By Henry Uche
Global Rights (Nigeria) investigative report has revealed that a total of 1,603 Persons were killed in Nigeria from January to March as a result of cults clashes, Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, extrajudicial killings, communal clashes, isolated attacks and banditry.
A statement delivered by the Country Director, Global Rights -Nigeria , Abiodun Baiyewu, revealed that analysis of available data suggests that “banditry” related incidents accounted for about 57.5% of fatalities (921 of 1603). The most vulnerable states to this form of attack remained Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger States.
The organization’s Mass Atrocities Casualties Tracking report confirmed that every State in Nigeria has had a share of the mass atrocities that took place from January to March, howbeit the northern region had the most agonizing experience.
The report stated, “Across the country, other forms of attacks recorded were consistent with previous months: pillage of communities in the North, targeted and random abductions, and communal clashes. In particular, the North Central states, especially Kaduna and Niger states, pillage of rural districts, kidnappings, and killings by bandits remained a recurring decimal.
“Every region of the country contended with targeted and random abductions in this quarter. Whilst highway abductions by crime syndicates were peculiar to the North, and some parts of the South (South/West and South/South), we observed two cases of mass-targeted kidnappings of traders. In January, 27 traders were abducted in Etsako West, Edo. Similarly, 27 Kano traders were kidnapped on the Kaduna highway by gunmen who demanded N27 million ransom, N1 million for each trader.
The report maintained that In spite of the recent #EndSARS protests against extrajudicial brutality and killings, deaths related to this form of atrocity continued. For example, 5 members of the Road Transport Workers Union were extrajudicially killed and several others brutalized by state security personnel in Kwara state.
It stated that, ‘In a public statement, the Commissioner of Police in Kwara ordered a full-scale investigation into the crisis’, however, till date, there have been no records of arrests or even identification of the perpetrators of this mayhem. The pseudo-public security outfit – Amotekun has also been implicated in committing gross human rights violations and extrajudicial killings. On January 15, the Oyo State Police Command confirmed the killing of a 21-year-old man, Tosin Thomas, by an Amotekun officer.
“The marked increase in insecurity across the country continued in February. At least six hundred and eighty-five (685) persons lost their lives to mass atrocities with Boko Haram accounting for the highest number of killings. The spate of attacks on communities in Southern Kaduna and Niger state also continued with an increase in mass kidnappings in both states. There was also an increase in the targeted abduction of school children in the North Western of the country.
“Comparing these numbers with the figures for February 2020 mass atrocities report that documented at least 374 violent deaths, the spike in numbers of killings is alarming.
“On February 17, gunmen, wearing military fatigues, stormed Government Science Secondary School Kagara, Niger State, Northwest Nigeria at about midnight and kidnapped 42 people, 27 of which were students. The abductees were released ten days later.
“Later in month, in Zamfara, 279 school girls were kidnapped overnight from Jangebe Government Girls’ Secondary School, when gunmen attacked the boarding school. Weeks before the kidnapping lawmakers from Zamfara state had suggested offering amnesty to repentant kidnappers in exchange for sustainable economic opportunities, unfortunately.
In the report, the insecurity of Security Officers was laid bare. It was reported that the onslaught on public security agents has continued with a notable increase in the targeted number of killings of police officers in the Southern parts of the country – especially the South- East. Of the 685 deaths recorded in February, 68 were security officers, sadly.
“We noted the trend of targeted, unprovoked killings of police officers, the carting away of their weapons and the burning assets such as police vehicles and stations. The perpetrators of these atrocities and their overarching motive remain unclear.
“Terrorist groups in the North East also did not relent in their attacks on security formations. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked Nigerian police and army units in Magumeri, killed two police officers and burnt their vehicle along the Maiduguri-Magumeri-Gubio Road.
“The next day the same group attacked a UN agency convoy of between Karito and Monguno, of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria, kidnapping one person- making it the third employee of the United Nations in Nigeria abducted within the past two months by Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) insurgents. At least 10 officers of the Nigerian Army were also killed in an attack launched by Boko haram terrorists in the Marte Local Government Area of Borno State.
“Twenty civilians were also killed by Boko haram insurgents in Dikwa, Borno State and in Maiduguri, Borno State at least 16 persons were killed by a Boko Haram rocket attack. In Yobe State, 4 police officers who were protecting the Bayameri area were killed alongside 7 villagers during an attack by Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) members,”
It added that ethnic/communal tensions recorded in the South West of the country, continued in Ogun State following attacks and reprisal attacks between Fulani herdsmen and some agrarian communities in Yewa North Local Government area of Ogun State was debilitating, stressing that, “At least 7 people were killed in these attacks, 3 people were killed in another incident between herdsmen of Northern extract, and indigenous farmers in Egbado North Area of Ogun State, in southwest Nigeria.
“A communal conflict also claimed at least 25 lives in a lingering land tussle between two villages in Ohaukwu local government area, Ebonyi State. Similarly, in Akwa Ibom, 2 people were killed during a communal clash at Mbo Local Government Area. In March, alongside the unbearable heat, Nigeria’s insecurity rose by several degrees with at least 545 resultant fatalities and a spike in the number of kidnapped persons.
It affirmed that Kaduna state recorded the highest number of fatalities with at least 69 deaths in March alone. At least 34 were killed in Sokoto, Northwest; 23 in Niger, Northcentral region; 15 in Anambra, Southeast region; and 11 people in Zamfara, in the Northwest.
“On March 5, gunmen attacked Tara village of Sabon Birnin Local Government Area of Sokoto state and killed 17 people. While On March 17, three soldiers and five villagers were killed by bandits at Kabasa village, Zamfara. The victims had been fighting off a bandit attack in Magami district, Gusau Local Government Area of the state.
