Omololu Ogunmade and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The presidency Thursday described the report of the Amnesty International (AI), which accused the military of human rights abuses and equally knocked the presidency for allegedly showing no will to curb violence by herdsmen, as careless and mischievous.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has also described the report as largely outdated and inaccurate, and berated the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for allegedly playing politics with the clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, acknowledged the submission of the rights group that the violence by herdsmen was not caused by religion.
Shehu, however, argued that the report, with the title, “Harvest of Death: three years of bloody clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria,” was in contradiction to Global Terrorism Index Report, which he said had acknowledged improved security particularly in the fight against terrorism since 2015.
The statement also dismissed AI’s report that the administration had failed to bring perpetrators of violence to book, saying assailants had been arrested while relief materials had also been distributed to victims.
“It is careless and mischievous to misrepresent the facts and thereby mislead the public.
“Our security forces are not going to be deterred, neither will their morale and effort be affected by any tendentious report that mischaracterises the important sacrifice they make to protect citizens at great risk of injury or death.”
“It is the global norm and custom that assessors and commentators are fair and factual in their reportage and accounts of incidents and situations so that they do not endanger the lives of security personnel or worsen conflicts.
“Nonetheless, our security forces will continue to intensify ongoing and new multi-pronged approaches to conflict resolution.”
The statement highlighted some of the steps the government had taken in recent times to curtail insecurity. “As part of a more comprehensive intervention and response to the violence and conflict, the Federal Government deployed security forces to affected areas, empanelled fact-finding missions, and repeated visits and engagement by the most senior government and security officials/special forces including the President as well as relocating command and control apparatus to such areas.
“Further, the National Economic Council established a 10-man Committee on farmers/herdsmen clashes, headed by the vice president.
“These high-level security operations and attention have led to the arrest of many people responsible for perpetrating violence. As a result, relative calm and peace have been restored to many communities.
“There have been 500 arrests, with many convicted and as a result, relative peace and calm have been restored in many of the affected areas. Of particular note was the arrest and conviction of Alhaji Tashaku Aliyu and others who were apprehended in connection with the killing of two priests and 17 worshippers at St. Ignatius Catholic Church on April 24th, 2018 in Benue State.
“In addition, seven herdsmen that were involved in the kidnapping of a farm owner have been sentenced to life imprisonment by an Ondo State High Court.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has also faulted the report and berated Atiku for claiming that the killings will continue if President Muhammadu Buhari is re-elected in February next year.
Briefing journalists in Abuja yesterday, Mohammed, said the report was largely outdated and full of inaccuracies.
“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, “Mohammed said.
He revealed that many suspects had also been arrested and prosecuted in 11 of the largely affected states.The states are Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Niger, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Yobe, Bornu, Katsina and Kog.
Mohammed gave the total number of offenders facing trial for their role in the killings in those states at 570, while Inspector General of Police Response team had also arrested 123 people, while 121 of them were facing prosecution.
“You can now see that the alleged government inaction is not true,” Mohammed said.