Amnesty International alleged yesterday that herdsmen killings have continued unabated in the country because of the Federal Government's failure to call the perpetrators to account.
According to the group, government's failure to deal with the herdsmen has served as a source of encouragement to them.
Amnesty's statement drew immediate reactions from Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; its counterpart in the South East, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who all agreed that the group's observation was spot on.
However, the Presidency refused to react to the allegation but referred Vanguard to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who promised to react later, after studying the report and consulting with relevant government agencies.
Similarly, Director of Defence Information, Brig. Gen. John Agim, also said Defence Headquarters would react only after studying Amnesty International's report.
But Amnesty International in a statement signed by its director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said at least 1,813 people had been murdered in attacks across 17 states since January 2018, stressing that this was more than double those killed in 2017.
The organisation said the Federal Government was not doing enough to address the killings, especially in the northern part of the country.
The death toll
"Independently verified estimated figures indicate that since January 2018, at least 1,813 people have been murdered in 17 states, which is double the 894 people killed in 2017."
It noted that by failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Fovernment was encouraging impunity, which is fuelling rising insecurity across the country.
"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 properties, but they are clearly not doing enough going by what is happening", Amnesty International stated.
It said the latest incident in Plateau State, where gunmen attacked and killed over 80 villagers, should be investigated.
"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?"
AI said it was currently investigating the rising insecurity that had resulted in the increase in killings across Nigeria.
"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 arrive in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappear without a trace.
"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 are threatened by the attacks," the group noted.
Amnesty International urged the government to make arrests and bring to justice those responsible for the attacks.
Presidency, Lai Mohammed react
When contacted to react to the report, Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said: "That is not a Presidency matter. The Minister of Information should be the person to react to it."
On his part, Lai Mohammed, told Vanguard last night: "I will get back to you shortly. I also want to study the report and consult relevant authorities and prepare my response. I will actually get back to you." At press time, he had yet to do that.
In his reaction, spokesperson of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: "What the Amnesty International said is very correct because the killings have been going on for a long time.
"Justice delayed is justice denied. The President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces went to Benue State and said he asked the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to proceed to Benue over the killings there and the IGP disobeyed him.
"Is that how to run a country? Rejigging the security architecture is very important when we have heads of security agencies from one section of the country."
Similarly, apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the position of Amnesty International on the killings vindicated its stand that the Federal Government was providing a fertile ground for herdsmen.
Media Aide to the President General of the organisation, Chief Emeka Atamah, said: '"Ohanaeze has been vindicated in its position that the Federal Government remains an accomplice to what the herdsmen are doing.
"If the federal government had been protecting lives and property, all these killings would have stopped, even in the face of the incompetence of those in charge of the various security agencies. Amnesty International is just echoing what we already know. The government should sack all the service chiefs."
On his part, elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said: "It is the responsibility of the federal government and security agencies to tackle these issues and show how to overcome them.
"I don't like the fire brigade attitude of the government to these issues. Whenever the killings happen, they make noise and everything dies down until it happens again. That is not the way to solve the problem."