2020 Mass Atrocities Report

 

 

Mass Atrocities report 2020

The year 2020 was a brutal year for most, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted nations and systems across the world. COVID-19 heralded the largest and most fatal global health crisis in recent times, with incredible infection rates, and an unprecedented loss of lives in almost every nation. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, continued its own trajectory of grief and loss, contending not only with the global health pandemic, but also with its endemic insecurity that has spiralled exponentially in the past decade
Our tracking of mass atrocities across Nigeria for 2020, (indicated through casualties of violent attacks, clashes, terrorism, kidnappings, and extrajudicial killings) informs that at least four thousand, five hundred and fifty-six (4,556) lives were lost between January and December 2020. A glaring spike of almost 43% in the number of casualties in comparison to the 2019 figure of Three thousand, one hundred and eighty-eight (3188). Of the above number, three thousand, eight hundred and fifty-eight (3,858) were civilians, while 698 were state security agents. For the second year running, for every 5.5 deaths  recorded, at least 1 of them was of a security officer. The state with the highest number of fatalities remained Borno state in the North East, closely followed by Kaduna state, in the North West. Interestingly, the state with the lowest number of fatalities was also in the North – Gombe state with one (1) victim. The Southern parts of the country fared better – at least numerically. The southern states also contended with their own security challenges which led to the establishment of the controversial Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) – codenamed Operation Amotekun.

It is important to note that these killings must be contextualized within the larger triggers of violence inherent in the Nigerian state. So, while our report has focused on the killings and kidnaps across the country, it acknowledges other forms of violence and atrocities by state and non-state actors. It is equally important to note that the swiftest method for determining a nation’s propensity for violence, is to measure how it’s most vulnerable are faring. In 2020, Nigeria’s most indigent and vulnerable groups fared poorly. For instance, in spite of the pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns, and need for social distancing, some state governments, particularly Lagos and Kaduna, and the Federal Capital Territory Administration, did not hesitate to demolish slum communities without prior notice to make room for ‘development’ projects, and walked away unperturbed about the humanitarian crisis that they had created, or how they had further jeopardized the public health crisis the nation was confronted with.

Rather than seek to protect unaccompanied and vulnerable minors in the wake of the pandemic, some northern state governors, hurriedly proscribed the informal Almajiranci system of education, which has for decades been notorious for engendering various forms of child abuse, rounded up Almajiri children and expelled these vulnerable class of children to their ‘states of origin’ as part of their response to curbing the spread of covid19. Several of these children eventually tested positive for covid19.

The brutality of security forces enforcing the lockdowns clearly were not commensurate to the threat ‘erring’ citizens posed. At least 33 persons were extrajudicially killed in relation to the enforcement of lockdowns. Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) also spiked exponentially throughout the country, especially during the lockdowns. In that span of time, the most vulnerable – mainly children, women, underaged domestic workers, and disabled persons found themselves at mercy of their abusers with whom they were confined, without access to clearly thought-out state interventions. Hunger. That one word summed up the experience of most Nigerians during the pandemic lockdown phases. Many were unable to access their livelihoods, or, had lost their jobs and became indigent. Most were also unable to access the muchtouted government sponsored “palliatives” and conditional cash transfers, and clamoured for the lockdowns to end, stating that they would “rather die of covid19 than of hunger”.

In August 2019, Nigeria’s government unexpectedly closed its land borders intending to combat the llegal smuggling of goods from other countries, in particular – illicit small arms and light weapons, through the nation’s porous borders. In addition, the government stated that it intended to prevent the indiscriminate importation of food products and force-boost local food production. While that sounded good on paper, the deeper context was of a country in which agriculture was lagging not only because of poor technology for propagation, transportation, and storage; but also because of insecurity in its food basket states,  which had forced a large number of farmers to abandon their farms, and was at the precipice of a food crisis; thereby engendering  an  increase  in  hunger  and unemployment. The effects of this decision are manifested through the rise of inflation rate (12.88%), unemployment rate (27.1%) and a spike in crime and insecurity. Also, the border closure did not seem to have impacted the proliferation of arms and light weapons. What was more tragic was the discovery of several warehouses across the nation in late October and early November, where palliative food packages meant to have been distributed during the lockdowns, had been hoarded with many of them already expired. These discoveries led to massive looting by indigent citizens who were already at their wits end, and had been triggered by the #EndSARS protests’ tragic disruption.

