By Esther Atani, The Sight News
Following the security issues bedeviling the country, Nigerians in their numbers lose their lives on a daily basis due to several factors such as communal clashes, armed banditry, herdsmen attacks, Boko Haram clashes, mob actions, political clashes and police brutality
In a recent Global Rights Media tracking on Mass atrocities for May 2019 released by Nigeria Mourns and made available to The Sight News, over 300 deaths were recorded.
Driven by factors including environmental degradation and desertification caused by climate change, and new state laws on grazing rights, herdsmen conflicts killed more than 20 people in May causing destruction of property and displacing countless people. Land scarcity, loss of vegetation due to climate change in the north forces herdsmen further south into farmlands to find pasture for their increasing livestock. The persistent attacks that started in Benue state had a spill-over effect on the neighbouring states of Nasarawa, Taraba and recently, farther states like Ogun state.
According to Sun newspaper, four persons were killed on May 3, when suspected herdsmen and farmers clashed in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of Ogun State, throwing the town into chaos as some police officers sustained serious injuries in the fracas, including the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) in charge of Imeko and a Police Inspector. The clash was a result of herdsmen making their cows to drink from the town’s water supply consequently polluting it to the anger of a native of the town who was shot dead.
The sad report of 11 villagers who were butchered in a reprisal attack by herdsmen in Taraba on May 8, provided by Sahara Reporters shows that violence only leads to more violence as the herdsmen attacked ignoring pleas from the community elders to bury the hatchet after a herdsman was attacked.
A major cause for the escalating intensity of the conflict is the increasing proliferation of small arms and light weapons into Nigerian borders. Given that host communities, including farmers also have access to weapons, minor disagreements or provocations often degenerate into violent clashes, resulting in widespread destruction of property and human casualties.
The fact that Fulani herders are primarily Muslim while the southern farmers are predominantly Christian also adds a religious dimension to the conflict over resources. Due to strong Boko Haram presence in the country, Christian farmers view the inflow of Muslim herders as further Islamization of the country.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 in Maiduguri by Mohammed Yusuf whose objective was the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, at the time, violence was not used as a means to achieve it. This changed in 2009 when Boko Haram members and the police faced off in a bloody confrontation in Maiduguri.
Since then, Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands, abducted women and children and displaced millions of people. The Chibok girls abduction in 2014 was just another facet of the Jihadist group’s stranglehold on the country. Their reign of violence caused the loss of 97 lives in May including 24 soldiers with 6 reported missing and these alarming numbers grow daily.
As Vanguard News reported, 14 men lost their lives collecting firewood in Maiduguri after Boko Haram a military base north of the state stealing armoured vehicles and razing down buildings in an attack that left several soldiers missing.
Boko Haram has launched paramilitary campaigns targeting the Nigerian government and its neighbors with these attacks increasingly perpetrated by women and child suicide bombers.
At least 20 people were killed and others are missing after militants ambushed a convoy transporting civilians from Sabon Gari to displacement camps in Damboa in Borno state on Saturday May 26, according to reports by the Associated Press.
The Boko Haram fighters ambushed and surrounded the vehicles of the soldiers and civilians and opened fire on them. The vehicles were transporting hundreds of people in a convoy of about 50 vehicles ahead of major military offensive that was to be carried out in the area.
Boko Haram grew its ranks by taking advantage of widespread anger in the north over the country’s wealth gap. In the north, 72 percent of the population live below the poverty line, compared to a much smaller figure of 27 percent in the south.
Boko Haram occasionally used the tactic of offering financial loans, referred to by the Nigerian military as “clandestine dispensation” to recruit new members. Such financial support seeming attractive to struggling business owners already disillusioned by the severe lack of economic opportunity in northern Nigeria. These individuals are believed to either accept loans from the group prior to joining, or join with the expectation of receiving the funds but upon joining the terrorist group do not receive the promised loans.
While Boko Haram was able to capitalize on Nigeria’s widespread poverty, the lack of economic opportunities is not the only problem in the country. Corruption in Nigeria has resulted in police abuse, violation of human rights, political violence and other social problems. These disheartening issues create an atmosphere of desperation especially potent in the North.
As the report states, “Despite claims of control over insecurity by security heads and the President, several attacks from insurgents, bandits, cultists, herdsmen, amongst others, have occurred, leaving a host of casualties.”
Another troubling issue affecting the polity of the Nigerian state is the rise in police brutality, criminal profiling and unwarranted use of force by authorities which has led to unnecessary loss of life; all this while crime rate is steadily on the rise.
A popular case comes to mind – Kolade Johnson who died that fateful Sunday when police officers of the Special Anti-Cultism Squad (SACS) went on a raid looking for a certain Ismail Foluronsho who appeared to have been targeted because he was sporting dreadlocks. Unfortunately this was where Kolade went to watch a football match and was killed in a spate of sporadic shooting by the officers.
On May 15, a lawyer, Geoffery Mgbada, was in the company of his wife in Enugu when his vehicle was stopped by officials of the Vehicle Inspection Office(VIO), who pushed him and he fell down. The late lawyer hit his head on a concrete block and lost consciousness before he was rushed to the hospital where doctors confirmed him dead.
In another report by The Nation, on May 23, 2 people were killed and 15 others suffered bullet wounds when the police opened fire on a peaceful celebration of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) anniversary in Onitsha.
Ordinary Nigerians are denied equal protection under the law due to a widespread practice where senior police officers sell for their own personal enrichment police protection to Nigeria’s wealthy elite. By the inspector general of police’s own account, in 2009 at least 100,000 police officers were working as personal guards for the wealthy, at the expense of the majority.
The report rightly claims, “It is worrisome that the government of Nigeria has been unable to beef up its security architecture to ameliorate these recurring attacks, nor have they been able to prosecute a single person to account for these crimes. Even more worrisome is the fact that citizens have lost confidence in the ability of the government to safeguard the lives and property of its citizens, and as they continue to live in fear of attacks, many have taken to securing arms to protect themselves.”
Ethno-religious differences, a blatant disregard for human life, corruption, poverty – all these and many more are factors responsible for such violence and despicable acts on a large-scale. This raises the following questions: how long will it take for more targeted, concerted and effective efforts to be made in dealing with the security crisis and how many more lives would be lost before the government fulfills its mandate to protect Nigerians. When would the lives of common Nigerians matter?
The Deaths recorded in the media per state includes: Zamfara – 67, Kaduna – 7, Rivers – 18, Delta – 1, Lagos – 1, Cross River – 2, Ogun – 4, Adamawa – 5, Katsina – 51, Nasarawa – 1, Borno – 64, Kogi – 1, Ebonyi – 5, Taraba – 29, Plateau – 12, Anambra – 2, Abia – 1, Sokoto – 1, Edo – 12, and Jigawa – 26
According to the report, banditry caused the highest number of deaths coming at a total of 168 with northern states suffering the most casualties as Zamfara recorded the highest at 67, Borno at 64 and Katsina at 51 .