Why violence persists in Plateau, Kaduna- Human Rights Watch

The Human Rights Watch interviewed over 180 victims and witnesses.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday in Abuja blamed the failure of the Nigeria police and the judiciary to successfully prosecute and convict criminals as a major contributor to the increased violence across the country. The organisation said the non-prosecution and conviction occurred even in cases where the identities of the suspects are well-known

During the release of the organization’s report on accountability for inter-communal violence in Plateau and Kaduna states, Eric Gattshuss, a Nigeria researcher at HRW, said the increased violence in Plateau and Kaduna states are due to a slow and almost non-functional judiciary and police in Nigeria.

“Many years in both of these states, the perpetrators of these crimes including mass killings have barely been held accountable or prosecuted,” Mr. Gattshuss said, “while the root cause of violence can be attributed to long standing grievances and disputes, the failure of the police and other Nigerian authorities to bring to justice those who have carried out these crimes have helped fuel the violence.”

The report titled “Leave Everything to God” also accused the Nigerian Government of turning deaf ears to mass murder that has been witnessed in these states which has left over 3, 000 people dead since 2010.

Many of the victims of the communal violence including women and children were reportedly hacked to death, shot or even burnt alive based on their ethnic identity.

Plateau and Kaduna State have been known for communal clash, post- election and religious violence.

In April, 2011, post- election violence in Kaduna state left over 4, 000 persons displaced and several houses destroyed and burnt. This also prompted the Kaduna State government to disburse N140 million to the displaced person.

Noting that the present research was carried out from 2010 to 2012 in both states, Mr. Gattshuss said that HRW interviewed over 180 witnesses and victims of violence. The researchers also interviewed police investigators, judges, community leaders, and others in the states. It also reviewed reports of commissions of inquiry and federal panels set up on the states.

Many witnessed interviewed, who knew the perpetrators, said the police never took actions when reports were made; while others who failed to report these crimes would not do so because they believed ‘the police won’t do anything.’

Mr. Gattshuss noted that most times majority of the weapons gathered and presented could not be linked to the individuals arrested.

Also speaking, Daniel Bekele, Africa director, HRW, said the lack of prosecution by Nigeria authorities is one of the reason why the organization has focused on the two states which have overtime experienced increased violence.

“Another reason why we want to focus on situations in these two states is also the disturbing lack of response from the Nigeria criminal justice in terms of investigating and prosecuting the perpetuators of these crimes,” Mr. Bekele said.

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