DOZENS of Christians have been killed in a “barely reported” attack on remote villages in Nigeria, and 15,000 people have been displaced, peers have told the UK’s Minister for Africa, James Duddridge.
The news is in a letter sent on Monday and signed by two former Archbishops, Lord Carey and Lord Williams, and the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd Henry Ndukuba. It draws on local reports sent to Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART). It urges the British Government to “acknowledge the scale of ethno-religious violence” in Nigeria, where the head of the Anglican Church has warned of a Christian genocide (News, 6 August).
The six-hour attack reportedly took place in a western region of Plateau state bordering Kaduna, beginning at 5 a.m. on 2 August. Hundreds of armed assailants attacked nine villages with a combined population of 20,000, leaving hundreds of houses razed the ground.
By the following day, 57 bodies of people “hacked down as they tried to flee” had been counted. It was reported that all those killed were Christians from an indigenous ethnic-minority tribe, while the attackers were identified as “Islamist Fulani militia”. The Kwall district was now hosting more than 15,000 displaced people, mostly women and children.
The letter states: “Retrospective efforts are under way to attribute these events to retribution or reprisal for cattle rustling and the alleged killing of two Fulani men. While every death is deeply regrettable, this cannot be used as justification for collective punishment, or for the massacres, displacements and destruction that has been under way for over a decade, and for which no perpetrator has been brought to justice.
“To be clear — and as we have discussed previously — no one is blaming the entire Fulani tribe for this violence. However, the Nigerian government, legislators, security forces and Fulani representatives, including the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), have acknowledged that armed individuals of Fulani ethnicity have attacked indigenous communities in central Nigeria since 2010.”
The letter says that the attack is “barely being reported”. A report from the area on the Nigeria news website Vanguard, published on Sunday, quoted the Revd Gideon Para-Mallam of the Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, who said that 29,804 Irigwe people had been left homeless, while 55 people had been injured and 70 killed.
Monday Garba, ward head of one of the areas, told the newspaper: “We want government to assist us, compel the security to act because all our farms are destroyed by Fulani herdsmen. Even in the night or afternoon, you see cattle grazing on our crops. This evil practice must stop.” Gastro Barry, chairman of a local relief and intervention committee reported that more than 700 people had been killed this year.
The Nigeria government has been battling Islamist insurgencies in the north-east of Nigeria since 2009. In June, the UN reported that the conflict had killed almost 350,000 people by the end of 2020 and warned that the toll could amount to 1.1 million by 2030. For each casualty caused directly by violence, an additional nine people, primarily children, had lost their lives due to lack of food and resources. The peers’ letter warns: “Four caliphates are being created with semi-autonomous leaders that will provide operational bases for terrorist activities in northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.”
The reasons for the conflict remain in dispute (News, 6 August). The signatories of the letter, sent from the office of Baroness Cox and including members of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, warn: “Until influential members of the international community — and especially the UK Government with such significant historic relations with Nigeria — acknowledge the key causal factors it will not be possible to address this very disturbing situation adequately.
“For the sake of all the people of Nigeria and for the sake of security across the continent, we urge the UK Government to press the Nigerian government to address this violence swiftly, and to ensure protection, justice and recompense for victims of all ethnicities without bias.”