The Global watchdog, Amnesty International, on Sunday, claimed at least 1,126 rural dwellers in seven northern states of Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara, have lost their lives to rampaging insecurity in the zone since the beginning of the year.
In a statement highlighting its recent findings, about 380 villagers were also reportedly abducted for ransom within the months under review, with victims’ relatives reportedly selling off property to pay demanded ransom. Abductees whose ransom couldn’t be paid met an untimely death, the new report claimed.
Insecurity is worsening in the North and AI said it is due to the Nigerian authorities leaving the backstreet communities poorly-policed. Country Director of AI in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, says: “Terrifying attacks on rural communities in the north of Nigeria have been going on for years. The ongoing failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from these predictable attacks is utterly shameful.
“In addition to the security forces’ failure to heed warnings or respond in time to save lives, the fact that no perpetrators have been brought to justice leaves rural communities feeling completely exposed. The president claims he has repeatedly tasked security agencies to end the killing so that Nigerians can go to bed with their eyes closed, but clearly nothing has changed.”
While highlighting the attacks, the organisation said it interviewed civilians in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states, adding, “Many of those interviewed described how security forces often arrive hours after attacks have ended, even when officers have been given information about impending attacks.
During one attack in Unguwan Magaji in Kaduna State, security forces arrived at the scene but left when they saw the sophisticated ammunition the attackers were using. By the time they returned, at least 17 people had been killed.
Worst affected are villages in the south of Kaduna State, where armed men killed at least 366 people in multiple attacks between January and July 2020.” Breaking the killings down, Amnesty International’s the statement says, “At least 77 people have been killed since January 2020 in the ongoing communal clashes between the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in Taraba State, North-East Nigeria. “On 28 May, at least 74 people were reportedly killed in Sokoto State when gunmen attacked four villages in Sabon Birni Local Government Area.
“On 6 August, at least 22 people were reported killed when gunmen suspected to be herders attacked four communities n Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of the state. “More than 100 people were killed in July during 11 suspected coordinated attacks in Chikun, Kaura and Zangon-Kataf local government areas of the state.
At least 16 people were killed in Kukum-Daji on 19 July 2020, in an attack that lasted for five minutes when attackers hot sporadically at villagers.” Recounting heartbreaking accounts of those affected by the attacks, the report quoted a mourning father and farmer in Kukum Daji, whose son was killed, as saying, “My son was 20 years old; he had just gained admission to the University of Jos. He was at home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, then the attack happened.
When I saw his dead body, my body became very weak, I started feeling dizzy, I thought I was going to fall, my whole body as on fire but there was nothing I could do, I just told myself that am leaving everything to God. I will never be happy again in this life for losing this boy. His death has really affected me.”
In Katsina State, home of President Muhammad Buhari, the advocacy organisation said it found out that, “ at least 33,130 people are now in displacement camps, and others have gone to stay with relatives in urban areas. Thousands of farmers could not cultivate their farms during the 2020 rain season because of fear of attacks or abduction.
Ojigho warns: “These attacks have caused massive displacement and food insecurity in the affected states. The majority of the people in these communities depend on farming for their livelihoods, but they are now too afraid to go to their fields.
“This is pushing the region to the brink of a major humanitarian crisis. The Nigerian authorities’ failure to stem the violence is costing people’s lives and livelihoods, and without immediate action, many more lives may be lost.” A 50-year- an old farmer in Batsari Local Government Area of the state was quoted as saying, “Our village has been attacked several times.
Not once, not twice, but 10 times. To farm is even a problem, the bandits have stopped us from going to our farms, we only cultivate the farms close to the house but our farmland in the bush, we can no longer go there to farm, they stopped us from going there. My family farm that was not cultivated this year is more than 300 hectares of land.”
AI claimed it discovered that “at least 380 people have been abducted for ransom during attacks in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Nasarawa and Zamfara states in 2020, mostly women and children. Largely, relatives of that abducted sell all heir belongings to pay ransom to the gunmen and those unable to pay are mostly killed.
According to a witness, at least 17 women were abducted on 20 July in Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State, in an attack that lasted for almost three hours.” Peeved that the Nigerian authorities were arresting those protesting the killings they couldn’t stop, Ojigho knocks the leaders for alleged incompetence.
In their response to these attacks, the Nigerian authorities have displayed gross incompetence and a total disregard for people’s lives. Arresting people who dare to ask for help is a further blow. Instead of arresting critics, the authorities should be seeking urgent solutions to this crisis and doing all they can to prevent further attacks.
The government has an obligation to protect its population. The rising death toll in the north of Nigeria shows just how badly the authorities are failing in this responsibility.”
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