Herdsman (photo credit: BBC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has disclosed that it is investigating the crisis between farmers and Fulani herders in the Middle Belt to determine if crimes allegedly committed were within its jurisdiction.

This was revealed by the lead prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, in a report on ICC activities for 2018 presented at The Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday.

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In 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 North-Central 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 Punch reports that 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.”

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

It stated that while there seemed to be a tangible prospect of further proceedings against members of Boko Haram, the same could not be said of military officers because the Nigerian authorities usually denied allegations against them.