PLATEAU STATE — Church leaders in Plateau State, Nigeria are calling on the government to intervene as a reported 6,000 people in Christian-identified communities have been either killed or maimed by Fulani Muslims in 2018 alone.
“What is happening in Plateau state and other select states in Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately,” reads a statement released by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
It said that the violence by the Muslim herdsman is particularly severe in the north and middle belt, and that women, children and the elderly have been affected by the attacks the most. CAN feels that little is being done about the matter, and that the “perpetrators are being deliberately allowed to go scot free.”
“We are particularly worried at the widespread insecurity in the country where wanton attacks and killings by armed Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists have been taking place on a daily basis in our communities unchallenged despite huge investments in the security agencies,” the statement outlines.
“It is even more worrisome that these huge numbers of over 6,000 deaths in 2018 alone have been recorded in various attacks, especially in the northern and middle belt states of Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Kwara, Borno, Zamfara and other states when the country is not in a state of war.”
CAN said that the world has especially been brought to attention following the recent attacks in Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Riyom and the Bassa local government areas of Plateau state.
“There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage,” the Association stated.
As previously reported, last month, a Nigerian pastor, along with his wife and son, were among the 200 killed in the Barlin Ladi area during three days of attacks. Chidi Okoroafor, leader of the Assemblies of God denomination in Nigeria, told Morning Star News that Fulani herdsman also burned down the building where Musa Choji had served as pastor.
“We received with pains in our heart the brutal killing of our pastor, Musa Choji, his wife, his son and many other Nigerians including women and children, and also the burning of our church,” Okoroafor said. “The leadership of the Assemblies of God Nigeria calls for serious prayers and asks the government to do her expected responsibility by fishing out perpetrators of this ungodly act.”
CAN believes that the lack of help provided in the midst of the bloody assault underscores their concerns.
“The attacks by the so-called herdsmen across the local areas listed in 11 villages of Plateau state where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them, further buttresses our concern that the security architecture of the land and the handlers have woefully failed,” it lamented.
In May, Fulani militants attacked worshippers at a church in Mbalom, killing 19 and destroying over 60 homes. In March, Sunday Zibeh, a pastor in Miango, reported that he and others escaped gunfire as Fulani began shooting inside of his church—but some of his members’ children were killed inside their own home.
“It was after the herdsmen had retreated that I was alerted that they killed some children in one of my member’s house,” Zibeh recalled to Morning Star News. “I rushed to the house to find that four children were killed in the house, and one was taken to the hospital.”
The attacks have resulted in protests on the streets, as Christians are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to come to their aid. Buhari has decried the killings as “wicked, condemnable and completely unacceptable acts,” remarking on July 5 after receiving members of CAN that he believes it is “terribly unfair” to state that the government is doing nothing to curb the violence.
“In recent weeks, we have beefed up its strength with the deployment of extra special forces from the defense headquarters. Besides, we currently have no fewer than three special military intervention forces in the troubled zones,” he said. “(We launched) Operation Safe Haven to secure Plateau State, Operation Whirl Stroke 1 (OPWS) to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and OPWS 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States.”
“These forces are supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies,” Buhari said.
CAN stated that while it appreciates Buhari’s ear, it wants to see the perpetrators brought to justice. The Association also made clear that it rejects any characterization of the violence as a “farmer/herdsmen clash.”
“How can it be a clash when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed?” it asked. “How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are the predators and the inhabitant/indigenous farmers are the prey? Until we call a disease by its real name and causatives, it would be difficult to properly diagnose the disease for the right curative medications.”
CAN is asking for the United Nations to become involved lest the violence spread to other nations throughout the world.
According to Open Doors USA, more than 60,000 people who identify as Christian have been killed by Fulani violence since 2001.