Christian leaders in northern Nigeria have continued to lament the impunity with which Fulani herdsmen are attacking Christians in the region, especially in Plateau state, and the lack of political will by the federal government to stop it – in spite of their repeated calls.
Last Thursday (30 November), at least four people were fatally injured after Fulani herdsmen armed with guns opened fire at a mining site in Jol village, in the Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau state.
This followed the arrest of two Fulani herders who had allegedly led their cattle into irrigation farms owned by villagers in Tanjol, near Jol.
Other herders, angered by the arrests, resorted to attacking the nearby miners. Some Fulani also ambushed some people travelling near Vwak village, but the travellers reportedly escaped unhurt.
Rev. Yakubu Pam, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the northern region, told World Watch Monitor the latest attack on Riyom’s miners, who are predominantly Christian, was “most unfortunate”. He reiterated the calls for the government to protect the lives of citizens – both Christians and non-Christians.
The leader of another Christian network, the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), Rev. Solomon Dalyop, in charge of the Riyom area, also lamented that, in spite of the increased presence of military in the area, the situation has not improved, as he said the soldiers have been engaged in conflicts with the locals rather than going after the assailants.
He also alleged that the soldiers are not committed to ending the killings, either, because “their paymaster, the federal government, is only paying lip service without serious political will to end the crisis”.
Nigerian Middle Belt Christians resort to self-defence
Reacting to the recent attack, the Member representing the Riyom constituency in the state House of Assembly, Daniel Dem, advised villagers to protect themselves from the attackers, “since [the] government has shown a cold attitude towards arresting and prosecuting the Fulani, for reasons best known to [them]”.
This self-defence measure has paid off on two occasions, he said. According to him, a group of armed Fulani herdsmen recently (26 November) attacked Jonathan Luka, 28, while he was working on his farm in Bangai village, in the Bachi district of Riyom LGA, as Dem told World Watch Monitor:
“Among the assailants were known Fulani herders from the community… They attacked Jonathan on his corn farm while he was harvesting.
“The victim, now receiving treatment in hospital, was rescued by a group of locals on nearby farmland, after his wife and aged mother [who were with him] raised the alarm and attracted their attention.”
Dem said that one attacker was caught by the farmers and handed over to the army, who eventually forwarded the case to police.
He added that another man, John Danladi, was also assaulted on 29 November by a group of Fulanis, while working on his farm in Rakung village, in the Ropp district of Riyom LGA.
“Danladi was assaulted after attempting to protest against an alleged trespass on his farmlands by some Fulani herders. The herders, armed with machetes and sticks, reportedly beat him into a coma and fled before villagers arrived,” he said.
“But after he was resuscitated, Danladi was able to identify one of his attackers. The herders were therefore traced and captured by locals, who handed him over to the police.”
Dem, however, said the situation is “worrisome”, because citizens should not be expected to resort to self-defence, as this could degenerate into a serious crisis and the breakdown of law and order.
Is personal ambition getting in the way?
Assembly Member Dem said a cattle grazing ban, recently passed in neighbouring Benue state, will help to reduce incessant grazing on farmlands by some herders.
However, he said the Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, has been reluctant, for political reasons, to transmit a similar bill to his House of Assembly for consideration.
Plateau House of Assembly Member Ahile Kudu Simon, representing Rukuba/Irigwe constituency, where some Fulanis have also been attacking Christians in the recent past, also accused Lalong of “insincerity” and a lack of will to protect people.
He suggested the governor’s reluctance could be connected with his ambition to run for a second term, for which he needs federal government support.
A law against open grazing is seen as not favouring the Fulani herders, and the country’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, is himself of Hausa-Fulani origin.