Fulani Christians in Nigeria have spoken out against the persistent attacks and killings attributed to Fulani herdsmen in the central state of Plateau, calling on them to embrace peace and shun all acts of violence.
Rev. Buba Aliyu, chairman of the Fulbe Christian Association of Nigeria, led a contingent of Fulani Christian leaders on a visit to the palace in Irigwe, where 60 people have been killed in recent attacks, including 27 people who had sought refuge in a school where the army had a base.
“In this period of mourning, we have come to condole with the entire Irigwe chiefdom, the Plateau people and Nigeria as a country, and we pray that God will grant you the fortitude to bear this loss,” Rev. Aliyu said.
“We as [the] Fulbe Christian Association of Nigeria do not support such dastardly acts; we call on all Fulani and other tribes to please live in peace and harmony and shun any act that could breed violence.”
Another member of the contingent, retired General Ishaku Dikko, said a panel should be set up to unravel the root cause of the crisis and prevent further attacks.
He added that Nigerians needed to be “patient” with the country’s security forces. “They are dealing with Nigerians. This is not war situation, it is an issue of internal security, and principally their effort is to contain it, and not to allow it [to] degenerate,” he said.
“I can even say that the Special Task Force troops are even overstretched, because they cover up to Southern Kaduna.”
Irigwe’s chief, Ronku Aka, said the community had forgiven the herdsmen. “My people, during an open field prayer on 28 October, where about 4,000 persons of the chiefdom were in attendance, were asked by the preacher that day to forgive the Fulani or whoever attacked and killed our people,” he said.
“We all have resolved to forgive the perpetrators unconditionally. As I speak, there are still Fulani doing their business in Irigwe land; some are driving their buses and taxis as usual and very soon I believe everything will become normal.”
The chief thanked the Christian Fulanis for their visit, and assured them they are still welcome to hold their annual prayer meeting in Irigwe.
After a period of relative calm, violence has resumed in Plateau, which has witnessed the deadliest sectarian violence in Nigeria’s recent history.
Two days after the palace visit, in the early hours of Monday 13 November, two men, Christopher Dung and Bulus Dantoro, were ambushed and killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Wereng village in Riyom Local Government Area.
Last Tuesday (7 November) nine Christians were shot dead by suspected Fulani herdsmen as they returned from a weekly village market. Four more were injured during the incident in the same Riyom Local Government Area.
Throughout September and October, repeated attacks against Christian communities left more than 75 dead, according to an NGO on the ground, Stefanos Foundation.
Throughout the course of the violence, 12 villages have been attacked. In addition to the casualties, 489 homes have been burned and 13,726 people displaced, it said.
The victims identified the perpetrators as Fulani militants.
The ongoing violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt has prompted a reaction from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the main umbrella organisation of the major Churches in Nigeria.
On Friday (10 November), CAN expressed concern to President Muhammadu Buhari in its first meeting with him since his election two years ago.
A new report detailing the sustained attack on Christian communities by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s central state of Benue concluded that the number and ferocity of incidents is evidence of ethnic cleansing.
Further, the report said signs of ethnic cleansing on Christian communities “are likely to become increasingly evident” in light of a Fulani leader’s threat that the herdsmen will need to “defend their rights” after a ban on grazing was implemented earlier this month.
The report, ‘Nigeria: Benue state under the shadow of herdsmen terrorism’, commissioned by Christian charities Open Doors International and Voice of the Martyrs Canada, catalogued crimes committed against Christians by Hausa-Fulani herdsmen between January 2014 and August 2017.