JOS—More than 57 persons have lost their lives since Friday, June 16 in a series of armed invasions of farming communities of Central Nigeria 35 to 40 miles south of the capital of Jos, according to community leaders interviewed by TruthNigeria.
Some of the dead are terrorists seeking to evacuate farm families from the territory; some are citizens guards defending their villages; but most are women, children and the elderly gunned down in their homes, witnesses have said. The four local governance areas affected, or “counties,” in U.S. parlance, are Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bokkos and Mangu.
These attacks are part of an ongoing campaign by Islamic terrorists who have taken the lives of more than 1,100 Nigerian Christians since April 12, as reported by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), an international monitoring group.
In Plateau State alone, more than 350 Christians were killed between April 12 and June 12, making it the hardest-hit region, according to Intersociety’s reports. Following Plateau on the scale of losses is Benue State, which had the highest number of Christian deaths as of April 10, based on Intersociety’s documentation of attacks since January. During the past two months, Benue State recorded 200 Christian deaths, followed by Kaduna State with 100 deaths.
On Tuesday, June 20 no fewer than 22 people were killed in armed clashes with terrorists and citizen guards, according to community leaders.
On that day seven civilian watchers were killed on the outskirts of Jos in a town called Sambak, in Riyom County. Solomon Dalyop, a tribal leader in Jos, told Truth Nigeria that the attack took place around 10 pm local time when residents were asleep. A group of seven terrorists armed with rifles attacked a team of ten civilian guards armed with machetes and homemade single-shot rifles, resulting in the deaths of seven men, dubbed “vigilantes,” Dalyop said. Also on June 20, 15 people were killed 30 miles south of Sambak, in Mangu County, said a local pastor, Bulus Daset. Daset told TruthNigeria the attackers set fire to a church and caused injuries to several other residents, primarily returnees who had previously fled the area following the initial attacks in May.
On Monday, June 19, 8 local citizens were killed by invaders in the affected counties. On Sunday, June 18 there were 6 victims, which included the wife of a pastor and his two young sons in their home in Hirpya, a remote village on the western border of Barkin Ladi County. On Saturday, June 17, there were six fatalities in Barkin Ladi. On Friday, June 16, 14 people were killed in clashes or invasions.
As evening fell on June 21, hundreds of residents of Central Plateau State were seen carrying light luggage on their heads and fleeing on foot to safer areas as attacks continue to intensify in villages.
Attack Campaign Surfaced in May
The campaign of simultaneous attacks on five or more villages at a time began May 16 in Mangu town, the administrative center of Mangu County, according to human rights attorney Solomon Dalyop Mwantiri. The armed men speaking Fulani language are dressed in black tunics and using AK 47 assault rifles. They were approximately 1,000 strong on May 16 when they invaded Mangu County, said Mwantiri, who took cover during a fire fight between Nigerian soldiers and attackers. However, the latest raids since June 16 involve thousands more, he said. “They are coming more and more each week,” Mwantiri said to TruthNigeria.
Pastor Emmanuel Makama, who lost his wife and two sons during the attack in Hirpya, told TruthNigeria he will never recover from the loss. Fortunately, for him, his older son, Miracle, survived the attack.
In a video pasted to Facebook, Makama told Ezekiel Dachomo, a fellow pastor in a subdued voice, “I will never be able to recover from this,” said Makama, the pastor of 200 members of the Baptist Church in Hirpya. “At home in Kaduna they are killing my people, and even here they are not safe,” he said to Pastor Dachomo in tears. On Sunday evening he answered the call to lead a band of citizen guards in the forest, and he returned two hours later to find that terrorists had invaded his home and shot his wife, Tabitha, and his two sons, Godslove and Caleb.
The recent spate of violence was sparked by a disputed murder of five Fulani herders on Friday ,June 16, according to Africanews.com.
“On Friday, five herders on their way to a market to sell their animals “were arrested and killed” in the community of Rawuru by alleged “Berom youths”, a farming community, explained local Fulani herders’ representative Nuru Abdullahi.
Subsequently, in what appears to have been a retaliatory attack, eight Berom farmers were killed in the same Rawuru community by alleged “Fulani herders”, Berom youth representative Pius Dalyop Pam added.”
Mohammed Nuru Abdullahi head of the Miyetti Allah Breeders Association of Plateau (MACBAN) did not return calls from TruthNigeria regarding the Friday attack, but he has said that attacks on local herders happen almost on a daily basis. Police spokesman Alfred Alabo could not be reached for comment.
Rev. Mark Lipdo, head of the Jos-based Stefanos Foundation, tells TruthNigeria that he believes the Fulani men killed on Friday were assaulting the town of Rawuru when they were shot. “I believe the local people killed 5 Fulani invaders,” Lipdo said to TruthNigeria. Lipdo went on to say: “Other people killed that day in the town of Jipal were handicapped persons. There were 7 people killed in Jipal, including the respected doctor, Dauda Joseph, who was in the village recovering from a fractured leg,” Lipdo told Truth Nigeria.
Some observers have challenged the claim that the massive killings are reprisals.
“There is doublespeak all around stemming mainly from the Fulani side,” said Kyle Abts, executive director of International Committee on Nigeria to Truth Nigeria. “On one hand they state that their people are innocent and peace loving people. On the other hand, they claim that their rampage in May 2023 was as a revenge. A revenge that killed over 200 people, destroying hundreds of homes and displacing hundreds more – all who are unable to live and farm freely,” wrote Abts in a text to TruthNigeria. “There has been no proof that the initial problems were started by Christian farmers,” according to Abts, who spent 14 years in Nigeria as a missionary.
Farmer Herder Narrative Prevails
Virtually all media reports of the carnage in Plateau State since mid-April have attributed the cause to “farmer herder conflicts” over land and water resources.
Lipdo tells TruthNigeria that the farmer-herder narrative doesn’t tell the whole story. He says that the strategy of the herding tribe, the Fulani, one of the largest ethnicities in Africa, is to provoke clashes with the sedentary, indigenous tribes of Central Plateau. The local ethnic groups are majority Christian, according to Lipdo. “The Fulani have exploited the Farmer-herder conflict since the national elections,” Lipdo said. “The farmer-herder conflict has been here for centuries, but local leaders over time have found ways to settle differences. Yet, since April, the Fulani terrorists have attacked repeatedly and thousands of head of their cattle are passing through the small-plot farms of local farmers, destroying their crops and their food stores for upcoming months, “ Lipdo said. “Their long-term goal is to establish a Muslim Sharia [Islamic law] zone across all of Northern Nigeria, including the governance areas in which the attacks are happening,” he added.
Authors: Douglas Burton is an independent reporter specializing in conflicts in Nigeria and the Middle East and is based in Greenbelt, MD. Masara Kim is a conflict specialist in Jos, Nigeria. Both Burton and Kim have been featured as news sources for Fox Nation, NTD TV, and the Westminster Institute and have been recognized with awards for religious-liberty reporting by the Catholic Media Association.