The #EndSARS protests were a watershed moment in Nigeria. The protests had been ignited by the massive human rights violations by security forces; in particular, the Special Anti-robbery Response Squad (SARS). The movement which had began as a digital hashtag 7 years previously, against the highhandedness of the squad, especially against young Nigerians, finally reached its tipping point and
spilled over into the streets in major cities across Nigeria. The protests were later disrupted by counter-protesters and security forces with fatalities. The brutality against the #EndSARS protesters was not the only threat to the nation’s civic space. Several protesters in other peaceful protests were arrested or brutalized by security forces. The government also sought to restrict civic freedoms through laws and policies. For example, the Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, a.k.a Social Media Bill,  which sought to punish dissenting voices; the ‘Control of Infectious Diseases’ Bill under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic; and the sly passage of an amended Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020, which fulfils the objectives of previous attempts of civil society regulatory bills– all which seek to give despotic
powers to government. The pillaging, better known as “banditry” in NorthWestern Nigeria continued unabated and comingled with kidnappings. The attacks on communities in Southern Kaduna bore elements of pillage and kidnapping coupled with arson, and resulted in several displacement. Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto suffered similar fate, with new informal IDP camps across Northern Nigeria, with scores of thousands of Nigerians forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Niger Republic. The landscape of organized crime in Nigeria remained relatively unchanged with its traditional actors: the terrorist groups Boko Haram, and The Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) continued to hold sway in the North-East with hybrid spread to the NorthWest and North-Central, other forms ‘herdsmen’ bandits/pillagers, gang marauders, kidnap syndicates, an assortment of cult-gangs, continued across other parts of the country, and at its southern borders -pirate groups on the Gulf of Guinea. The internal security response system landscape also remained largely the same with the armed forces taking the lead on security issues in most parts of the country – especially in the North and Middle Belt regions of the country. The police force continued to handle the softer law enforcement issues, but have remained overwhelmed. The calls for reforms trailed both the military and police formations. For the military formations, the calls for the retirement and replacement of the service chiefs, all of who had served beyond their statutory retirement age, continued to echo through the year,
as it had in recent years. The call for police reforms also rang through the year cumulating in the #EndSARS movement. The launch of regional security apparatus in the South West, and promise of the same in the South East also point to attempts at reforms.

The year 2020 was a brutal year for most, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted nations and systems across the world. COVID-19 heralded the largest and most fatal global health crisis in recent times, with incredible infection rates, and an unprecedented loss of lives in almost every nation. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, continued its own trajectory of grief and loss, contending not only with the global health pandemic, but also with its endemic insecurity that has spiralled exponentially in the past decade. Our tracking of mass atrocities across Nigeria for 2020, (indicated through casualties of violent attacks, clashes, terrorism, kidnappings, and extrajudicial killings) informs that at least four thousand, five hundred and fifty-six (4,556) lives were lost between January and December 2020. A glaring spike of almost 43% in the number of casualties in comparison to the 2019 figure of Three thousand, one hundred and eighty-eight (3188). Of the above number, three thousand, eight hundred and fifty-eight (3,858) were civilians, while 698 were state security agents. For the second year running, for every 5.5 deaths  recorded, at least 1 of them was of a security officer. The state with the highest number of fatalities remained Borno state in the North East, closely followed by Kaduna state, in the North West. Interestingly, the state with the lowest number of fatalities was also in the North – Gombe state with one (1) victim. The Southern parts of the country fared better – at least numerically. The southern states also contended with their own security challenges which led to the establishment of the controversial Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) – codenamed Operation Amotekun.

It is important to note that these killings must be contextualized within the larger triggers of violence inherent in the Nigerian state. So, while our report has focused on the killings and kidnaps across the country, it acknowledges other forms of violence and atrocities by state and non-state actors. It is equally important to note that the swiftest method for determining a nation’s propensity for violence, is to measure how it’s most vulnerable are faring. In 2020, Nigeria’s most indigent and vulnerable groups fared poorly. For instance, in spite of the pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns, and need for social distancing, some state governments, particularly Lagos and Kaduna, and the Federal Capital Territory Administration, did not hesitate to demolish slum communities without prior notice to make room for ‘development’ projects, and walked away unperturbed about the humanitarian crisis that they had created, or how they had further jeopardized the public health crisis the nation was confronted with.

