The northern Nigerian state of Zamfara is “at the mercy” of armed bandits who have killed at least 371 people this year, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Daily kidnappings and raids across the state have left villagers in constant fear of attack, while the herder-farmer conflict has displaced thousands from their homes, said the rights watchdog.
“This is Nigeria’s forgotten conflict. The authorities’ failure to act has left villagers in Zamfara at the mercy of armed bandits, who have killed hundreds of people over the course of two bloody years,” said Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“The Nigerian authorities have repeatedly claimed to be tackling the situation, but the mounting death toll tells a different story,” Ojigho said.
On Friday July 27, 18 villages in Zamfara were attacked, leaving at least 42 people dead, said Amnesty.
Zamfara has seen a surge of violence since 2012, when clashes between farmers and herders broke out.
The conflict has degenerated into organised criminal attacks, with gangs demanding upwards of 500,000 naira ($1,400) for hostages — an exorbitant sum in a country where the minimum wage is 18,000 naira ($50).
In response to the spiralling violence, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the deployment of 1,000 troops to the state over the weekend.
But Amnesty said previous deployments have had little to no effect at curbing the widespread crime.
The Zamafara violence is just one security crisis putting pressure on Buhari, who is seeking a second, four-year term in polls set for February.
As well as Boko Haram attacks, renewed violence in the long-running resources conflict between cattle herders and farmers in central states has killed hundreds of people this year.