Fulani herdsmen on Saturday killed at least seven Christians in Benue state, Nigeria, bringing the total to more than 60 villagers slain in the past month.
Assailants killed a Christian in an attack on a worship meeting Saturday night (April 1) in Logo County, according to Morning Star News, after at least six Christians in Apa County were killed earlier in the day, said Ikobi, Apa County resident Sunday Ojo in a text message that day.
“Ikobi village, a Christian community, is currently under attack by Fulani herdsmen,” Ojo said. “Several houses have been razed, while more than six Christians have been killed by the attackers. Christians in Apa Local Government Area need your prayers.”
Edward Lucky, another resident, said in a text message “Christian villages in Apa Local Government Area are under attack. Many Christians have been displaced by the armed herdsmen. These attacks have forced Christians to abandon their farms. There has been no government intervention in order to stem these attacks.”
In Benue state’s Logo County on Saturday night, Fulani herdsmen invaded a church service at about 9 p.m., killed one Christian, wounded five others and kidnapped the pastor and four other congregation members, sources said.
“Muslim Fulani herdsmen have launched an attack on Christians who were worshipping at a Pentecostal church in Akenawe, Tswarev village in Logo Local Government Area,” area resident Uzer Moses said in a text message to Morning Star News on Sunday (April 2). “A member, Mr. Orolumunga Changogi, was shot to death by the herdsmen, while the pastor of the church, the Rev. Gwadue Kwaghtyo alongside four others were captured and taken away to an unknown place.”
Five other church members were shot and wounded and were receiving hospital treatment, Moses said. Community leader Zaki Tyokase Ingyutu was among Christians shot and injured during the attack, he said.
Other sources confirmed the assault, including Hemen Terkimbi, a Christian community leader in the area. He said the federal government needs to curtail such unprovoked terrorist acts by herdsmen in Benue state.
“This attack on defenseless Christians who were in a worship service is callous,” Terkimbi said. “This act is condemnable, and there’s no moral justification for it.”
Days prior to attacks on Logo and Apa counties, herdsmen attacked Agatu County.
“The Fulanis attacked Atakpa village, a Christian community in Agatu Local Government Area, where they killed more than six Christians and wounded dozens of them,” said John Ikwulono, former council official of the Agatu LGA, in a text message to Morning Star News. “Aside from invading Atakpa village, the herdsmen also invaded Okpagabi village, where they shot and injured many Christians. Some of these Christian victims are currently receiving treatment in some hospitals here.”
Paul Hemba, special adviser on security matters to the Benue state governor, said large groups of armed terrorists and herdsmen recently carried out massive attacks in the state.
“In the last few days we have been receiving reports of large influx of armed herdsmen into Apa, Agatu, Guma and Kwande Local Government Areas,” Hemba said. “These attacks on Christian communities by herdsmen have persisted ceaselessly. This has been happening for some time, but military and police personnel drafted to curtail these terrorist acts have not been able to achieve their objective. The armed herdsmen have been coming for attacks, and each time they are repelled and after some days they come back again.”
Catherine Anene, a spokesperson for the Benue State Police Command, told Morning Star News, “It is true these herders have moved in large numbers into the affected communities, but efforts are being made by the police and other security agencies to stem these attacks.”
On March 26 in Guma Local Government Area, five persons were killed in Fulani herdsmen attacks on the predominantly Christian villages of Njee and Chongu, after Udei village was attacked on March 23, said area resident James Anyamnhu.
“Five Christians were killed in these attacks,” Anyamnhu told Morning Star News in a text message. “Three of the victims were Christian women, while two of them were men. The victims are farmers.”
In Agatu and Otukpo counties, five Christians were killed in two herdsmen attacks on March 23 in Atakpa village, Agatu County and Iwili village, Otukpo County, said Joseph Ngbede, a council official of the Agatu LGA. He added that Guma County was also attacked.
On March 13, herdsmen also killed more 50 Christians in Kwande County, community leaders said in a statement.
“We write to report recent, sustained terror attacks on our communities over the past 10 days which have resulted in over 50 people dead, several injured, thousands displaced and loss of property and farmlands,” stated Festus Iorkyaa, Eric Tyohemba Udu and Solomon Terfa Jijah of the Turan Development Association (TUDA).
The killings and destruction of properties occur on a daily basis, they said.
“In some cases, the herdsmen have taken over the lands and settled on them,” they stated. “They come in good numbers with their cattle, destroying farm produce for their animals to graze, chase away the Christian inhabitants of such areas and pitch their tents there.”
They identified some of the Christians killed as Abande Njoor, Iornum Sonter, Abraham Terna, Aker Shagba Achuna, Kendon Tyover, Ornguga Tyodoo, Ajoh Iorhemba, Orshio Msughter, Abe Nyam, Aker Ushahembas, Ayagwa Lunen, Apav Terhile, Jirbee Amaku, Aza Bem, Ahil Wende, Iormumbes Ashi Shimave, Terhemba Madom, Andyar Aemberga, Kundu Igba, Tarkper Adomko, Jirbee Amaku, Terlumun Swen, Terna Udam, Atighir Aondokula, Terfa Mbagbar, Terver Mbagbar, Terzungwe Chagh, Tyoazua Aondona, Kogh Aondowase, Akura Utoo, Iortsor Shaapera, Awuhe Terhemen, Lase Mbanengen, Kuku Terngu, Kuku Mzehemen and Hangeuir Iorwuese Kuta.
At a press conference of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) on March 9, Benue state official Mike Uba said attaining land is not the primary motive for the attacks.
“These Fulani Muslims have wished to capture the Benue river banks in the past; their intentions in Benue and Nigeria have nothing to do with livestock,” Uba said. “What they are doing is land-grabbing for the Muslim Fulanis of the whole world. They are especially targeting Benue state.”
Uba said the attacks marked the first time that six Benue LGAs – Guma, Makurdi, Gwer-West, Kwande, Agatu and Logo – were simultaneously under attack by Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.
In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.
“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted. “This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation… Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.