NIGERIA: Pastor among latest victims of Fulani attacks

Clearly they are religiously motivated attacks!

A pastor was one of five Christians killed by suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna state, north-central Nigeria, in mid-August.

On 19 August, Pastor Luka Ubangari of Redeemed Christian Church of God was shot dead at Angwan Anjo village in Jema’a Local Government Area, while returning from an evangelistic outreach in Golkofa village. Local resident Emmanuel Garba told Morning Star News: “The pastor was ambushed and murdered as he was returning to his village.”

On 21 August, suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Ningon village in Sanga Local Government Area at about 8.45 pm, killing two Christians in their homes as they slept. Gambo Sule (38) and Benjamin Auta (35) were both members of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ. A community leader, Nuhu Tukura, told Morning Star News: “Two men were killed and a girl was injured. The girl had bullet wounds and is being treated at the Kafanchan General Hospital.

On 14 August, suspected herdsmen attacked Ungwar Mada village, killing a married couple from the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA); their names are not available. A local resident said armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded the Christian community at night and forced their way into the couple’s home.

Fulani herdsmen are also suspected of having abducted an ECWA pastor in Kaduna, Rev Yusufu Magaga, on the night of 6 July, when they attacked Kabene-Surubu village in Kauru Local Government Area. Local resident Jacob Wakili said, “The village was attacked by Fulani herdsmen. They destroyed the ECWA worship building and abducted the pastor of the church, the Rev Yusufu Magaga, and left many others injured.”

Farmers protest
The recent attacks came as the Kaduna state government proposed granting land to the Fulani, who are nomadic pastoralists, in an effort to settle them and keep them from property disputes with the predominantly Christian farmers. Farmers were unhappy with the government’s proposal.

Solomon Musa, head of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), an umbrella body uniting regional ethnic groups, said in a press statement that the Muslim Fulani herdsmen’s aggression is not motivated by property issues: “The same people suspected of carrying out this genocide, that has nothing to do with grass for cows, are the ones being given the government’s approval to sit on annexed land within communities that are completely agrarian.

Kaduna Governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has since backed down from the proposal to grant the herdsmen grazing reserves on or next to farmers’ land, shifting instead to a proposal to open land reserves for investors to develop ranches on which the herdsmen would be settled.

Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry Manzo Daniel Maigari told Nigerian newspaper THISDAY that the ranches would have the goal of stopping conflict between herdsmen and farmers: “If you settle herdsmen in ranches, they don’t have to go to people’s farms and spoil the farms. So it is the solution that government is looking for.”

On 26 August, thousands gathered in Gwantu, Sanga Local Government Area, to take part in a protest organised by SOKAPU. Besides alleging state confiscation of their lands for cattle grazing, they protested about the relentless violence inflicted on them in the past five years.

Solomon Musa said in a press statement that between 2011 and 2015, Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna state launched more than 200 attacks that killed over 4,000 people. “In most of the affected communities, women and children were brutally murdered in a most barbaric manner,” he said. “While in some cases they were hacked to death, in others they were burnt alive and or blown up with explosives.”

Christian farmer killed in Nasarawa State

On 24 August, Fulani herdsmen used machetes to hack Christian farmer Barki Baikoh to death in the Middle Belt state of Nasarawa. Barki (60) was working on his farm outside Andaha town when a group of herdsmen attacked him. A parishioner of St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Andaha, he had recently told family members that he had received threats from Fulani herdsmen who tried to attack his farm. Police arrested one of the attackers – he was injured during the attack and went to hospital, where he was arrested.

On 30 June, Rev Joseph Kurah was killed by Fulani herdsmen, armed with machetes, while he was working at his farm in Obi, Nasarawa state. He was an ECWA pastor and was regional chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

A 2015 study commissioned by Open Doors reported: “The conflict in Nasarawa state is such that ethnic nationalities with a high Christian population are usually targeted, without any established or known provocation other than the difference of Christian faith to Islam.”

Rev Emmanuel Haruna (pictured), chairman of the Lafia District Church Council of the ECWA, told Morning Star News that Christians have suffered attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen unabated for four years: “Even as I speak to you, Fulani herdsmen take their cattle to farms of our church members and destroy their crops, and security agents have not been able to take measures to stop them. These herdsmen do whatever that pleases them with Christian communities, and no one cares about such ugly trends in our state.

He listed killing and displacement of ECWA church members in many villages, and said that attacks have forced the ECWA to shut down four congregations as all members in those villages were displaced or killed.

For instance, in Rutu village, 29 of our church members were killed and their houses destroyed,” he said. “Also, at Angwan Dariya village, six of our church members were killed and others displaced, while their houses too were destroyed. In Adanba village, seven worship buildings were destroyed, and our church members were scattered. In Ogeni village, one worship building was destroyed and our church members there displaced.” In Udeni, he added, herdsmen killed many Christians and destroyed their homes. Survivors fled.

Pastor Haruna said Fulani attacks resulted in 13 ECWA pastors in Nasarawa losing their homes and property. He appealed to the federal and state governments to take measures to stop the attacks and to help those displaced by the violence.

Fulani herdsmen have long attacked Christian farmers in Middle Belt states, but recently analysts have begun to see links between them and Islamic extremist groups. Some Fulani attacks have involved Islamist mercenaries from outside Nigeria.

(Morning Star News)

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