PLATEAU, Nigeria (BP) — Christian and human rights leaders in Nigeria are urging the government to protect villages from terror by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in the wake of a nine-day killing spree in Plateau State.
The killing of at least 48 Christians in several villages in mid-October, including women, children and the elderly as they slept, is part of a continuing assault on Christians by Fulani herdsmen who have joined forces with terrorist groups, Morning Star News reported Oct. 25, based on personal accounts from pastors and congregants.
“In the past few weeks, our people have been attacked by Muslim Fulani herdsmen who are collaborating with armed terrorists to invade our communities,” Morning Star quoted Moses Tsohu, a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwrua village. “These attacks are being carried out daily. Every blessed day we witness the invasion, killing of our people and the destruction of their houses.”
In addition to the killings in the attacks on 13 Christian communities, nine people were wounded, churches were destroyed or abandoned, and 249 homes were ruined, Morning Star reported from villagers’ accounts. Some of the attacks occurred during dusk-to-dawn curfews and with security forces stationed nearby.
Yakubu Pam, northern chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has urged Nigeria’s federal government to intervene, or the herdsmen will likely consume minority ethnic groups in the north. In an Oct. 17 media statement, Pam condemned the attacks in the Bassa local government area especially where women, children and the elderly were attacked as they slept. The herdsmen killed 29 Christians in Bassa during a curfew intended to restrict movement, Pam said.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Atolagbe, commander of a special security task force in Plateau, was investigating how the attack took place, the digital news site Today.ng reported Oct. 17.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a grassroots non-governmental organization, repeated a longstanding cry for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to declare armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
“We condemn in very strong terms the persistent denial of the reality of the armed Fulani terror campaign across the country by the current administration of President Buhari,” HURIWA said in an Oct. 17 blogpost. The government has “failed to take concrete, verifiable and legal based actions to put to an end to the spectacles of blood curdling terror attacks of armed Fulani herdsmen.” HURIWA accuses Buhari of lacking zeal in stopping the armed herdsmen because of his Fulani heritage.
The Global Terrorism Index described armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists as early as 2014, blaming them for nearly 1,250 deaths that year alone, a sharp increase over the 80 deaths they were blamed for in 2013.
The herdsmen have arisen in an ages-old dispute with Christian farmers for land rights. Among the herdsmen’s deadliest attacks in Nigeria, the Fulani killed 300 Christians in Benue in February 2016 and killed 200 Christians in Nasarawa in March 2017, it was widely reported.