Amnesty International’s Nigeria office has described as shameful how the country’s security agencies have been handling repeated attacks by gunmen in villages across northern region.
After speaking with residents of communities in seven northwest and north-central states, the human rights group shared its findings in a statement obtained by HumAngle on Monday. It observed that, between January and August, 1,126 civilians in the north were killed by rampaging gunmen, out of which 366 were from the south of Kaduna.
“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,” it said.
The group said it has also documented an upsetting increase in abductions in the region, with at least 380 people, mostly women and children, kidnapped this year.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, stated that the failure of the security forces to take adequate steps in protecting 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,” he added.
Witnesses in Kaduna, Plateau, and Kaduna states told Amnesty International that the attacks in their communities were well-coordinated and the invaders, who rode on motorcycles, were heavily armed. They also complained that they received little or no help from security forces even though they might have been preinformed or called during attacks.
One resident of Unguwan Magaji, a community in southern Kaduna, said soldiers who came during an attack got intimidated after seeing the invaders’ firepower.
“Our leaders called and informed the soldiers that the attackers are in the village, so the soldiers did not waste time and they came but when they came and saw the type of ammunitions the attackers had they left. The following morning so many soldiers came with their Hilux pick-up trucks to see the dead bodies,” he reported.
Amnesty International’s release quoted the lamentation of a farmer in Kaduna whose 20-year-old son was killed in Kukum Daji.
“He had just gotten admission at the University of Jos. He was at home due to the Corona pandemic, then the attack happened,” he said.
“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 was 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.”
Ojigho observed that the series of attacks have led to massive food insecurity and the displacement of civilians. “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,” he said.
“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.”
He urged government agencies against arresting critics who dared demanded adequate security. Instead, he added, the authorities “should be seeking urgent solutions to this crisis and doing all they can to prevent further attacks”.