Amnesty International has said bandits killed 1,126 villagers in Nigeria between January and June 2020.
The global human rights body which stated this in a report signed by its country Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, on Sunday, said the most affected were villages in Southern Kaduna, where armed men killed at least 366 people in multiple attacks between January and July.
The organisation said it interviewed civilians in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states, who said they lived in fear of attacks and abduction as insecurity escalated in the rural areas.
“The Nigerian authorities have left the rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen, who have killed at least 1,126 people in the North of the country since January,” the report stated.
The body noted that many of those interviewed described how security forces often arrived hours after attacks had ended, even when officers had 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,” the report added.
According to the rights group, at least, 77 people had been killed since January 2020 in the ongoing communal clashes between the Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups in Taraba State.
The organisation said on May 28, 2020, at least 74 people were reportedly killed in Sokoto State, when gunmen attacked four villages in the Sabon Birni Local Government Area.
“According to witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International in Kaduna, Plateau and Katsina states, the attacks are well coordinated. Attackers stormed villages on motorcycles and heavily armed. They shoot sporadically at people, set houses on fire, steal cattle, destroy farm produce and abduct villagers for ransom,” the report read in part.
Amnesty said in response to increasing violence in Southern Kaduna, Governor Nasir El-Rufai imposed a 24-hour curfew in the affected communities in June 2020, but attacks have continued as 22 people were reported killed when gunmen suspected to be herders attacked four communities in the Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of the state on August 6
“More than 100 people were killed in July during 11 coordinated attacks in Chikun, Kaura and Zangon-Kataf local government areas of the state. At least, 16 people were killed in Kukum-Daji on July 19, 2020, in an attack that lasted five minutes, when attackers shot sporadically at villagers,” it said.
It was also learnt that some victims of the recent attacks in Southern Kaduna told Amnesty that security forces were absent during most of the attacks, arriving only hours after the attackers had left.
Amnesty said no fewer than 380 people had been abducted for ransom during attacks in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Nasarawa and Zamfara states this year, mostly women and children.
“In their response to these attacks, 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,” said Ojigho.
Amnesty called on Nigerian authorities to independently investigate all the deaths and ensure accountability by bringing the perpetrators to justice.