'Herders-farmers clashes kills over 3,600 in Nigeria'

Amnesty International blames security forces of being slow to prevent killings

'Herders-farmers clashes kills over 3,600 in Nigeria'

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS Nigeria

More than 3,600 deaths have been recorded in Nigeria’s deadly clashes between herders and farmers in the past three years, Amnesty International said in a report on Monday.

The report "Harvest of death: Three years of bloody clashes between farmers and herders" states 57 percent of the deaths occurred this year, especially in the country's agrarian belt.

It accused the security forces of being slow to act to prevent the killings and destruction of property in fights which lasted hours and sometimes days.

A statement accompanying the report quoted Osai Ojigho, the rights body's director in Nigeria, as blaming the violence on gross incompetence and failure of the government to protect the lives of its people.

“The authorities’ lethargy has allowed impunity to flourish and the killings to spread to many parts of the country, inflicting greater suffering on communities who already live in constant fear of the next attack,” Ojigho said.

“Our research shows that these attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles. Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.”

The Nigerian army has called the report mere fabrication of figures and threatened to shut down the local office of the rights body whose activities the army insisted could destabilize the country.

“Amnesty International has deviated from the core values, principles and objectives of the original Amnesty International domiciled in the United Kingdom,” army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement on Monday.

“There is credible information that the Nigerian branch of the international non-governmental organization is determined to destabilize the Nigerian nation,"he added.

This comes a few days after both sides traded barbs on the Amnesty’s call on the International Criminal Court to investigate Nigerian authorities for war crimes, including shielding some army commanders from prosecution.

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