Nigeria: Peaceful Protest Raises Alarm At Persistent Killings
A peaceful protest was held in Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau State, on 25 May in response to incessant killings by a militia of Fulani ethnicity often referred to as ‘armed herdsmen’.
Around 130 people were killed in attacks on over 23 communities in the Mangu and Riyom Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state which began on 15 May. The attacks displaced tens of thousands of people, and resulted in the looting and destruction of thousands of homes, and of farmlands and food barns.
According to Member of the House of Representatives for the Mangu/Bokkos Federal Constituency, Bulus Solomon Maren, while over 100 people in his constituency died in the recent militia attacks, an additional 100 people had been killed between February and May.
CSW Nigeria (CSWN) Press Officer Reuben Buhari said: ‘Although Mangu LGA had not been entirely free from the attacks and killings that have affected other LGAs in the state and other parts of the Middlebelt, the ferocious deliberateness of current attacks on villages in the LGA are a sad testament to Nigeria’s incapability to protect its own citizens.’
In a comment to CSW The Most Reverend Benjamin Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, also lamented the failure to protect vulnerable communities, saying: ‘The security services appear to have no mandate to intervene decisively. The same security arrangements have been ongoing for 20 years. Unless there is a drastic change in command and control, it is effectively an official death sentence on us.’
There has been a concerning rise in attacks, abductions and killings in central Nigeria since the ending of the electoral period, and particularly in Plateau, Benue and Kaduna States.
Around 400 people were reportedly killed in Benue State within a three-week period in April, as communities in Apa, Guma and Otukpo LGAs came under attack. The dead included children, pregnant women and people displaced by earlier violence who were sheltering in a makeshift camp in a local school.
Rural communities in Zangon Kataf LGA in the southern part of Kaduna State have also experienced a marked surge in violence. For example, between 11 March and 15 April over 70 people were killed, and an unknown number displaced in four attacks on separate localities.
Cyclical attacks on non-Muslim farming communities in Plateau, Kaduna and Benue States have been ongoing since 2010, 2011 and 2016 respectively, and increased exponentially under the outgoing federal administration. Arrests of perpetrators are extremely rare, and prosecutions do not occur.
During the recent attacks, each state has also witnessed the deliberate targeting of churches, church leaders and their families. For example, CSW has been informed that two of the children of Rev Daniel Sule, of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zagun DCC, Plateau State, were abducted on 23 May.
On 10 March militia men invaded the Karimbu-Kahugu community in Lere LGA, in the predominantly Christian area of southern Kaduna State. They proceeded directly to the home of Baptist pastor, Dadi Babas, where they fired shots into the ceiling, killing his son who was hiding there, and abducted his wife and three other people. Then on the evening of 23 March, militia men attacked the home of Rev Musa Mairimi of the ECWA Church Buda 2 in Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru LGA, southern Kaduna, killing him and abducting his wife.
On 2 April, Palm Sunday, militiamen invaded the Christians Pentecostal Church located at Akenawe, Tswarev in Ukemberagya/Tswarev Council Ward of Logo LGA, Benue, where they killed a young boy and abducted the church’s leader, Pastor Gwadue Kwaghtyo, and three other worshippers.
A government gazette published in January 2022 designated non-state actors who, among other things, commit ‘kidnappings for ransom’, ‘killings in communities’ and ‘wanton destruction of lives and properties’ in ‘any part of Nigeria, especially in the North-West and North-Central Regions,’ as terrorists.
Mr Buhari continued: ‘The lack of effective official intervention to stem this violence and punish perpetrators is unacceptable and discouraging. We urge all levels of governments to go beyond the usual press statements, expressions of condemnation, and condolences released after each attack, and to mandate security forces to provide effective protection for vulnerable communities and bring perpetrators to justice. The fact that people have continued to die in such significant numbers merely highlights the ineffectuality of these statements, and the seeming inability by government to bring these killers to justice emboldens them even further.’
CSW UK’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas added: ‘The Nigerian government has both the duty and the capacity to rout these terrorists and save the lives of its citizens. We therefore urge the federal and state authorities to prioritise the pursuit, arrest, and prosecution of these terrorists, and to immediately initiate partnerships with relevant stakeholders in areas where dialogue is needed. In order to restore the confidence of citizens, we also urge the federal authorities to immediately initiate a relief program for IDP camps, and to assist the injured who are still hospitalised or who have permanently been rendered disabled.’
Caption: Protests in Jos, 25 May 2023.