Those who claim that no suspect has been held for the killings in the land are wrong, the Federal Government said yesterday.
It tendered facts and figures to back its claim.
In all, 947 suspects have been arrested in connection with the farmers-herders clashes. Of the lot, 841 are being prosecuted. In fact, 68 of the accused persons have been convicted.
The suspects were arrested in 11 states – Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Niger, Zamfara, Adamawa, Yobe, Borno and Katsina.
Amnesty International (AI), which alleged that the government’s failure to investigate and bring to justice killers, fuelled the farmers-herders clashes, also got a reply – you are not right, the government said.
Also, the government blasted the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for claiming that killings will continue if President Muhammadu Buhari is re-elected.
Atiku had said the Federal Government lacked the capacity to address the security challenges confronting the nation.
He spoke in a statement by his communication adviser Phrank Shaibu, on Tuesday, while reacting to the latest report by Amnesty International which accused the government of impunity.
Atiku was quoted as saying: “It is now very clear, like Amnesty International said in its report, that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has displayed gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population, which has witnessed many preventable deaths and lost many good hands.”
It accused Atiku of bad politicking and desperation for power.
Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, who made the government’s position known at a briefing in Abuja, said there had been drastic reduction in killings resulting from the farmers-herders clashes.
He said: ”Let me say that I have gone through the statement by the Amnesty International on this. One thing they got right in their report is the cause of the killings. Amnesty said the root cause of this conflict has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity; and that it is largely about land and access to grazing.
“That is correct and confirms what we have been saying that the clashes are a result of environmental factors that have made the contest for resources, especially land and water, very keen; demographic factors and, sometimes, sheer criminality.
“But they are wrong, very wrong to suggest that the government has done nothing to stem the killings. I think their report is largely outdated.
“Everyone knows that the killings resulting from the farmers-herders clashes, and indeed killings from cattle rustling and other causes, have gone down drastically. This didn’t happen by accident, but by a concerted and determined efforts by the Buhari Administration. Let me list some of the actions that led to the drastic reduction in the killings:
Deployment of a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, and working in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
Establishment of the Army’s 2 Battalion Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kanfanin Doka Village, Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State.
Establishment of a new Area Command and two additional Divisional Police Headquarters in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Establishment by Nigerian Air Force of Quick Response Wings (QRW) in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, and deployment of Special Forces to these Quick Response Wings.
The inauguration, by the Nigeria Police Force, of a new Mobile Squadron in Takum, Taraba State and Operation ‘Whirl Stroke’, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits.
Mohammed also released a fact-sheet on the suspects arrested and prosecuted over the farmers-herders crises and those prosecuted.
He said the records are available for Amnesty International to verify with the police and the court.
He added: “Amnesty also accused the government of lethargy, saying this has allowed impunity to flourish. Again, they got it wrong
“Apart from taking concrete measures to end the killings, as I have stated above, there have been arrests and prosecution of offenders. Let me give instances
Taraba: 49 arrested and 42 being prosecuted
Plateau: 43 arrested and 31 being prosecuted
Benue: 120 arrested, 81 prosecuted and 68 convicted
Niger: 47 arrested and 40 being prosecuted
Zamfara: 172 arrested and 162 being prosecuted
Nasarawa: 43 arrested and 40 being prosecuted
Adamawa: 38 arrested and 34 being prosecuted
Yobe: 42 arrested and 38 being prosecuted
Borno: 40 arrested and 36 being prosecuted
Katsina: 49 arrested and 46 being prosecuted
Kogi: 23 arrested and 20 being prosecuted
Operation Absolute Sanity in North-East and North-Central: 158 arrested and 150 being prosecuted
IGP’s Intelligence Response Team arrested 123 and prosecuting 121
“You can now see that the alleged government inaction is not true. I think Amnesty International should update its report to reflect the present reality, which is that the killings from the herders-farmers clashes have thinned down because of concerted efforts by the FG and that perpetrators of the killings are being brought to justice.”
The Minister condemned the PDP presidential candidate for claiming that killings will continue if Buhari is re-elected.
He accused Atiku of bad faith and desperation for power.
Mohammed said: “This amounts to politicisation of the killings and bad politicking and it is totally unacceptable. If it is indeed true that the former Vice President said that, it must be an act of desperation due to his floundering campaign. It is clear to all Nigerians that the electioneering campaign of the PDP presidential candidate has failed to gain traction.
“From Sokoto to Ilorin to Ibadan to Gombe, it has been a disastrous outing for the campaign. With that magnitude of failure, anyone can say anything to stay afloat.”
Mohammed denied a report by New York Times alleging indiscriminate killing of Shiite protesters in Abuja.
He said the government has respect for the sanctity of life.
Notwithstanding, he promised that the government will study the report and the video clip referred to by “New York Times”.
He said: “I have read the report and watched the video. First, let me say that as an administration that believes in the sanctity of life and the rule of law, the Nigerian government does not and will never condone extrajudicial killings or the willful violation of the rights of its citizens.
“This does not define who we are as a government. In this regard, the government will study the report and the video with a view to determining their authenticity and taking necessary actions.”
He warned against a campaign of calumny to demoralise Nigerian troops
“But the bigger picture must not be lost on us. There seems to be a choreographed campaign to demoralise our military. This is dangerous, considering their sacrifice, gallantry and patriotism. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, we sleep with our two eyes closed at night.
“We must be careful not to do anything that will kill their morale, thus hampering the fight against terror, which they have prosecuted with tremendous success since this administration assumed office.
“For example, when we suffered a setback recently with the killing of our troops in Metele by Boko Haram, we didn’t see the kind of outrageous reports that we normally see when Amnesty International or a section of the foreign media writes to condemn the Nigerian military. There was no widespread condemnation of Boko Haram.
“I think the impression must not be given that our military is a target of attacks by the human rights organisations and the media, especially the foreign media.”