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86 die in Fulani herdsmen clashes with Christian farmers

PLATEAU, Nigeria (BP) — At least 86 people were killed June 23 in Nigeria’s Plateau State in clashes reportedly between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers, Plateau police said.

Six others were injured and 50 homes were destroyed, Plateau Police Commissioner Undie Adie confirmed the following day, although it was not clear how many of the dead were farmers. The weekend violence capped three days of attacks on Christian farmers in Plateau villages, police told the Guardian, and is the latest in an ages-old feud for land rights.

Hundreds of miles south in Oyo State, Fulani herdsmen continue to occupy land they’ve taken from farmers in at least 10 government areas, Southern Baptist Nigerian advocate Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press. Nomadic herdsmen have taken land by various means, Ojutiku said, either posing as settlers, attacking and terrorizing native landowners, initiating faulty land deals, or attacking farmers who refuse to accept purchase offers.

‘Following the forceful and insidious land grab, the Fulani become mixed settlers of farmers and herders, growing staple food commodities for market and grazing surrounding lands,’ said Ojutiku, who operates the Lift Up Now grassroots outreach to Nigeria from Raleigh, N.C.

‘The Fulani send in their cattle to graze the farms of non-Fulani that stubbornly refuse to vacate their land,’ he said, ‘in order to frustrate their farming operations and detach them from their means of livelihood.’ Fulani typically rape women displaced and widowed by the violence, Ojutiku said.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, himself an ethnic Fulani, has been accused of neglecting to address the violence. After the Plateau attacks, Buhari urged villagers to be calm, promised justice and said he would work to prevent further violence, CNN reported.

Local governments are enforcing curfews from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to encourage peace, according to news reports.

In addition to the 86 killings, two Berom children were killed in Arangai and Mangu Halle villages June 22, the Guardian reported. The next day, Berom youths set up barricade points on Jos-Abuja highway and, according to witnesses who escaped, attacked motorists who looked ‘Fulani or Muslim,’ the Guardian wrote.

Violence between Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers has escalated since 2013 and is becoming more frequent across the nation, according to news reports, with thousands of casualties.

While the killing was occurring in Plateau, smaller clashes were underway between Fulani herdsmen and ethnic Bachama farmers in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa state, the Guardian wrote today (June 25). There, six were killed and seven injured when farmers prevented herdsmen from grazing in a field outside Dowayan village, Othman Abubakar told French news agency AFP. Groups from both sides burned houses of their adversaries, according to Abubakar.

Amid the violence, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has urged Buhari to intervene on behalf of five Christian youths sentenced to death in Adamawa in June, convicted in a 2017 attack on three Fulani herdsmen. The youths were convicted of killing one of the Fulani, Adama Buba, and throwing his body into a river. The Independent, a Nigerian news site, reported Buba fell into the river and drowned, according to World Watch Monitor.

Buba is believed to have been the ringleader in a 2016 attack that killed 48 people in Kodamun, a predominantly Christian village in Adamawa, World Watch Monitor reported today.

In its June 19 appeal to Buhari, CAN noted ‘with regret how hundreds of our members in southern Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, [and] Plateau states in the north-central geo-political zones, and a state like Enugu in the south, have been killed and are still being killed on a daily basis by some criminals parading themselves as Fulani herdsmen, but are yet to be apprehended,’ World Watch Monitor wrote.