A total of 71 people were killed in a week of violence in Nigeria’s Benue state, a government spokesman said, much of it involving clashes between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers.
The killings endanger efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari to bring security and stability to Nigeria – a key campaign pledge when he ran for election in 2015.
Muslim herdsmen, mainly of the Fulani ethnic group, and Christian farmers often clash over the use of land in remote areas of the Middle Belt region.
Terve Akase, chief press secretary to the governor of Benue state, attributed 71 deaths from December 31 to January 6 to killings by Fulani. Reuters was unable to verify the figures.
“The attacks happened in remote villages,” said Akase. “Now, with security operatives on the ground, villagers have been going about the bush to pick up corpses.”
Nigeria’s police inspector general, Ibrahim Idris, told reporters last week the country was secure, though more police would be deployed to Benue state to deal with violence.
“What we should be praying for is Nigerians to learn to live in peace with each other,” said Idris.
Nigerian troops were deployed in more than 30 of 36 states to tackle insecurity – a move which has thrown a spotlight on police performance.
In November, at least 30 people from a cattle herding community, including young children, were killed in a clash in the north-eastern state of Adamawa.