You are currently viewing Nigeria: Government failings leave rural communities at the mercy of gunmen

Nigeria: Government failings leave rural communities at the mercy of gunmen

  • Post category:News
  • At least 1,126 villagers killed by bandits from January to June 2020 
  • Attacks pose threats to food security in rural areas 
  • Failure to bring killers to justice fuels impunity

The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen who have killed at least 1,126 people in the north of the country since January, Amnesty International said today.  

The organization interviewed civilians in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states, who said they live in fear of attacks and abductions as insecurity escalates in rural areas. 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. 

Amnesty International has documented an alarming escalation in attacks and abductions in several states in north west and north central Nigeria since January 2020. 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.  

“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.” 

Houses burned, villagers abducted 

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, northeast Nigeria. The ethnic conflict between Jukun and Tiv ethnic groups has been on and off since the early 1990’s as authorities consistently failed to end the conflict. 

On 28 May, at least 74 people were reportedly killed in Sokoto state, when gunmen attacked four villages in 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.  

Most villagers told Amnesty International that the government left them at the mercy of their attackers. They complained of receiving little or no help from security officials during attacks, despite informing them prior or calling for help during attacks. They lamented that, in most cases, the security forces arrived hours after attacks. 

A witness to an attack in Unguwan Magaji in southern of Kaduna said:  

“During the attack, our leaders called and informed the soldiers that the attackers are in the village, so the soldiers did not waste time and they came but when they came and saw the type of ammunitions the attackers had they left. The following morning so many soldiers came with their Hilux pick-up trucks to see the dead bodies.” 

Escalating violence in southern Kaduna 

In response to increasing violence in the south of Kaduna State, the State Governor imposed a 24-hour curfew in affected communities in June 2020, but attacks have continued. Violence has been on and off in southern Kaduna since the aftermath of 2011 elections and authorities have failed to both end the violence or bring the perpetrators to justice.  

On 6 August at least 22 people were reported killed when gunmen suspected to be herders attacked four communities in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of the state.  

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 19 July 2020, in an attack that lasted for five minutes, when attackers shot sporadically at villagers. 

A farmer in Kukum Daji whose son was killed during the attack informed Amnesty International: 

“My son was 20 years old, he had just gotten admission at University of Jos. He was at home due to the Corona pandemic, then the attack happened. When I saw his dead body, my body became very weak, I started feeling dizzy, I thought I was going to fall, my whole body was on fire but there was nothing I could do, I just told myself that am leaving everything to God. I will never be happy again in this life for losing this boy. His death has really affected me”. 

Some victims of the recent attacks in southern Kaduna told Amnesty International that security forces were absent during most of the attacks, arriving only hours after the attackers had left. In rare cases when security forces arrived during attacks, they often came with inadequate intervention. 

Read more from Amnesty International