CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Ineffective Nigerian government response to surging farmer-herder killings risks violent protests spreading to Middle Belt cities

31 January 2018

Key Points

  • Central states have been witnessing a major rise in reprisal killings in the last two months between mainly Christian farmers and mostly Muslim herders.
  • The government has been criticised for lack of a containment strategy, with President Buhari accused of wanting to protect his fellow Fulani.
  • The occurrence of further large-scale attacks is likely to spark sectarian rioting and protests in central Nigerian cities, particularly if there is no sign of a targeted security strategy.

Event

Nigeria has been accused by Amnesty International of using aircraft to fire on civilians as it struggles to find a response to the country’s latest major security challenge.

Pall bearers carry coffins in Benue state capital Makurdi on 11 January during the funeral service for people killed during clashes between herders and farmers. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)Pall bearers carry coffins in Benue state capital Makurdi on 11 January during the funeral service for people killed during clashes between herders and farmers. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

A report issued by human-rights organisation Amnesty International on 30 January 2018 has deepened the debate about the Nigerian government’s ineffective response to surging violence between farmers and herdsmen who mostly belong to the Fulani ethnic group. Amnesty accused the Nigerian air force of using a helicopter and jet aircraft to bomb houses and target civilians trying to hide as hundreds of herdsmen took part in a revenge attack on communities in Adamawa state on 4 December 2017. A total of 86 people were killed, according to Amnesty, with the air force responsible for 35 of the deaths, and raiding herdsmen the remainder, while at least 3,000 homes were destroyed in five villages. Two weeks earlier, ethnic-Fulani settlements had been attacked in Kikan village in Adamawa state, with at least 30 killed, mostly women and children. The Nigerian air force’s public relations director denied the Amnesty claims and told local media that the air raids were “warning shots – not shots to kill” and that they had a “positive effect” because they caused people to flee the area.

Violent confrontations between herders and farmers have been widely reported for at least the last decade in Nigeria, particularly in the Middle Belt states along the fault line between the mainly Muslim north and the majority Christian south.

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