ICC probes Nige­ria’s farm­ers-herders con­flict

The Punch - - FRONT PAGE - Sam­son Fo­larin

The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court has said it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the farm­er­sh­erders cri­sis in the Mid­dle Belt to de­ter­mine if crimes al­legedly com­mit­ted were within its ju­ris­dic­tion.

The lead prose­cu­tor of the ICC, Fa­tou Ben­souda, made the rev­e­la­tion in a re­port on ICC ac­tiv­i­ties for 2018 pre­sented at The hague, Nether­lands, on Wed­nes­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the pre­lim­i­nary re­port, which also cov­ered some other coun­tries, the ICC said from Jan­uary to June 2018, over 1,300 peo­ple were re­port­edly killed dur­ing vi­o­lent clashes be­tween herders and set­tlers in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Adamawa and Taraba states, adding that no fewer than 300,000 per­sons were dis­placed.

“Fur­ther­more, the Of­fice re­ceived com­mu­ni­ca­tions on at­tacks al­legedly car­ried out by Fu­lani herders and Chris­tian set­tlers in the con­text of the vi­o­lence in Nige­ria’s North­cen­tral and North-east ge­o­graph­i­cal zones. This vi­o­lence, which has been ob­served by the Of­fice since 2016, is of­ten re­ferred to as a con­flict be­tween Fu­lani herders and Chris­tian farm­ers, stem­ming from lim­ited ac­cess to wa­ter, land and other re­sources.

“The es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence in late 2017 and 2018 is re­port­edly the re­sult of the rise of eth­nic mili­tias and com­mu­nity vig­i­lantes and the pas­sage of graz­ing laws in some of the af­fected states that re­port­edly im­posed restrictions on herders, among oth­ers.

“Mili­tias are also re­ported to have clashed with Nige­rian se­cu­rity forces de­ployed in the af­fected area to ad­dress the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion. Some of the at­tacks on civil­ians were al­legedly com­mit­ted by crim­i­nal gangs in­volved in cat­tle rustling that were sub­se­quently blamed on Fu­lani herders.

“The Of­fice has re­viewed these com­mu­ni­ca­tions and con­tin­ues to gather ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion to de­ter­mine whether there is a rea­son­able ba­sis to be­lieve that the crimes al­legedly com­mit­ted in this con­text fall un­der ICC ju­ris­dic­tion,” the re­port said.

The body said al­though the gov­ern­ment was con­duct­ing tri­als of some mem­bers of the Boko haram sect, it had yet to try the com­man­ders of the in­sur­gents.

The ICC noted that the au­thor­i­ties were, how­ever, not tak­ing se­ri­ously al­le­ga­tions against mil­i­tary of­fi­cers ac­cused of com­mit­ting war crimes.

“Ac­cord­ing to high-level mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tors met by the Of­fice, crimes com­mit­ted by in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the Nige­rian Armed Forces that could fall un­der the Court’s ju­ris­dic­tion are to be in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted by the rel­e­vant ser­vices in the Nige­rian De­fense Forces.

“Sev­eral files per­tain­ing to al­leged vi­o­la­tions by mem­bers of the army were sub­mit­ted to the Of­fice. These files re­late to a lim­ited ex­tent to the two po­ten­tial cases iden­ti­fied by the Of­fice.

“Sixty-one of the 27 files pro­vided to the Of­fice, 24 ei­ther lacked in­for­ma­tion to de­ter­mine their rel­e­vance for the ad­mis­si­bil­ity as­sess­ment or did not ap­pear rel­e­vant.”

The re­port noted that since 2017, the Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties ap­peared to have taken steps to­ward in­ves­ti­gat­ing and pros­e­cut­ing ICC crimes.

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