The presidency has released statistics which show that more than 22, 077 Nigerians were killed in violent clashes between 1999 and 2015 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power.
The figure was released in a reaction to the PDP’s call for a seven-day national mourning in the wake of the recent herdsmen killing of no fewer than 100 persons, hospitalisation of more than 200 injured persons, and razing of more than 50 houses villages in Barkin Ladi, Mangu and Riyom local government areas of Plateau State.
The PDP, had in a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan announced a mourning period of seven days for the victims of killings in Plateau State and other parts of the country.
During the seven-day period, he said the party’s flags in its offices will be flown at half-mast in honour of those who lost their lives.
Beyond declaring a mourning period, the party called on the residents of Plateau State to demand justice, defend their rights and sue the federal government.
“The PDP urges the people of Plateau State to exercise their rights as global citizens, work with other public-spirited Nigerians and groups and take President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for acting helpless in the face of continuous mass killings in our country,” he said.
But Mr. Femi Adesina, media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari said in a press statement that the PDP “is dancing on the graves of the dead and playing cheap and infantile politics”
The statement read: “The sad and unfortunate killings in Plateau State over the weekend have been turned to opportunity to once again play irresponsible politics, particularly by the PDP, which says it is declaring seven days of mourning.
“These are dolorous times that call for deep introspection on how cheap human lives have become, and the proffering of actionable ideas on how to get out of the bind. But the PDP would rather dance on the graves of the dead, playing cheap, infantile politics.
“The comatose and prostrate party is declaring seven days of mourning, during which flags in its offices would be flown at half mast nationwide. But unknown to the party, those flags had been forcefully lowered since its 2015 loss at the polls, and may remain so for a long time to come, because Nigerians are politically discerning, and cannot be hoodwinked by cheap antics.
“A quick checklist of some savage and brutal killings in Nigeria during PDP rule, between 1999 and 2015, for which no national mourning was declared:
“November 20, 1999. Odi, in Bayelsa State, was invaded on orders of a PDP President. About 2,500 people killed. No national mourning.
“Between February and May, 2000, about 5,000 people were killed during riots over Sharia law in different parts of the North. No national mourning.
“In 2001, hundreds of people, including the old, infirm, women and children were killed in Zaki Biam. No crocodile tears.
“Between September 7-12, 2001, Jos, Plateau State, erupted in internecine killings. Between 500 and 1,000 people were killed. Flags were not flown at half mast.
“In February, 2004, at least 975 people were killed in Yelwa-Shendam, Plateau State. No mourning by the then ruling PDP.
“Between November 28 and 29, 2008, Jos was in flames again, with 381 deaths. No mourning.
“In 2010, 992 people killed in Jos. Mum was the word.
“In 2014 alone, according to Global Terrorism Index, at least 1,229 people were killed in the Middle Belt. No mourning.
“Boko Haram killings in PDP years were over 10,000. PDP flags were still fluttering proudly in the sky.
“Those who take pleasure in twisting statements from the Presidency may claim we are saying that many more people were killed under PDP than under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be unconscionable to do so. The intendment of this statement is to show that wanton killings had been with us for awhile; this government is working towards enduring solutions; and should be given the opportunity to do so.
“Even a single soul is precious, and no man should take a life, which he cannot create. But when tragic situations as had happened in Plateau State occur, such should never be used to play crude politics. Those who are wont to do so should have change of hearts, or lose their very humanity.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International (AI) has said that it independently verified estimated figures showing that since January 2018 at least 1813 people have been murdered in 17 states.
A statement issued by the agency AI director in Nigeria, Mr. Osai Ojigho, said the figure outstripped the 894 people killed in 2017.
Ojigho said the death tolls reflect killings as a result of farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry and blamed the federal government for its failure to hold the murderers to account.
“Nigerian authorities are encouraging impunity that is fuelling rising insecurity across the country,” he added.
“We are gravely concerned about the rising spate of killings across the country, especially the communal clashes between farmers and herders and attacks by bandits across at least 17 states.
“The authorities have a responsibility to protect lives and properties, but they are clearly not doing enough going by what is happening.
“The latest incidence in Plateau State, where armed gunmen attacked 11 villages on 23 June for at least seven hours and killed at least 200 villagers without intervention from security forces should be investigated,” said Ojigho.
Despite the deployment of security forces, including the military in over 30 states, the AI director said escalation of the attacks shows that whatever is being done by the authorities is not working.
“We hope that President Buhari’s commitment to bring those suspected to be criminally responsible for the killings in Plateau State to justice will break the impunity that has spread through the country.
“In addition, government must answer these questions: who are these attackers? Where do they come from? Where do they go after attacks? Who arms them and why is security forces’ response time very slow?”
AI said its investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers.
“In all cases Amnesty International investigated, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappeared without a trace,” said AI.
The organisation expressed concern about the impact of the killings on farming, especially with the affected villages and farmlands deserted because people fear going back to their homes.
“We are at the peak of farming season, and communities affected by this wave of violence are largely agrarian. But because of fear of attacks they have either been displaced or unable to cultivate their farms, therefore their major source of food and income threatened by the attacks,” said Ojigho said.