Buhari: It's an injustice to blame me for herdsmen killings

A crying woman consoles another one who lost her husband during clashes between cattle herders and farmers, on January 11, 2018.

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has said it is unjust to blame him for the actions of herdsmen suspected to have carried out a wave of killings in the country's Middle Belt in the past few months.

Buhari has faced immense criticism on social media from furious Nigerians for his perceived silence over the violence, which many believe is being carried out by cattle herders from the Fulani tribe.
They are angry at the relative ease at which the herdsmen repeatedly attack vulnerable communities across the country's central region.
    Many say few arrests have been made nor does anyone appear to have been brought to justice.
    In the most recent killings over the weekend, police say 86 people were killed, however locals in Plateau State have said the number of deaths is much higher.
    The Christian Association of Nigeria has issued a statement saying the current death toll stands at 218.
    CNN has not been able to independently verify these claims.
    The president, who is ethnically Fulani, on Tuesday visited Jos where the attacks happened and released a statement saying he should not be blamed for not talking to the herdsmen because he "looks like one of them."
    ''...The present herder, I am told, carries AK47 and people are even blaming me for not talking to them because maybe (they say) I look like one of them. There is some injustice in these aspersions,'' he said in a statement released by his aide Garba Shehu.
    President Buhari added that his administration has made gains in the area of security.
    "It is noteworthy that many Nigerians still acknowledge that despite the security challenges, this administration has made notable successes in the security sector," he added.

    Surge in attacks

    Insecurity in the country is certain to be a defining issue in the upcoming 2019 presidential elections.
    Nigeria is already grappling with a decade-long Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed thousands of people and displaced millions internally.
    Violence between the Fulani herdsmen, who are mostly Muslims, and farmers, who are predominantly Christians in Nigeria dates back to 2013.
    According to the Global Terrorism Index, Fulani extremists killed over 2,500 Nigerians between 2012 and 2016.
    Cattle herders have evicted farmers by initiating deadly attacks in Nigeria's Middle Belt, according to the report compiled by non-profit think tank Institute for Economics & Peace.
    There has been a surge in attacks in Nigeria's central states this year, more recently the killing of 19 people including two priests while in January, 72 people were killed in a New Year's Day massacre, amid several outbreaks of violence in the region.

    'Retaliatory attacks'

    Fingers often point in one direction when violence flares in this part of the country. And this time it is no different.
    However, Danladi Ciroma, head of the northern arm of the Cattle Herders Association, Miyetti Allah, denied his herdsmen group was involved.