In a statement on Monday, Osai Ojigho, country’s director of the organisation, called on the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
“The Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence is totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful,” Ojigho said.
“Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone.
“Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder,” he said.
She said in 2017, 549 deaths were recorded across 14 states, while thousands were displaced.
“In 2017, clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers resulted in at least 549 deaths and thousands displaced across Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Katsina, Delta and Ekiti states.
“The government must totally overturn its response to these deadly clashes to avoid this crisis getting out of control. They need to investigate and bring suspects to justice,” she said.
She also said the military was currently performing operations in 30 states of the country.
Ojigho cited an incident in December 2017, when a fighter jet had fired warning shots in an Adamawa village to prevent reprisals between the villagers and herdsmen.
“The frequent deployment of soldiers has resulted in many cases of excessive use of force, unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions throughout the country,” the statement read.
“The Nigerian military is currently performing security operations in 30 out of Nigeria’s 36 states and the federal capital territory, often taking over routine policing duties.
“The government’s reliance on the military for help in handling what should be public order situations has also seriously undermined the role of the Nigerian police.
“In some cases where the Nigerian security agencies did respond to communal violence, they used excessive or unlawful force resulting in even more deaths and destruction.
“On 4 December 2017, Nigeria’s air force sent fighter jets to fire rockets at villages as a “warning” to deter spiralling communal violence, as hundreds of herdsmen attacked at least five villages in Adamawa state to avenge the massacre of up to 51 members of their community, mostly children, the previous month in Kikan.
“An Amnesty International team visited the villages in the aftermath of the air raids and gathered witness testimony from residents who described being attacked by a fighter jet and a military helicopter as they attempted to flee.
“Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard. Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful, outrageous and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect.
“This is unlawful and excessive force on a catastrophic scale. It is yet another tragic example where Nigeria’s armed forces are found applying deadly military tactics to law enforcement situations.
“As the herdsmen shot people and torched homes, and the air raid resulted in fire, it was not possible to establish how much of the death and destruction was a direct result of the air attacks or attributable to the attack by herdsmen.
“Houses started burning. Children started running for their lives. Mothers packed up their children and escaped with them. We men were unable to fight back and we started running too. This jet burnt our houses and properties to ashes.
“In some villages, the rocket attacks happened at the same time as the herders raids, while in other villages the air force arrived shortly afterwards, witnesses told Amnesty International.
“Locals in each village also provided Amnesty International with lists of the dead, which totalled 86 names.
“The Nigerian authorities must investigate these attacks and, where these investigations indicate criminal responsibility, prosecute those responsible and bring them to justice,” it added.