According to the report, the situation became a harvest of abductions, noting that in Kaduna, schools faced frequent attacks in March including the abduction of 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka. Highway attacks also occasioned the kidnap of 8 members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) who were, returning from an Easter program around Kachia Road. Unrelatedly, a priest and three parishioners were also abducted along Dogon Kurmi in Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna state.
Also in Zamfara state, Anka and Maru Local Government Areas were attacked and at least 100 people were kidnapped, and at least 10 persons were killed. In Niger state, at least 53 commuters in a bus were kidnapped by gunmen along the Tegina-Minna road in Rafi Local Government Area. In Katsina, it was reported that 25 hunters were abducted and 17 were killed at Tsayau forest in Jibia Local Government Area.
“In this month the abducted girls from Jangebe Government Girls’ Secondary School were released. Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, claimed that the state government did not pay any ransom to the criminals who had abducted 279 school girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe before they were released,”
Unfortunately, the report described the situation within the period under review as “Unending Terror” asserting that Boko Haram/ ISWAP on communities in the North East continued without reprieve and between January and March 2021 data suggest that at least 207 lives have been lost to the unabating warfare.
“In January, Boko Haram insurgents killed 7 persons (6 soldiers and 1 civilian) and abducted several others in a raid on Chibok town, Borno State. Relatedly terrorists assailed a commercial vehicle in Nganzai, Borno State and killed at least 10 commuters.
“Interestingly, shortly after the new service chiefs visited Maiduguri, The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked the Nigerian police and army units in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. That attack led to the deaths of two police personnel, while their vehicle was burnt along the Maiduguri- Magumeri-bGubio Road. Boko Haram insurgents also raided a village in Konduga Area of Borno State and abducted 50 persons.
“In March, terrorists launched a wide range of violent attacks on humanitarian actors. On March 2, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked the military base and United Nations humanitarian hub in Dikwa, which forced aid workers to go into hiding.
“ISWAP in this reporting period, had attacked the town of Dikwa 4 times. The first attack in February was met with resistance from the Nigerian army. In March, the town was attacked twice. On March 1, the fierce attack directly targeted the humanitarian assets and aid workers. The next day, another attack was launched by the Boko Haram splinter group in the same town. Dikwa hosts one of the military’s super camps – bases that houses weapons and soldiers in large sizes. In March, at least 78 security personnel were killed in targeted attacks.
“Below a kaleidoscope of the unfolding attacks in the first quarter of the year. Subsequent reports will show an upsurge of such attacks in April: “Unidentified” armed men killed Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Ben Ajide and three police officers in Ikot Akpan community in Essien Udim Local Government Area.
“In Makurdi, Benue state, gunmen shot dead a policeman, and burnt the police station at the Harga police station in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area. In Nabordo, Toro Local Government Area of Bauchi State, armed men stormed the Safer Highways base of the police and opened fire, killing an Inspector – Muktar Ibrahim and his colleague – Uba Sama’ila.
“Early in March, two police officers were attacked and killed in Obubra in Cross River State. Later in the month, “unknown” gunmen killed four police officers along the MCC road in Calabar, Cross River State, bringing to a total of six police officers.
“In Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, two policemen and two prison officials were killed by armed men on their way conveying prisoners to the court, there was also an attempt by the armed men to burn the police station but that was averted by security agents.
“Looking Forward, the numbers of lives lost in the first quarter of the year paints a dreary picture of the declining state of security and increase in human rights infractions across Nigeria. The country is clearly a fragile state, and remains vulnerable to combustion from several forms of atrocities. The question to ask is what are its government and citizens doing to stem the tide,” the report queried,”
It describes the trend as “Land of Impunity” asseverating that the Nigerian state’s penchant of covering multitudes of crimes with the blanket of impunity and amnesty does not augur well for the nation, rather it has emboldened perpetrators to increase their activities and serves as a motivation for other actors to cash in on the monopoly of violence. It added, “Lack of trust in the government to ensure justice is also a motivation for reprisal attacks by aggrieved persons and communities. It is instructive that in spite of the hundreds of armed pillages that have occurred in the Northern region and security agents, have barely been able to make arrests, and there have been no prosecutions for these crimes. The same lens would apply to kidnaps, and communal conflict.
“In spite of its continued denial, several sources have documented attempts by some state governors to placate organized criminal groups – paying fat ransoms to kidnappers, and offering cashback to bandits in exchange for their weapons and assurance of security.
“However, it is pertinent to state that huge ransoms paid to kidnappers by the government sets a dangerous precedence that will encourage criminality rather than quell it. Organized criminal groups who maim people, rape women, destroy properties and cause severe humanitarian crises should be made to face the wrath of the law rather than be mollycoddled,”
The latest mass kidnapping from schools in recent weeks calls to question the implementation of the ‘Safe School’ was launched with millions of Naira invested, after the Chibok girls were abducted to bolster security in schools in Nigeria’s north-eastern region of the country.
“Nigeria’s perpetual battle against insecurity is at a high cost, with both security operatives and civilians paying with their lives. That cost continues to be too high. According to S 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, the primary objective of the government is to ensure the security and welfare of citizens.
“Despite the government’s claim of being on top of the security situation in the country, the spread and contexts of insecurity have metastasized and shown no signs of abating, black holing the enormous budgetary allocation to security.
“We advise that it will occasion more than security hardware to end insecurity across the country. At the core of the various forms of mass atrocities in Nigeria is impunity, and at the core of impunity is the failure of state institutions to ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians, as well as justice for crimes perpetrated. Nigeria needs an effective long-term investment in a holistic security architecture that should comprise the efficiency of all aspects of governance and the promotion of human rights.
“The State’s continued failure to proactively fulfil and respect human rights has led to mass grievances that are compounding the nation’s insecurity and jeopardizing its peace and security,” the statement averred.