Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
IN separate reports, two global bodies, Amnesty International and the UN, have passed a damning verdict on the human rights situation in Nigeria. They both unveiled sordid record of wanton killings and maiming in the country between 2017 and this year
While the Amnesty International said it had independently verified that since January 2018, no fewer than 1,813 people were murdered in 17 states, the UN revealed that at least 881 children were either killed or maimed by the Boko Haram terror group and the Nigerian security forces in 2017. According to the Director Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, the death tolls reflected killings as a result of farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry.
AI noted that by failing to hold murderers to account, Nigerian authorities were encouraging impunity that is fueling 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.
“The latest incidence in Plateau State, where armed gunmen attacked 11 villages on 23 June for at least seven hours and killed at least 200 villagers without intervention from security forces should be investigated,” Ojigho said in a statement released by Isa Sanusi, Media Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria.
Ojigho noted that the violence in Plateau started after an attack, which was followed by reprisal from Thursday 21 showed unacceptable security lapses. She regretted that despite
the deployment of security forces, including the military in over 30 states, the escalation of attacks showed that whatever is being done by authorities was not working.
“We hope that President Buhari’s commitment to bring those suspected to be criminally responsible for the killings in Plateau State to justice will break the impunity that has spread through the country.
“In addition, 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?” she said.
She said investigations showed worrying details of how frequently security forces failed to protect villagers.
In all cases Amnesty International investigated, the attackers, usually arrived in their hundreds, spent hours killing people, set houses on fire and then disappeared without a trace.
The organisation called on the Federal Government to address security lapses that make it easy for the killers to carry out attacks and disappear.
She said AI was also concerned about the impact of the killings on farming, especially with the affected villages and farmlands deserted because people were afraid of going back to their homes.
In its report, the UN said the unfortunate bombing of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Borno State, by the Nigerian military led to the death or maiming of 235 children.
Apart from that, the military also killed or maimed 26 children suspected to be carrying improvised explosive devices in 2017.
These were parts of the annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, which covered Nigeria, Afghanistan, India, the Philippines, Syria and Yemen.
Ms. Virginia Gamba, the UN’s Expert on Children and Armed Conflict, who presented the report, said the Rann victims were part of the more than 10,000 children killed or maimed in conflicts in 2017, while more than 8,000 youngsters were recruited or used as combatants.
According to her, the UN verified 881 children out of which 570 were killed and 311 maimed in Nigeria, attributing 620 of the casualties to Boko Haram and 261 to Nigerian security forces.
She said 66 parties to the conflict were listed in 2018 – three more than in the 2016 report – with nine government forces and 57 armed groups named.
“Among the most significant violations registered in 2017 were killing and maiming, recruitment and use and attacks on schools and hospitals, all of which registered a rise in comparison to the previous year,” Ms Gamba said.
Overall, the UN verified more than 21,000 grave violations of children’s rights between January and December 2017, compared with 15,500 in 2016.
Ms. Gamba provided examples, including what she described as the “despicable trend” of turning children in the Northeast into “human bombs”, where nearly half of the 881 verified child casualties (killed or maimed) resulted from suicide attacks.
In Northeast Nigeria, as well as in neighbouring countries, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram, intensified attacks on civilians, including through suicide bombings and ground attacks.
She, however, said the total number of verified cases of the recruitment and use of children decreased by almost 50 per cent from 2,122 in 2016 to 1,092 in 2017.
The UN envoy said the decrease might be attributed to the loss of territory by Boko Haram, the displacement of civilians from areas controlled by the group and the Civilian Joint Task Force action plan, signed in 2017.