KEFFI, Nigeria (BP) — Armed attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen on predominantly Christian communities in Nasarawa state this year have left more than 200 people dead and destroyed homes and farms, sources said.
One such attack on a worship service on March 19 in the central Nigerian state’s Oshugu village killed two Christians and displaced hundreds from the Loko Development Area of the Nasarawa Local Government Area (LGA), a survivor told Morning Star News.
“The attack on our village occurred this morning while we were in the church,” the survivor, identified only as Ittah, said on March 19. “Our village head and one other person died, and many were injured. The sad thing is that these Fulanis have been attacking our communities, and no one is doing anything about it.”
Both Christians killed were members of the local congregation of the Evangelical Church Winning All.
A petition to Nigeria’s National Assembly by the Nasarawa-based Ajiri Afo Development Association on March 16 stated that since January armed herdsmen have killed more than 200 people and injured 500 others. The petition cites “killings, rapes, and kidnappings of our people.”
“We are in pain and distressed, we are dying as a result of this destruction to our economic activity in our lands,” Aminu Suleiman, president of the association, stated in the petition. “Most of our farms and villages are now deserted due to insecurity.”
He reported continual attacks and kidnappings by Fulani herdsmen on Ajiri Afo farmers and villages in Nasarawa LGA, Kokona LGA, Agwada, Udege and Loko Development Areas.
“The herdsmen with their cattle would forcefully invade a farm land, eating up and destroying it,” he reported. “Any form of protest by farmers results in attacks. These attacks have left more than 200 dead and 500 with several wounds, while most of the surviving victims are suffering from emotional stress.”
The herdsmen attacked Udeni Magaji, Ogeni, Oshugu, Odeni Gida, Odu, Oseni, Ogufa, Ogapa, Gwende, and Ajaga, according to the petition.
“We want the government to also ensure the security of the affected communities against further attacks,” Suleiman stated.
John Kennedy, a spokesman with the Nasarawa State Police Command, told Morning Star News that police are working toward curtailing the attacks.
Fulani herdsmen have long attacked Christian farmers in Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Taraba and Adamawa states, but recently analysts have begun to see ties between the assailants and Islamic extremist groups keen to exploit longstanding ethnic, property and religious conflicts.
On Aug. 24, 2016, Muslim Fulani herdsmen hacked a 60-year-old Christian farmer to death with machetes as he worked on his farm outside of Andaha town, Nasarawa state.
Herdsmen from Nasarawa state and Islamist mercenaries from outside Nigeria have attacked villages in neighboring Benue state, killing five Christians in December 2014. The Fulani herdsmen from Nasarawa state, with mercenaries from Chad and Niger, razed several villages, destroying homes and church buildings in the predominantly Roman Catholic Agatu Local Government Area and forcing hundreds of Christians to flee. In a massacre in February 2016, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed an estimated 300 Christians in Benue state.
The Muslim population of Nasarawa state could be as high as 32 percent, with Christians making up as much as 65 percent, Christian support organization Open Doors estimates. Of Nigeria’s overall population, Christians make up 51.3 percent, while Muslims account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.