2016 Attack in Goska, Nigeria Preceded by Death Threats, Government-Imposed Lockdown

By ICC Nigeria Correspondent

11/23/2021 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – Many were killed on Saturday, December 24th 2016 when Fulani militants  began shooting sporadically in the Goska Kanikon village of Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA) in Kaduna Kaduna State.

The attack took place shortly after the indigenous people of Southern Kaduna protested the abysmal security situation in the region. The Christian Association of Nigeria estimates that 102 people were killed, 215 were injured, and 50,000 houses were burned across 25 Christian communities in the Jema’a LGA in November, 2016 alone.

The Christmas Eve attack, which lasted into the early hours of Christmas morning according to Bulus Monday, assistant youth leader of the community, continued until both the General Officer Commanding a division of the Nigerian Army and the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police visited Kafanchan, the headquarters of Jema’a LGA, to assess the progress of troop operations in Southern Kaduna where most of the recent attacks had occurred.

Kaduna state, like many in North-Central Nigeria, is divided along religious and ethnic lines. The Hausa-Fulani ethnic group, mostly Muslims, make up the majority in Northern Kaduna whereas Southern Kaduna has a larger population of Christian-majority ethnic groups.

While narrating the Christmas Eve incident to International Christian Concern at the Village Head Hall recently,  ASP Danjuma Aura Rtd. spoke about his community’s history with the Fulani people. “Historically there have been some conflicts between the natives and the agrarian Fulani herders in the village about destruction of crops,” he said. “But such issues have always been settled without necessarily killing anyone.”

In the leadup to the 2016 attacks, Danjuma said, “we received a written letter addressed ‘to Goska.’ Our youth picked the letter on the ground, out of curiosity. They read and called the attention of the community leaders who did same.” The letter was written in the Hausa language and threatened Goska with violence, according to Danjuma.

“We wrote to the police and the army amongst other appropriate agencies informing them of the threat of attack by the Fulani ahead of the incident,” Danjuma said. “To our dismay, nothing was done by the security agents to avert the evil plan until we were attacked.”

In mid-December 2016, El-Rufai imposed a 24-hour lockdown on Jema’a, extending from December 19, 2016 into early 2017. The lockdown order made it impossible for the villagers to coordinate any kind of early-warning system for impending attacks. El-Rufai ordered this lockdown even though the herdsmen had frequently attacked in the preceding months and had been spotted in the surrounding areas for three days before El-Rufai imposed the lockdown.

Reacting to the incident, Mrs. Lami Dogo—who was widowed in the attack—said that for her “the pain is fresh every day. We’ve not being able to go to our farms without fear of being raped and or killed by the Fulani militants. We stay home unsure where the next meal would come from.”

According to Reverend Ayuba Alkali, “the killing of innocent Nigerians has continued without any sign of halting anytime soon, or even ever. If nothing is done deliberately with genuine intention to curtail it, it will consume the Christians. We’ve become helpless in our land.” He added that his late wife, Mrs. Polina Alkali, was “stabbed in the back of her head and killed on her own farm by the Fulani militants. Five other villagers, men and women were ambushed and killed same day. And the story is the same to today, thereby rendering the Church more and more vulnerable.”

” I can’t forget what the Fulani militants did to me. I forgive them as a Christian, but my hand is now amputated,” said a survivor from Goska village. “It is difficult for me to work given my challenges. I paid money to farm, yet the Fulani militants destroyed my crops,” she said. “I need help to start a new business,” she added.

El-Rufai received significant public backlash for his role in the deadly attack in Goska. Still, despite the criticism, he continued to use lockdowns, including in the months immediately following. For example, on February 21, 2017, he placed the Jema’a and Kaura LGAs into lockdown despite local leaders’ protests that the lockdown made them more vulnerable. The area experienced severe attacks. A 24-hour lockdown was again imposed in October of 2018, following sectarian violence in Kasuwan Magani.

El-Rufai has a long history of fueling religious tension. He even claimed, in a tweet posted on September 8, 2014, that Christians were behind Boko Haram, funding and controlling it “to tarnish the name of Islam.” In his tweet, he specifically accused the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other Christians of being behind specific church bombings and shootings. Far from a front for CAN, Boko Haram is an Islamist terror group with strong ties to Islamic State.

In the days leading up to his 2019 reelection, El-Rufai whipped up public anger and physical violence when he falsely claimed that 130 Fulani had been killed in Kajuru, a locality near the capitol city of Kaduna. The Fulani are a Muslim-majority ethnic group. Many, including the National Emergency Management Agency and El Rufai’s own Commissioner of Police denied his claims of an attack on the Fulani. In fact, eleven native Catholics were killed in Kajuru a few days before his comments. Suspected Fulani militants killed 127 people in Kajuru in what were presumably reprisal attacks in the month following El Rufai’s statement.

In 2012, El-Rufai threatened anyone who might challenge the Fulani, even in the line of military duty. “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan payable one day no matter how long it takes,” he tweeted. When he took office as governor in 2015, he said that “the Fulani have nothing to fear, since a Fulani [is] now governor of the state.”

ICC urges the United States to sanction El-Rufai and his family in response to his severe persecution of Christians in Kaduna State. In an upcoming report, ICC plans to highlight the danger that El-Rufai poses to the Christian community and shine a light on his extravagant, wealthy lifestyle and  worldwide travel.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: press@persecution.org.

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