By Troy Augustine and Sandra Elliot
8/26/16 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – While north-central Nigeria teeters on the brink of sectarian violence, the government continues to ignore mass murder occurring on a near weekly basis. Radical Muslim Fulani militants continue to ravage Christian farming communities, razing them to the ground and murdering villagers in attacks that range from the far north into the southeast.
The Nigerian government has failed time and time again to care for and protect its own citizens. The Fulani militants represent no new enemy as they continue to ravage north-central Nigeria, razing Christian farming villages in a continuing hailstorm of fire, gunshots, and brutality since 2001. They have been officially categorized as a terrorist group and could be responsible for up to 80 percent of Nigerian violent deaths in the “Middle Belt” region of the country, according to analysts.
While their threat grows continuously, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government merely pays lip service to the violence that mounts tens of thousands of victims since 2001. While Buhari ordered these terrorists to be disarmed, attacks continue to grow in their geographical breadth and brutality.
An Expanding Trend
The persecution story in northeastern Nigeria surrounds Boko Haram. Borno and Adamawa states, specifically, have suffered the brunt of the insurgency’s fury. However, southern Adamawa state faces violence and threats from the Fulani militants as well, a disturbing trend that demonstrates the vast reach of this expanding trend across all of Nigeria.
One recent startling attack took place over the weekend starting on July 29 and ending on August 1. It was three days of total onslaught and destruction for the Christian communities of Kodomun in the Adamawa State. This particular attack is disconcerting because it falls outside the usual geographic range of the Fulani herdsmen as Adamawa is a northern state, not a Middle Belt state.
Militants murdered 25 Christians in this attack, including elders, young and middle aged men, women and children. By the end of the weekend, approximately 2,500 people were displaced.
“The entire village has been overran and run down. On Friday eight men were hacked to death on their farms,” recalled Rev. Wesley Penuel, “On Saturday and Sunday more were ambushed and killed when they went to pick up their corpses of their dead relatives.”
After the attacks, relatives feared gathering their dead, leaving bodies littering the streets of the small village. Police and military personnel chose not to intervene in the situation, as they considered the attacks to be communal feuds over land rights.
This description misrepresents scale and brutality of the ongoing violence, while also ignoring the religious elements.
This is also not the first time Adamawa has seen such attacks.
In January of this year, Fulani militants attacked four villages in Girei Council area namely, Demsarei, Wonamoh (Koh), Ndikajam and Tabongho, leaving a wake of death, numbering approximately 100 people.
Approximately 300 homes and a school building were destroyed in Wonamoh, 50 homes and a church were razed in Ndikajam, 120 homes and a church were leveled in Tabongho, and 90 homes and another church were demolished in Demsarei.
The natives of these cities were primarily Christians.
In May of 2012, a press release issued by Bwatiye traditional leaders described a massive attack against communities in Lamurde, Adamawa. In this attack, 12 villages were burned to the ground and an unknown number of lives were lost.
Attacks such as these cannot continue at this frequency and rate of expansion.
“We find the failure of the government unacceptable, as it is equally becoming more challenging to restrain our people from rising up to their own self-defense,” explained Pene Da Bwatiya at a recent press conference.
The failure of the Buhari administration to contain such violence is not only a hazard for the Christian victims, but for the nation as a whole. Civil unrest can escalate to large-scale violence if left unaddressed.
In 2010, inter-sectarian riots raged in Jos, Nigeria between Christians and Muslims when angry Christians took up arms, fed up with constant harassment from the Fulani. Thousands were feared killed in the clashes.
“We assume [the] government is aware that unless culprits are brought to book, we run the danger of communities resorting to the dreadful steps of securing justice,” the press statement read, “The result is going to be chaos and disorder in the country beyond the scope of [the] government to control.”
It is imperative that the Nigerian government recognize the actions of Fulani attackers as a careful, calculated and orchestrated agenda. With this recognition must come a tactful plan to disarm the assailants and protect potential victims.