Amnesty International on Sunday said Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging bandits.
AI said gunmen killed at least 1,126 people, and kidnapped at least 380 in the northern part of the country between January and July.
The body listed the states as Kaduna, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara States.
“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.”
AI said 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.
Osai Ojigho, Director of AI Nigeria, said terrifying attacks on rural communities in the north of Nigeria have been going on for years.
She called the failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers “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.”
The statement said 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.
It recalled that on May 28, at least 74 people were reportedly killed in Sokoto state, when gunmen attacked four villages in Sabon Birni Local Government Area.
AI said the attacks in Kaduna, Plateau and Katsina states were discovered to have been coordinated.
“Attackers stormed villages on motorcycles and were heavily armed. They shoot sporadically at people, set houses on fire, steal cattle, destroy farm produce and abduct villagers for ransom.”
AI said dozens were killed by suspected herders in four communities in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna.
“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 shot sporadically at villagers.”
AI also warned that a humanitarian crisis looms in Katsina.
The rights group said violence has forced many farmers and their families to flee their homes.
“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.”
Amnesty added that at least 380 people – mostly women and children – have been abducted for ransom during attacks in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Nasarawa and Zamfara states in 2020.
“Largely, relatives of those abducted sell all their 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.”
The body, however, condemned the arrest of Nigerians protesting killings and abductions.
“On 8 August, at least 3 people were arrested during a peaceful protest at Refinery Junction, Kaduna South, and on 18 June, at least 20 protesters were arrested and detained for days by police in Katsina State. On 17 June, Nastura Ashir Sharif, an activist, was arrested for speaking out against the killings and leading protests calling for an end to the rising insecurity in the country. On 10 April, a youth from the Oureedam community in the Bassa area of Plateau State was arrested after complaining that security forces had arrived late to an attack.”
Osai Ojigho declared that 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.”