JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – As farmers lamented policies designating land for cattlemen in northern Nigeria, suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed a pastor and four other Christians in Kaduna state on Aug. 19.
Pastor Luka Ubangari of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) at Angwan Anjo village, near Godogodo in the Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA), was shot and killed while returning from an evangelistic outreach in Golkofa village, a resident of Gidan Waya, Emmanuel Garba, told Morning Star News.
“The pastor was ambushed and murdered as he was returning to his village,” he said.
Suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Aug. 21 also attacked Ningon village in Sanga LGA, killing two Christians in their homes as they slept, area resident Nuhu Tukura told Morning Star News.
“Two men were killed and a girl was injured,” said Tukura, a leader in the community. “The girl had bullet wounds and is being treated at the Kafanchan General Hospital.”
The killed Christians were identified as Gambo Sule, 38, and Benjamin Auta, 35, both members of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC) in Ningon village. The attack took place at about 8:45 p.m.
Suspected herdsmen on Aug. 14 also attacked Ungwar Mada village, killing a married couple of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). Their names were not immediately available. A resident of Ungwar Mada told Morning Star News that armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded the Christian community at night and forced their way into the couple’s home.
The attacks came as the Kaduna state government proposed granting land to the Fulani, who are nomadic pastoralists, in an effort to settle them and keep them from property disputes said to be behind the aggression against the predominantly Christian farmers. Solomon Musa, head of an umbrella body uniting regional ethnic groups known as the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), said in a recent press statement that the Muslim Fulani herdsmen’s aggression is not motivated by property issues.
“The same people suspected of carrying out this genocide, that has nothing to do with grass for cows, are the ones being given the government’s approval to sit on annexed land within communities that are completely agrarian,” he said.
Kaduna Gov. Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has since backed away from a proposal to grant the herdsmen grazing reserves on or next to farmers’ land, shifting instead to opening land reserves for investors to develop ranches on which the herdsmen would be settled.
Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry Manzo Daniel Maigari told Nigerian newspaper THISDAY that the ranches will have the same goal of stopping conflict between herdsmen and farmers.
“If you settle herdsmen in ranches, they don’t have to go to people’s farms and spoil the farms,” he said. “So it is the solution that government is looking for.”
Spoiling farms, however, was not the only complaint lodged by thousands of protestors in Gwantu, in the Sanga LGA, on Friday (Aug. 26). Besides alleging state confiscation of their lands for cattle grazing, they decried relentless violence inflicted on them in the past five years.
The protest was organized by SOKAPU. Musa of the organization said in his press statement that between 2011 and 2015, Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna state launched more than 200 attacks that killed over 4,000 people.
“In most of the affected communities, women and children were brutally murdered in a most barbaric manner,” he said. “While in some cases they were hacked to death, in others they were burnt alive and or blown up with explosives.”
Muslim Fulani herdsmen are also suspected in the kidnapping of Yusufu Magaga, an ECWA pastor in Kabene-Surubu village, about two months ago. Pastor Magaga was abducted the night of July 6, when herdsmen attacked Kabene-Surubu village in Kauru LGA, Kaduna state.
“The village was attacked by Fulani herdsmen,” village resident Jacob Wakili reportedly said. “They destroyed the ECWA worship building and abducted the pastor of the church, Yusufu Magaga, and left many others injured.”