Amnesty International (AI) says bandits have killed at least 1,126 villagers across Nigeria in 2020.
A new report released by the human rights watchdog on Monday said the killings were carried out from January to June 2020 during which about 380 people were also abducted by the bandits.
Incessant attacks across some northern states which have been blamed on bandits have left many either dead or kidnapped, including those who have had to flee their homes and take cover in hotels.
Amnesty International said while security operatives did not heed warning signs about some impending attacks, relevant authorities have failed to bring the killers to justice — and this “fuels impunity”.
“The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen who have killed at least 1,126 people in the north of the country since January,” the report read.
“Amnesty International has documented an alarming escalation in attacks and abductions in several states in north west and north central Nigeria since January 2020.
“Worst affected are villages in the south of Kaduna State, where armed men killed at least 366 people in multiple attacks between January and July 2020.”
Osai Ojigho, AI country director, said the failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from these “predictable” attacks is “utterly shameful”.
“In addition to the security forces’ failure to heed warnings or respond in time to save lives, the fact that no perpetrators have been brought to justice leaves rural communities feeling completely exposed,” she added.
”The President claims he has repeatedly tasked security agencies to end the killing so that Nigerians can go to bed with their eyes closed, but clearly nothing has changed.”
The organisation said it interviewed residents in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states, who said they “live in fear of attacks and abductions as insecurity escalates in rural areas”.
It quoted residents as lamenting how security forces often arrive “hours after attacks have ended, even when officers have been given information about impending attacks”.
“During one attack in Unguwan Magaji in Kaduna state, security forces arrived at the scene but left when they saw the sophisticated ammunition the attackers were using. By the time they returned, at least 17 people had been killed,” the report said.
AI said while the killings have continued, those who speak out against them including farmers, activists and rights groups are “subjected to intimidation, arrest and torture” for speaking out against the attacks.
“The government has an obligation to protect its population. The rising death toll in the north of Nigeria shows just how badly the authorities are failing in this responsibility,” it said.