Nigeria needs urgent action to end violence, says UN expert

By agency reporter
September 4, 2019

Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflicts and generalised violence that must be addressed urgently, with issues like poverty and climate change adding to the crisis, said UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard after visiting the country.

“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern”, said Callamard presenting a preliminary statement at the end of her 12-day mission.

The absence of accountability is on such a scale that pretending this is nothing short of a crisis is a major mistake. If ignored, its ripple effects will spread throughout the sub-region if not the continent, given the country’s important role.

“Nigeria is confronting nationwide, regional and global pressures, such as population explosion, an increased number of people living in absolute poverty, climate change and desertification, and the increasing proliferation of weapons. These are re-enforcing localised systems and country-wide patterns of violence, many of which are seemingly spinning out of control”, the UN expert said.

Callamard highlighted issues of concern including the armed conflict against Boko Haram in the northeast, insecurity and violence in the northwest, the conflict in the central area known as the Middle Belt and parts of the northwest and south between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities, organised gangs or cults in the south, repression of minority and indigenous groups, killings in the course of evictions in slum areas and widespread police brutality.

The UN expert said some positive signs had been reported in the fight against Boko Haram and splinter groups, including a decreasing number of allegations of arbitrary killings and deaths in custody at the hands of the military forces over the last two years. However, she said there had been little progress in terms of accountability and reparations for massive human rights violations in the past.

“I particularly urge the Nigerian Government, and the international community, to prioritise as a matter of urgency accountability and access to justice for all victims, and addressing the conflicts between nomadic cattle breeding and farming communities, fuelled by toxic narratives and the large availability of weapons”, said Callamard.

“A number of high-profile cases of killings by police have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the officers responsible. Some cases relating to the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farming communities have led to investigations in Benue State. However, such examples of accountability remain the exception”, Callamard said.

“In almost all of the cases that were brought to my attention during the visit none of the perpetrators had been brought to justice. It is unfortunate that most of the findings made in this regard by the then Special Rapporteur in 2006 remain accurate.

“The loss of trust and confidence in public institutions prompt Nigerians to take matters of protection into their own hands, which is leading to a proliferation of (vigilante) self-protecting armed militia and cases of ‘jungle justice’”, she said.

“I call on the Nigerian authorities to look carefully into my findings and I remain available for further cooperation”, Callamard said.

During her mission, Callamard met Government officials and local authorities as well as family members whose relatives had been brutally killed, people forced to move from their homes (internally displaced persons), civil society organisations, and the UN. She visited Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Jos, Port Harcourt and Lagos.

The Special Rapporteur will present a final report containing her conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020. 

* Read the end of visit statement here

* Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/Home.aspx

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