JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked a Christian couple in Plateau state, Nigeria with machetes on April 26, leaving the husband with serious injuries, sources said.
Yusuf Pam, 40, was recovering from deep cuts to his head at Nerat Hospital, Barkin Ladi, in Barkin Ladi County. He and his wife, Jumai Yusuf, were riding a motorcycle from Kuru to Kwi when the herdsmen ambushed them near Heipang after a rainfall at about 7 p.m., he told Morning Star News contact Dung Tabari, a resident of the area.
“When the herdsmen stopped us, they had with them sticks, cutlasses, and rifles,” Pam told Tabari from his hospital bed. “We pleaded with them to allow us pass, but they wouldn’t, as four among them mercilessly descended on us. They attacked us by cutting us with machetes. They cut me on my head several times, and these left me with deep cuts as I was bleeding.”
A member of a Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) congregation in Rachos village, Pam said the Fulani herdsmen were many.
“The herdsmen ganged up on me and started an intense beating using sticks and cutlasses,” he recalled.
Miraculously, his wife was able to escape with minor cuts and hands swollen from blows with sticks, Pam said. Jumai Yusuf said no one answered her cries for help.
“They continued beating us and surrounded my husband, who cried out for help but to no avail,” she lamented. ‘I thought my husband was already dead. I escaped from the scene and ran towards our village and called out for rescue.”
Her cries for help as she approached her community brought members rushing to the scene, where they found her husband in a pool of blood, she said.
“He was already at a point between life and death,” she said.
Villagers brought them to the hospital where they were treated.
Pam stated that his medical bills are especially burdensome as he has been living in a camp for displaced persons since a Fulani attack five years ago.
“I’m appealing for intervention, as I cannot pay the hospital bills, as all this while we have been living in an Internally Displaced Persons Camp since the attack on our community by the herdsmen in 2015,” Pam outlined.
Most of the residents of Rachos village have been living in displaced persons camps since the herdsmen attacked in 2015, sources told Morning Star News.
Area resident Tabari said the herdsmen are attacking Christian communities without restraint by authorities.
“We are deeply concerned and worried over the continued armed invasions by Fulani herders, who are perpetrating these attacks basically not only to reduce our numerical strength, but also to advance their uncivil course of land-grabbing,” Tabari said.
Area Christians are a peace-loving people who not only preach peace but also have learned to live peacefully with the Fulani herdsmen, he said.
“But it’s now a sad reality that while we show the herdsmen love by accommodating them, they are instead interested in forcefully driving us out our lands,” Tabari mourned. “In spite of these pressures on us, we will continue to show them love as taught us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We will remain resolute as Christians, and nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.”
Joshua Dung Kwon, community leader of Kwi, told Morning Star News in a text message that Fulani herdsmen have attacked Christians over the years without provocation.
“This Sunday’s incident where this couple were victims is to instill fear into us so that we will not be able to farm in this farming season,” Kwon said. “This will invariably cause economic hardship as ours are agrarian communities.”
Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, national coordinator of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN), called on authorities to end the herdsmen attacks.
“We are pleading with the Plateau state government and other constituted authorities to as a matter of urgency swing into action so as to get the actors arrested and prosecute them,” Mwantiri said. “We call on the Nigerian government to stem the recurrence of the unwarranted activities of the marauders who appear to have resumed their unprovoked hostilities on unsuspecting Christians in Plateau state.”
Detained for Speaking Out
Nigerian soldiers tasked with protecting against such attacks detained and mistreated a Christian for complaining about lack of security in Plateau state, the detainee said.
Moses Gata, a resident in an area of predominantly ethnic Irigwe encompassing Miango and Kwall districts in Bassa County, said military personnel from the Special Task Force (STF) on April 10 took him from his home to their base and manhandled him, putting him under tap water and ordering him to roll on the wet floor as they insulted him and his tribe.
Gata had complained to soldiers when he and relatives on April 8 visited the aftermath of a herdsmen attack the previous night on a farm in Ngeli village, Kwall District of Bassa County, that killed a pastor, two other men and a child, he said.
