PANA MON/VAO 31July2018

31 يوليو 2018 19:22:58

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