Rather than seek to protect unaccompanied and vulnerable minors in the wake of the pandemic, some northern state governors, hurriedly proscribed the informal Almajiranci system of education, which has for decades been notorious for engendering various forms of child abuse, rounded up Almajiri children and expelled these vulnerable class of children to their ‘states of origin’ as part of their response to curbing the spread of covid19. Several of these children eventually tested positive for covid19.

The brutality of security forces enforcing the lockdowns clearly were not commensurate to the threat ‘erring’ citizens posed. At least 33 persons were extrajudicially killed in relation to the enforcement of lockdowns. Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) also spiked exponentially throughout the country, especially during the lockdowns. In that span of time, the most vulnerable – mainly children, women, underaged domestic workers, and disabled persons found themselves at mercy of their abusers with whom they were confined, without access to clearly thought-out state interventions. Hunger. That one word summed up the experience of most Nigerians during the pandemic lockdown phases. Many were unable to access their livelihoods, or, had lost their jobs and became indigent. Most were also unable to access the muchtouted government sponsored “palliatives” and conditional cash transfers, and clamoured for the lockdowns to end, stating that they would “rather die of covid19 than of hunger”.

In August 2019, Nigeria’s government unexpectedly closed its land borders intending to combat the llegal smuggling of goods from other countries, in particular – illicit small arms and light weapons, through the nation’s porous borders. In addition, the government stated that it intended to prevent the indiscriminate importation of food products and force-boost local food production. While that sounded good on paper, the deeper context was of a country in which agriculture was lagging not only because of poor technology for propagation, transportation, and storage; but also because of insecurity in its food basket states,  which had forced a large number of farmers to abandon their farms, and was at the precipice of a food crisis; thereby engendering  an  increase  in  hunger  and unemployment. The effects of this decision are manifested through the rise of inflation rate (12.88%), unemployment rate (27.1%) and a spike in crime and insecurity. Also, the border closure did not seem to have impacted the proliferation of arms and light weapons. What was more tragic was the discovery of several warehouses across the nation in late October and early November, where palliative food packages meant to have been distributed during the lockdowns, had been hoarded with many of them already expired. These discoveries led to massive looting by indigent citizens who were already at their wits end, and had been triggered by the #EndSARS protests’ tragic disruption.

The #EndSARS protests were a watershed moment in Nigeria. The protests had been ignited by the massive human rights violations by security forces; in particular, the Special Anti-robbery Response Squad (SARS). The movement which had began as a digital hashtag 7 years previously, against the highhandedness of the squad, especially against young Nigerians, finally reached its tipping point and spilled over into the streets in major cities across Nigeria. The protests were later disrupted by counter-protesters and security forces with fatalities. The brutality against the #EndSARS protesters was not the only threat to the nation’s civic space. Several protesters in other peaceful protests were arrested or brutalized by security forces. The government also sought to restrict civic freedoms through laws
and policies. For example, the Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, a.k.a Social Media Bill,  which sought to punish dissenting voices; the ‘Control of Infectious Diseases’ Bill under the guise of the Covid-19 pandemic; and the sly passage of an amended Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020, which fulfils the objectives of previous attempts of civil society regulatory bills– all which seek to give despotic powers to government. The pillaging, better known as “banditry” in NorthWestern Nigeria continued unabated and comingled with kidnappings. The attacks on communities in Southern Kaduna bore elements of pillage and kidnapping coupled with arson, and resulted in several displacement. Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto suffered similar fate, with new informal IDP camps across Northern Nigeria, with scores of thousands of Nigerians forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Niger Republic. The landscape of organized crime in Nigeria remained relatively unchanged with its traditional actors: the terrorist groups Boko Haram, and The Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) continued to hold sway in the North-East with hybrid spread to the NorthWest and North-Central, other forms ‘herdsmen’ bandits/pillagers, gang marauders, kidnap syndicates, an assortment of cult-gangs, continued across other parts of the country, and at its southern borders -pirate groups on the Gulf of Guinea. The internal security response system landscape also remained largely the same with the armed forces taking the lead on security issues in most parts of the country – especially in the North and Middle Belt regions of the country. The police force continued to handle the softer law enforcement issues, but have remained overwhelmed. The calls for reforms trailed both the military and police formations. For the military formations, the calls for the retirement and replacement of the service chiefs, all of who had served beyond their statutory retirement age, continued to echo through the year, as it had in recent years. The call for police reforms also rang through the year cumulating in the #EndSARS movement. The launch of regional security apparatus in the South West, and promise of the same in the South East also point to attempts at reforms.

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Mass Atrocities report 2020

 

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