A coalition of organised civil society organisations has demanded an end to the spate of killings in Benue State and other states of the Middle-Belt region.
This was stated in a “joint civil society communique on the crisis in the middle belt” released following a meeting on Monday at the Global Rights Secretariat, Maitama, Abuja.
The meeting was convened by the Global Rights and had in attendance Chidi Odinkalu, former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); Otive Igbuzor, Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD); among others.
The communique lamented the huge death toll, mass displacement, destruction, and humanitarian crises associated with the “spiraling crisis of violence and mass killings” in the region.
The coalition warned that the crisis threaten peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.
It also decried impunity from the government, citing a provision of the 1999 constitution that encourages humaneness.
“In the 17 years since 2001, the African Centre for Strategic Studies estimates that over 60,000 have been killed in this rising violence in the Middle Belt, representing a yearly average of over 3,500 killed.
“Nigeria’s 1999 constitution makes clear that the primary purpose of government is the safety, security and welfare of all who live within its territory. Section 17(2)(c) of the same constitution commands that ‘government actions shall be humane.
“The government has shown it self unwilling or unable to confront these killings and to put end to them. By so doing, it has abdicated its constitutional duty to guarantee the safety, security and well-being of all who live in Nigeria.”
The groups also called on the Federal Government to live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and promoting welfare.
They demanded an end to the impunity “that has led to the spiral of the conflict in the Middle Belt by immediate ordering of a full investigation”.
They enjoined the government to also ensure adequate provision of humanitarian aid and assistance to displaced communities, ensure an urgent accounting of the missing and dead as well as an estimation of the loss incurred, and mobilise resources to give room to other well-meaning individuals to contribute their bit in bringing the crises to an end.
The communique stated that the coalition will be establishing a “Nigerian CSO Crisis Action on the Middle Belt to explore collaborative and complementary options for constructive action on the crisis of mass killings in the region.
“At this time, [we] stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens in Benue and Zamfara States across the (other) states of the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. To them, we reiterate that you are not alone and that the injustice you suffer you suffer is our collective shame and pain.
“We call on all concerned Nigerians to join us as we organise towards a national day of mourning and remembrance later in May to memorailise all whom we have lost and demand for government that has the capacity to re-discover ― if it can ― the reason for its existence.”