By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government has disputed the report of Amnesty International (AI), which accused it of failing to investigate and appropriately bring to justice killers that fuelled the herders- farmers’ clashes in some parts of the country.
It also descended on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in next year’s election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for politicising the crises by claiming that the killings will continue if President Muhammadu Buhari is re-elected in February next year.
In its report, the London-based AI had accused the government of lethargy. It said government’s inaction had allowed impunity to flourish.
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who briefed reporters on Thursday, punctured AI’s report, saying it was largely outdated and full of inaccuracies.
The minister said that it was wrong for AI to impute that government had done nothing to stem the killings and that security agencies’ response time was slow.
“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 insisted that apart from taking concrete measures to end the killings, many of the offenders had been arrested and prosecuted.
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 Kogi.
Mohammed gave the total number of offenders facing trial for their roles in the killings in those states at 570, while the 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. I think Amnesty International should update its report to reflect the present reality, which is that the killings from the herders-Farmers clashes have thinned down because of concerted efforts by the federal government and that perpetrators of the killings are being brought to justice,” Mohammed said.
He also noted that he had read the New York Times report on indiscriminate killing of Shiite protesters in Abuja, adding that the federal government does not condone extrajudicial killings or the willful violation of the rights of its citizens.
While promising that the report and the video would be studied with a view to determining its authenticity for necessary actions, he warned of a choreographed campaign to demoralise the military, which he said is dangerous, considering their sacrifice and gallantry, adding that care must be taken not to do anything that will kill their morale and hamper the fight against terror.
The minister scolded former Vice-President Atiku for his remarks that the farmers-herders killings will continue if Buhari is re-elected for a second term of four years. He said the ascription amounted to politicisation of the killings, bad politicking and it is totally unacceptable.
“If it is indeed true that the former vice-president said that, it must be an act of desperation due to his floundering campaign. It is clear to all Nigerians that the electioneering of the PDP presidential candidate has failed to gain traction. From Sokoto to Ilorin to Ibadan to Gombe, it has been a disastrous outing for the campaign. With that magnitude of failure, anyone can say anything to stay afloat,” Mohammed said.
The minister, who also attacked opposition lawmakers that heckled the president during the budget presentation on Wednesday at the National Assembly, described their action as unruly and infantile politicking and parliamentary rascality.
“The plan by the opposition was to embarrass the president and prevent him from presenting the budget. But they were comprehensively overwhelmed by our lawmakers who are in the majority. That also sends a clear signal to the opposition that they lack the number to override the president’s decision not to accent to the Electoral Bill,” Mohammed said.