Amnesty International says clashes between farmers and semi-nomadic herders in Nigeria have left more than 3,600 people dead since 2016.
The UK-based rights group, in a report on Monday, documented an upsurge in communal violence involving chiefly Muslim herders and mainly Christian farmers fighting over land and water rights.
“The Nigerian authorities’ failure to investigate communal clashes and bring perpetrators to justice has fuelled a bloody escalation in the conflict between farmers and herders across the country, resulting in at least 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more,” Amnesty said.
The report said 310 attacks had been recorded between January 2016 and October 2018, most of them in 2018.
“These attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria director.
“Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available,” she said.
Experts say climate change and expanding agriculture have aggravated the herder-farmer conflict over land and water. The International Crisis Group said in July that the farmer-herder conflict killed six times more people than the war with the Boko Haram terror group in the first half of 2018,
Ojigho further said, “In some places, because of the failures of the security forces, competition over resources is used as a pretext to kill and maim along ethnic or religious lines.”
“The conflict has also been dangerously politicized by some state government officials who have inflamed tensions by embarking on a blame game along political party lines,” she said.
The latest report could affect the results of the upcoming elections, in which President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a new term.
Buhari has been under fire for adopting a soft position on the herders, who come – like the president -- from the Fulani ethnic group.
The administration of Buhari, who came to power on a pledge to eradicate militancy and corruption, has also been under scrutiny for failing to end the Boko Haram terror group’s campaign of violence in Nigeria’s restive northeast.
Abuja announced in 2015 that Boko Haram – which is affiliated to the Takfiri Daesh terror group, had been “largely defeated” in the northeast, but a multitude of Boko Haram attacks indicate the group’s active presence in that region.
In the latest instance of violence, Boko Haram terrorists on Sunday stormed a village near the city of Maiduguri, Borno State, firing indiscriminately and setting fire to homes there overnight.
It was not clear if there were any casualties in the attack, which forced hundreds of people to flee.
A military source said troops and fighter jets were deployed to the scene and pushed out the militants after a “fierce battle.”
Boko Haram has in recent months launched numerous attacks in a bid to capture Maiduguri, the birthplace of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf.
Over the past few years, at least 27,000 have been killed and more than two million people displaced from their homes by Boko Haram.