A leader of Fulani herdsmen in southeastern Nigeria has blamed "criminals and mercenaries" for an attack police say killed 20 people this week.

The attack on Monday in Enugu state has been widely blamed on armed Fulani cattle herders. But Alhaji Ardo Ss'idu Baso on Thursday said the community had been infiltrated by "bad eggs" and called on the government to help "deal with them."

Several clashes between roving herders and farmers in northern and central Nigeria have been reported in recent months.

President Muhammadu Buhari's office on Wednesday condemned the attack in Enugu state and said the government is taking "urgent steps" to bring the perpetrators to justice. Local media reports said the attack in Ukpabi Nimbo killed more than 40 people.