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UN Special Adviser On Prevention Of Genocide, Nderitu, Condemns Airstrike On Fulani Community In Nigeria, Calls For Probe, Punishment Of Perpetrators

February 5, 2023

SaharaReporters had reported that on January 24, 2023, an airstrike on Rukubi village, a border community between Nasarawa and Benue states killed pastoralists. 

The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, has called on the Nigerian government to urgently investigate and hold those responsible for the recent airstrike on a Fulani community accountable.

SaharaReporters had reported that on January 24, 2023, an airstrike on Rukubi village, a border community between Nasarawa and Benue states killed pastoralists. 

It had been reported that the airstrike led to the killing of at least 40 herders predominantly from the ethnic Fulani community while scores of others were injured.

But reacting in a statement on the atrocity, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Nderitu, strongly condemned the airstrike and called on the Nigerian government to investigate and ensure accountability.

Nderitu reminded President Muhammadu Buhari's government that a military airstrike in 2017 hit an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Borno state that resulted in 54 civilian casualties.

In the statement titled: "The worsening security situation in Nigeria," the Special Adviser said she was appalled that once again civilians are targeted in an indiscriminate manner in Nigeria. 

While she urged the Nigerian authorities to ensure that counterterrorism operations are conducted in full respect of international human rights and humanitarian law, Nderitu called on the authorities to promptly fulfill 

their obligations to investigate the airstrike and hold accountable the perpetrators of the heinous attack, which could amount to serious violations and abuses of human rights. 

“I am particularly concerned about the situation in the North-West and North Central regions of Nigeria, where the air attacks resulting in casualties from the Fulani community took place. 

"These dynamics of targeting communities along identity lines, if unaddressed, risk further fueling intercommunal tensions, recruitment by armed groups and retaliatory attacks, with obvious impact on civilians,” she said.

The statement partly read, "The Special Adviser is also deeply concerned about the worsening security environment in Nigeria characterized by the politicisation of transhumance, and increasing divisions among communities, including based on stigmatisation along religious and ethnic lines. 

"These are all indicators of increasing risks of atrocity crimes as established by the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes developed by the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. 

“In this extremely volatile environment, it is important that the general elections scheduled to be held on 25 February 2023 do not trigger violence and even atrocity crimes.

"The Special Adviser also reiterates her concern for increasing trends of hate speech along identity lines and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence that permeates the political discourse in Nigeria."

“I call on all political actors and authorities to abide by the National Peace Accord they signed that includes their commitment for peaceful campaigns in Nigeria. I also encourage all actors to respect the rule of law, and discard stigmatizing and discriminating narratives targeting communities,” she maintained. 

She appealed to Nigerians to always use the country’s judiciary system to address disputes instead of resorting to violence and the incitement thereof in the context of elections and beyond. 

Recalling the Global Consultation organised by her Office in Abuja in May 2022 on the role of traditional leaders in preventing atrocity crimes the Special Adviser calls on religious and traditional leaders and actors in Nigeria to do their utmost to appease tensions, prevent incitement to violence and address the risk of atrocity crimes in view of the upcoming general elections and beyond. 

The Special Adviser also expressed concerns about the manipulation of transhumance in the political discourse, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel region. 

“Continuous high levels of violence targeting communities in relation to transhumance, including with hate speech and incitement to violence, are particularly concerning in view of upcoming elections in many countries in the region. I call on all actors to urgently take action to address conflicts, prevent atrocity crimes and allow for peaceful elections to take place." 

In Nigeria and the wider region, the Special Adviser also emphasized the importance of the prevention role played by the African Union’s Panel of the Wise and the ECOWAS’ Panel of Elders in their advisory and mediation capacity. 

"The Special Adviser reiterates her continuous support towards strengthening existing Nigerian prevention mechanisms, including the judiciary and early warning mechanisms, as well as to address and counter hate speech trends in the country," she said. 

Moreover, she recommended that protection and accountability gaps should be promptly addressed by Nigerian authorities who bear the primary responsibility to prevent crimes from being committed.