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2/29/16 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into a recent upsurge in radical Fulani attacks on Christian communities in Benue State, Nigeria, according to the BBC. The announcement comes after a week of brutal assaults tallied reports of hundreds of deaths, including 145 killed throughout 25 villages in Agatu Local Government Area (LGA), alone.

Nigerian newspapers report that the violence displaced nearly 7,000 villagers.

Agrarian Christians across Nigeria’s “Middle-Belt” region face what some observers are calling genocide after enduring 15 years of brutal Islamist Fulani raids with countless people being slaughtered on a near weekly basis. Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, and parts of Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, and Gombe states make up the region most heavily under attack from these Islamist Fulani gangs.

“We will conduct an investigation to know exactly what happened; the only way to bring an end to the violence once and for all is to look beyond one incident and ascertain exactly what factors are behind the conflicts,” Buhari said.

Buhari expressed shock about the recent attacks. He also urged Nigerians to put aside their differences and live in peace.

“We are all one nation and one people. There should not be any reason why Nigerians of any group or tongue cannot now reside with one another wherever they find themselves after decades of living together,” he said.

“Once the investigations are concluded, we will act immediately to address the root of the problem,” he added.

Buhari’s comments come in a long pattern where Nigerian officials have failed to truly evaluate the root issues. They continue to constitute these ongoing horrific attacks only as historical tensions over land rights for cattle grazing versus farming.

On January 25, the BBC reported attacks in Adamawa State that killed 29 people as “revenge attacks,” for cattle theft, claims no witnesses ever substantiated.

“It is the longstanding issue over grazing rights and cattle rustling between Egba and Fulani people,” police spokesman Ezeala Austin said after an attack in March 2015 that killed more than 80 Christians in Plateau State.

Peace will never take root as long as these voices continue to assign part of the blame for these atrocities to the Christian farmers who are clearly victims, continually.

Even if unconfirmed reports of cattle theft were proven true as catalysts for vengeance, the scope and scale of human suffering the Fulani have waged across Nigeria’s Middle-Belt represents such a vastly disproportional response. Therefore, the explanation lacks reasonable credibility.

Ongoing Persecution in Benue

The recent spike in Benue is nothing new to the state. Ground sources in Nigeria tell International Christian Concern (ICC) that in a three year span from 2012 to 2014, Fulani herders attacked more than 300 villages in Benue alone.

The past week’s attacks are sadly just another increase in a long line of violence Christians face in Benue.

ICC has learned that Fulani herders murdered nine people and injured 12 in assaults on Mbaya and Mbaapen villages in Bukuru LGA in early January. The violence reportedly also displaced more than 1,000 people and resulted in immeasurable property loss through burned homes.

“I narrowly escaped being killed by the attackers,” a local government official in Bukuru told ICC.

While Boko Haram continues its terrible attacks on communities in northeastern Nigeria, the Fulani herder onslaught in the Middle Belt continues unabated, claiming nearly as many lives and causing a similar toll of destruction on churches and Christian homes.

“The level of brutality that Fulani herders continue to barbarously wage towards Nigerian Middle-Belt Christian communities cannot be understated. ICC condemns this systematic, ongoing depopulation of the region within the highest order of human tragedy and atrocity. Fearing Christians face constant threat of fire, machete, and gunshots as each of these attacks tells the same tragic story. We must not allow the frequency and heightened brutality Christians continue to endure in this region to desensitize us to the real human loss and suffering they experience. Nigerian officials should follow their first mandate in protecting all Nigerians against violent threats to life and property, whatever the source, instead of allowing these crimes to continue unpunished and conveniently explained away through the lens of resource wars and historical tribal tensions,” ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Troy Augustine, said.

For interviews Please Contact Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa: [email protected]

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington DC-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.  For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.