Killings: Thousands Scampering For Safety In Beleaguered Zamfara, Says Amnesty Int’l

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Funeral prayer for victims of one of the numerous attacks in Zamfara
  • 371 People Killed Since January 
By Augustine Osayande
Amnesty International Nigeria said Thousands of People are now living in constant fear of attack due to insecurity in Zamfara state. The International Human Right body in a press statement by the Country Director Osai Ojigho on Tuesday disclosed that due to daily killings and kidnappings by armed bandits, villagers are now leaving in constant fear of attack.

It added that thousands of people have been displaced by a conflict which began in 2012 as a result of clashes between farmers and herders.

“This is Nigeria’s forgotten conflict. The authorities’ failure to act has left villagers in Zamfara at the mercy of armed bandits, who have killed hundreds of people over the course of two bloody years
“When we visited the region, villagers told us that they had pleaded with the government to help them after receiving warning letters from the bandits ahead of attacks but had received no protection. The Nigerian authorities have repeatedly claimed to be tackling the situation, but the mounting death toll tells a different story” Ojigho said.

The International Human Right Watch also stated that 18 villages in the Mashema, Kwashabawa and Birane districts of Zurmi local government area of Zamfara state were attacked, leaving at least 42 people dead on Friday 27 July. “At least 18,000 residents of the affected villages who were displaced over the weekend are now taking refuge at various locations in the local government headquarters. The following day a further 15 people were kidnapped in Maradun local government area” Ojigho added.

On Saturday 28 July, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the deployment of 1,000 troops to Zamfara. This is the third time since November 2017 that the authorities have deployed the military in response to attacks, but villagers told Amnesty International that this has not translated into protection for remote, vulnerable communities.

“Previous military interventions have failed to end the killings, especially in rural areas of Zamfara. At least 371 people have been killed in Zamfara in 2018 alone, and at least 238 of these killings took place after the deployment of the Nigerian air force. The government is still neglecting the most vulnerable communities in this region” Ojigho said.

The International Organisation said they visited communities in five local government areas of Zamfara state – Zurmi, Maradun, Maru, Anka and Tsafe between Sunday 7 and Thursday 12 July.
“Although security forces were present in the state capital Gusau, researchers saw soldiers and air force personnel in only two of the villages they visited, Birane and Bagega.

“Villagers described feeling helpless and on edge, constantly bracing themselves for attacks. Men said they are sleeping outside their homes and in trees as a way of keeping vigilant, while women and children are sleeping together in groups for protection” Ojigho said.

The body added that villagers described a pattern where they receive warnings ahead of attacks, including by phone, ordering them to pay huge sums of money or be killed or abducted.

“A villager from Gidan Goga said Before Ramadan, the bandits called with the same number they called me with two weeks ago and said if we didn’t pay them N500,000, they would come and kidnap me or the village head. Right now, we are living in fear

“In several communities, villagers said they were afraid to venture more than a few kilometres into the bush, which is preventing them from farming. They would not take Amnesty International researchers to see attack sites for fear of meeting the bandits, highlighting the unrelenting threat of attack

“The crisis in Zamfara is making life hell for villagers, yet it is clearly low down on the list of government priorities. These killings must stop immediately, and those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials. The Nigerian authorities have a responsibility to protect the lives of everybody in the country, including people in poor and rural communities” Ojigho said.

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