This report contains graphic depictions of violence.
A spate of attacks by suspected Fulani militia have overrun villages across northern Nigeria this month, leaving dozens injured and thousands displaced, and killing at least 30 people in the Plateau state.
A local lawyer told The Pillar that the attack was part of a terrorist campaign unfolding in Nigeria’s north, and that the country’s government has not done enough to stop the violence.
In coordinated attacks, suspected Fulani herders have razed dozens of houses and left more than 200 dead across villages in the Mangu region of Plateau State, north-central Nigeria within the last five months, local leaders have told The Pillar.
According to a local government official, the most recent violence was on Sunday, when there were attacks in villages across the Bwai District of the northern Plateau state.
The official, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told The Pillar that violent terrorist attacks June 25 saw buildings destroyed and fatalities in several Christian communities.
An earlier attack unfolded Sunday, June 11, as Christians left a church service in the region.
According to eyewitnesses, worshippers were attacked by Fulani herdsmen, and violence spilled into five local villages: Rim, Tashik, Jol, Kwi, and Weren.
Solomon Dalyop Mwantiri is an attorney and leader of the Berom Youth Moulders’ Association, a national organization focused on building unity among Nigerian young people.
He told The Pillar that the violence is part of “an ongoing genocide in Riyom and other parts of the state,” perpetrated by militant gangs from the Fulani tribe of northern Nigeria, which have attacked Christian villages in Nigeria’s agricultural regions.
“Our hearts are deeply pained over what the Fulani militia(s) and other terrorist elements in the state are currently carrying out on innocent citizens,” Dalyop said.
“The situation at the hand is very, very pathetic because lives have been lost, many people incurred, thousands displaced in their own land,” Dalyop added.
While violence has been exacerbated in the region as Muslim Fulani herders and mostly Christian farmer clash over land and water use, the lawyer said that the violence should be understood as more than a fight over resources.
“It is very important to let you know that the situation in the state is not a farmer/herders clash as it has being coined, but it is full scale banditry and terrorism that is being meted, masterminded by Fulani militias.”
The attorney urged Nigeria’s new President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Plateau’s Governor Caleb Mutfwang to take bold steps to stop terrorist attacks in the region.
In June 2022, Catholic bishops in Nigeria pushed back when Ireland’s President Michael Higgins suggested that climate change is responsible for the protracted violence in Nigeria.
The Irish president called Fulani herders the “foremost victims of the consequences of climate change,” and urged that they not be seen as a “scapegoat [for the killing].”
But the bishops insisted that the rising number of the killing and kidnapping of priests and religious in Nigeria points to the religious nature of its terrorism.
Higgins remarks came after the killing of more than 40 parishioners at St. Francis Church in Owo- Ondo, southwestern Nigeria.
He got pushback from the Catholic Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo, who argued that “to suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria.”
The bishop explained that “alluding to some form of politics of climate change in our situation is completely inappropriate. Such comments associating banditry, kidnapping and gruesome attacks on innocent and harmless citizens of Nigeria with issues concerning climate change and food securities are deflections from the truth.”
For his part, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo lashed out at the country’s government for its perceived inaction in the face of killings of Christians in the country.
“There exist some means of persecution that are more systemic and subtle, such as government appointments and written laws which seem to favour Islam over Christianity,” he said last year while delivering a homily during a June requiem Mass for the Owo massacre victims.
The ongoing violence in northern Nigeria has several causes: experts say that Fulani herding groups have tried to expand their grazing territory by pushing cattle herds south, and razing villages and farms which stand in their way.
Amid desertification of Nigeria’s north, nomadic herders have occupied more territory in the country’s crop-producing Middle Belt, amplifying tensions. And Islamist terror cells, which are believed to intimidate local governments in northern Nigeria, recruit from among the Islamic herding communities.
But the attacks have often distinctively religious elements, as Boko Haram and other terror groups in northern Nigeria have pushed for the imposition of Islamic-based law on Christian communities.
Like the Owo massacre, the Plateau killings suggests a different reality from the climate-change rhetoric offered by Western leaders as principal reason for escalating violence in Nigeria, Nigerian leaders told The Pillar.
Dalyop lamented what he sees as complicitly from the Nigerian government.
“The attackers who have remained in the state overtime, have succeeded in uprooting and also occupying 102 villages based on the available records we have which have furnished the appropriate authorities with believing that there will be needed action but up till today, nothing has been done,” Dalyop said.