The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Christian Assocaition of Nigeria (CAN) and a human rights advocate, Femi Falana, have demanded the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of Saturday’s killing in Plateau State.
About 86 persons were killed by suspected herdsmen, according to figures from the police in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State. The victims, including women and children ere hacked to death while they were reportedly returning from a funeral ceremony.
The killings, condemned by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, were also described as a ‘possible retaliation’ by a leader of the herders, via a statement on Monday.
“These attacks are retaliatory,” Danladi Ciroma, the chairman of the North-central chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), said.
President Buhari has pledged to ensure the prosecution of the killers.
In the statement from Mr Falana, he sympathised with the victims of the killings and called for the prosecution of persons whom he described as “taking responsibility for the killings”.
“While appreciating the measures adopted by Your Excellency to restore law and order in the affected local government, it is high time that the brazen impunity of the serial murderers in Plateau State was challenged by the state government. Otherwise, the reckless killing of unarmed citizens by criminal gangs will continue unabated.
“Since a group has already claimed responsibility for the heinous crime, we are compelled to request Your Excellency to use your good offices to order the Police to arrest and investigate the suspects. At the end of the investigation the Attorney-General of Plateau State should be directed to prosecute the suspects for conspiracy and culpable homicide,” Mr Falana said.
He added that failure of the government to arrest the perpetrators will attract an institution of a case against the Federal and state governments for condoning crimes against humanity and genocide.
“However, if Your Excellency does not take appropriate action to stop the killings in Plateau, we shall not hesitate to report the authorities of the Federal Government and the Plateau State Government to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for condoning crimes against humanity and genocide.”
Also, CAN called on the government to ensure the immediate arrest and prosecution of the killers, describing the attack as an unfortunate depiction of security failure in the country.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is disappointed and shocked at the spate of killings that was unleashed on three local government areas of Plateau State by herdsmen.
“We noted that the affected communities are yet to come out with the exact figure of the death toll, we are alarmed that no fewer than 86 lives, as confirmed by the police, have been lost, including defenceless women and children.”
According to the association, the situation is a clear depiction of the fact that security operatives in Nigeria have been compromised.
“Of what relevance is the intelligence gathering by the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies? If communities can be attacked and hundreds slaughtered without security organisations providing rescue efforts, then, it becomes obvious that the Nigeria’s security system has been compromised. From all indications, these attacks on the Plateau clearly show that the Federal Government needs to review its security machinery in a bid to make it effective.
“CAN and relations of victims of these attacks need more than assurances and promises of tracking down these criminals by the President. Much as these assurances are needed; they have become irrelevant in the face of incessant attacks that have claimed the lives of thousands of Christians.”
Also speaking on the killings, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Anthony Ojukwu, said the incident is proof of government’s inability to fully combat terrorism.
“This may be another Boko Haram in another guise. Because I am surprised to see that herdsmen can kill people like this. That people will just wake up and take joy in killing others. I think there is more to it than meets the eye, but because we want to believe that Boko Haram have been defeated, we don’t want to consider that narrative.”
He called on human right groups to carry out advocacies in a way, as to compel positive action from government.
Similarly, a human rights advocate, Agbo Madaki, condemned the decision of the Miyetti Allah Cattle breeders association to explain the possible reasons for the attack.
Reacting to the explanation that the attacks could have been a retaliation to previous killings of cattle and some herdsmen, Mr Madaki said the herdsmen have not been prosecuted after making similar claims in the past.
He cited previous cases where the association allegedly took responsibilities for mass murders.
“In all the discussions relating to human rights, the mother of them all is the right to life. In Nigeria, I won’t say that we are at a cross road. Lives of domestic animals are more valuable than human lives in my country.
“In any case in law, it said that facts admitted need no further proof. If any group is taking responsibility and government fails to do anything; it would appear that the killers enjoy some measures of protection from the government of the day. It behoves on government as the custodian of security in Nigeria to arrest the perpetrators of this dastardly act, so that those who have been killed can rest in peace.”
Also speaking on the matter, another lawyer, Priska Obika said the problem has escalated because of government’s inaction.
“The main problem is that the perpetrators have not been investigated. Proper investigation needs to be carried out to even identify the real nature of the culprits. They are been referred to as bandits. Bandits are people who go to steal and end up killing one or two persons. But these people kill hundreds. They are not thieves, they don’t go there to steal, but to kill,” said Ms Obika, who insisted that government must act fast to prevent a genocide.
Meanwhile, the Arewa Youth Assembly has also said President Buhari is tacitly supporting the ongoing killings in Nigeria by his refusal to sack his service chiefs.
In a statement sent to newsmen, Monday, the group’s spokesperson, Mohammed Salihu, urged Mr Buhari to change his service chiefs as the calls for their sack heightens.
”The question we always ask yourselves is, what are our security agencies doing? Certainly, all the security service chiefs have failed, because when the head is rotten, the body cannot perform” he said.
”Again, why did our President Muhammadu Buhari refuse to relieve them of their responsibilities? These and many more questions daily beg for answers and unless an accurate and convincing answer is given, then many of us will be made to believe or take sides with critics of this Government: that our President, Commander-in-Chief, the Chief Security Officer of the country and indeed the father of ALL Nigerians, is very much in support of the Killings,” Mr Salihu said.