Gata said he was saddened to find the Division Police Officer (DPO) of Bassa County and an army officer trying to justify to villagers their inability to protect them.
“I told them that security personnel are to blame for these incessant attacks on our people by the herdsmen,” Gata told Morning Star News. “The Divisional Police Officer admitted that my observation was right, but that the reason our plight has not attracted the attention of the government is because we don’t have people in government to speak on our behalf.”
Gata told them the attacks came about because of the withdrawal of soldiers from the area two days prior, and that furthermore the government had failed to establish programs to bring aid, rehabilitation and resettlement to cushion the effects of the attacks, he said. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps are lacking in many areas, he added, leaving people without food or shelter.
After Gata cited the inability of the government and security agencies to protect Christians, the army captain threatened to find his house and arrest him, he said. Two days later, the afternoon of April 10, more than a dozen soldiers stormed into his village and “arrested me, bundled me, threw me into their vehicle and returned to their base,” he said.
“At their base at MODACS Guest Inn, they put me under a running tap and asked me to roll on the wet floor,” Gata told Morning Star News. “I was manhandled and treated like a common criminal. They called me all sorts of names and insulted my people.”
The army captain told him that after this experience, he would respect soldiers, Gata said. He added that the soldiers accused him of inciting people against them and the government.
“I was held captive by the soldiers for more than one and half hours,” he said. “I was all wet and was forced to sit under the cold weather for more than an hour and a half, and that inflicted me with a serious fever at night that I had to receive treatment for.”
Friends who followed the soldiers to see where they were taking him were also arrested and beaten, he said.
“They were slapped, kicked and ill-treated by the soldiers outside the compound of their base,” Gata said. “It took the intervention of a legislator for me to be released by soldiers at 5:56 p.m.”
No Protection, No Aid
Gata said he has spoken out on behalf of Christian communities because attacks have forced them into inhumane and catastrophic conditions, on top of the horrific loss of life.
“There’s been incessant killings, rampaging, ransacking and dislodging of Irigwe communities by Fulani herdsmen,” he said. “The recent killings of alarming magnitude resumed when Operation Safe Heaven, the security task force in charge of security surveillance on the Plateau, withdrew soldiers in most of the villages in the land on March 23-24.”
A day after the withdrawal, herdsmen attacked Kperie and Ngbrazongo villages, killing six people, he said. Herdsmen attacks on Ncha village on March 31 killed five people, burned several homes and left half the residents homeless, he said. On April 5, herdsmen killed 10 Christians at Hukke and Nkiedongwro villages, burning down several houses, destroying farmland and looting valuables, he said.
A leading member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in the Miango area, former National Assembly Member Lumumba Dah Adeh, said in a press statement in April that herdsmen killed at least 40 people in the Irigwe chiefdom of Bassa County during the first three months of the year.
The people in the predominantly Christian areas were killed in 19 attacks on 15 communities, Adeh said.
“The recent killings and destruction of property is a continuation of the spate of attacks on the peace-loving people of Irigwe chiefdom which started over the years, as some of the villages affected by the recent attacks like Rikwe Chongu, Ancha and Nkiedonwro have been attacked repeatedly,” Adeh said. “Apart from those that lost their lives and those wounded, the communities are still reeling in pains over the loss of valuable property which include 15 farms, 330 houses and other items valued at millions of naira like cars, food barns, water pumps, motor bikes, etc..”
Federal agencies like the National Emergency Management Agency charged with helping people in such circumstances have been absent, he said.
“While these killings have continued, the good people of Irigwe are constantly reminded that they are on their own and have no shoulders to lean on, because even as the attacks persisted, there has been no strong committed response or action from either the local, state or federal government to reassure and give the people a sense of belonging as citizens of Nigeria,” Adeh said. “The people cannot reconcile why at the height of these attacks and the consequent dispersal of the villagers, no intervention or support has been extended to them as done to other communities who had found themselves in similar situations.”
On Jan. 30, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a genocide warning for Nigeria, calling on the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to take action. CSI issued the call in response to “a rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants in the country’s north and middle belt regions.’”
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.