Christians in Nigeria’s central state of Plateau are upset about the Federal Government of Nigeria advising Prince Charles to bypass Jos, the capital of Plateau, during his visit to the country as part of a tour of West Africa.
Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, arrived in Abuja, the capital, on Tuesday, and were expected to travel to Jos on Thursday to discuss peace-building and conflict resolution, as AFP reported.
But the planned visit to Jos, affected by violence in recent days, was later scrapped over security concerns.
“Due to operational constraints beyond our control, we have decided at this time not to include Jos during their royal highnesses’ visit to Nigeria,” said a British foreign office spokeswoman on Monday, adding that “the decision was taken upon advice from the Nigerian government and others involved in security and operational aspects of the visit”.
Violence attributed to Fulani militants in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, to which Plateau belongs, is believed to have claimed the lives of more women and children than Boko Haram in recent years.
In Plateau, one of the states most affected by the violence, attacks have been taking place on an almost daily basis.
In June, the violence reached another peak, as Fulani militants armed with sophisticated weapons went on a killing spree in 15 communities, leaving more than 230 dead. The attacks forced more than 11,500 to seek refuge in 13 locations across the state, while an undetermined number of people were injured and hospitalised in various medical centres in Jos.
It was one of the deadliest episodes in recent years, in a series of attacks carried out by Fulani militants against Christian communities across the Middle Belt and north-eastern state of Adamawa – also one of the three states most affected by the Boko Haram crisis.
In response to the prince’s decision, a Jos Christian leader said: “We would have liked Prince Charles to visit Jos and hear from Christians affected by the violence directly. But now we have been robbed of an opportunity to create awareness about our travails with a prominent world figure.”
Despite peace efforts by religious and political leaders in the region, the violence has continued unabated since June, with more villages attacked and scores killed, as World Watch Monitor has reported.
Over the last week of August, at least 20 were killed in a spate of attacks targeting various communities, including a mining site at Wereh village (Ropp District), and the villages of Abonong, Ziyat and Bek (Foron District), Nafan, Sagas, Rawuru, and Rambuh (Fan District) – all in the Barkin Ladi local government area.
Victims included a pastor and four members of his family. Rev. Adamu Wurim Gyang, 50, and his three children were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition. His wife, Jummai, 45, was shot and left to die in a pool of blood. More than 95 houses were burned down and 225 farm crops awaiting harvest were destroyed.
Also, just few days later, dozens lost their lives during the first week of September following more attacks – some of which took place in the same area affected by the June attacks.
The violence reached the state capital, Jos, at the end of the same month, as 10 members of the same family were wiped out when armed men stormed the residential neighbourhood of Rukuba Road, in the south-western outskirts of the city. According to local sources, dozens of people lost their lives between 27-30 September in various acts of violence across the city. A number of properties were also looted or destroyed.
“Many lives have been lost,” said Rev. Dr. Soja Bewarang, the chairman of the Plateau state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. “Also, properties, including church buildings, have been destroyed. Many people have been displaced. People are living in fear, not knowing when death and destruction will visit their community.”
The violence there is often described as communal clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and Fulani herdsmen, who are mainly Muslim, while Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari refers to it in terms of a struggle for natural resources such as water and fertile land.
However, many Nigerian Christian leaders in the area argue there is a religious dimension to the attacks and say that without acknowledging it, politicians will not be able to properly address it.