By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – The UN has said it will probe the alleged killings of over 800 people in Nigeria’s southern Kaduna, where suspected herdsmen have repeatedly clashed with locals in the past few weeks.

Dr. Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a statement on Wednesday her office would look into the “recent allegations of killings of over 800 citizens mostly women, children and the elderly in southern Kaduna by suspected herdsmen, and to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to provide reparations to victims.”

This followed a Dec. 30 petition by the local civic group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), which requested Callamard to use her office to get to the bottom of the issue that had raised ethnic-religious tension in the state.

In the communication sent to SERAP, the special UN rapporteur thanked the group for their petition, and said she would “review it with great attention” and update them on “follow-up interventions”.

The clashes in southern Kaduna are multidimensional, according to various local nonprofit groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development. In a recent report, the group said the crisis involved herdsmen and local farmers who struggle over scarce resources such as water and land rights.

However, Christian bodies claimed the crisis in the area was ethnic-religious, alleging an attempt by mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen to wipe out local tribes who are largely Christians or animists. Accusing the government of not protecting the populace, the Christian Association of Nigeria called the killings “ethnic cleansing and genocide”, a sentiment security agencies have denied.

In a statement on Wednesday, apex Muslim body Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) condemned the killings in the area, and said that Christian leaders had helped to fuel the crisis with “hate speeches and unguarded statements”.

“More worrisome was the ineptitude and pettiness from some religious leaders, and individuals with sinister motives and political undertones alongside intent to foment trouble, and imbalance reportage,” JNI spokesman Khalid Aliyu said.

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