Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday said escalating violence across five states in the North-central part of the country has killed more than 1,000 people since December 2013.
HRW in a statement said the failure of authorities to investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice was likely to exacerbate the cycle of violence in the conflict-prone North-central region.
It said communal violence, stoked by competition between local farming communities and nomadic herdsmen, which had plagued this region for many years had spread to other states in northern Nigeria.
“The lack of justice for years of violence resulting from inter-communal tensions has created a combustible situation,” said Daniel Bekele, Director at HRW in charge of Africa.
He said government needed to ensure full criminal investigations and provide justice for the victims and their families.
It said: “Adding to the overall tension in the central region, a bomb explosion on April 14, 2014, killed more than 71 people and injured hundreds others in Nyanya, in the Abuja suburbs.
“The attack, occurring during an early morning peak period and at a usually crowded commuter motor park, appeared aimed at achieving a high casualty figure. Nyanya is in Nasarawa State, one of the states affected by communal violence, though it did not immediately seem to be connected to those conflicts.”
HRW said recent conflicts had taken a very high toll on lives and livelihoods and led to the displacement of hundreds of people, who had sought refuge in neighboring urban areas.
The organisation said it spoke to scores of displaced residents of affected communities camped at six locations in Makurdi, the capital of Benue, one of the affected states.
It renewed its earlier calls on the Nigerian government to establish and publicise clear boundaries for international and regional cattle routes and grazing reserves; establish mechanisms to mediate between local farmers and nomadic herdsmen on the basis of recognising and protecting the rights of all; ensure that those responsible for mass killings, including security forces, are promptly investigated and prosecuted.
The group also wants the government to order a thorough review of the status and outcome of police investigations into communal violence in north central Nigeria; and establish and train a mass crimes unit in the police force that can be quickly deployed to investigate mass crimes.