Nine Christians were shot dead by suspected Fulani in Nigeria’s central Plateau State on Tuesday night (7 November), as they returned from a weekly village market.
According to a villager, Maria Joseph, who witnessed the attack, the victims were returning from the Makera market in a Volkswagen Golf when they were ambushed and shot at the Diyan junction near Gako village.
She added that the assailants were a combination of Fulani and soldiers, who jumped into an Opel Vectra and zoomed off.
The driver of the Golf, Samson Dagwom, who pretended to be dead, said the attackers were all in tattered clothes and were haggard in appearance. While he was lying down, he said he heard them speaking in English and Fulfulde (the Fulani language).
Other local sources said some of the assailants were wearing army uniforms, but an army spokesman denied what he said were ‘unthinkable’ allegations. Captain Umar Adam said the army had launched an investigation and would make public its findings as soon as possible.
The nine victims were buried in their village in a mass grave the next day.
Chairman condemns killings
The state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Soja Bewarang, sent his condolences to the families of those killed and called on security officials to ‘keep a closer and diligent watchful eye on Riyom, Barakin Ladi and other hotspots in the state’. He also advised the Federal Government to do more to prevent further attacks on Christian communities in the state by Fulani, a call echoed by a state Assembly member.
The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, said the killings were an assault on people living in their own ancestral lands. While a federal lawmaker said the attack was likely motivated by a quest for land occupation and territorial annexation, which he said was being carried out with ‘ruthless banditry and brutal slaughter’.
A series of deadly attacks
The Tuesday night incident is the latest in a series of deadly attacks carried out by Fulani on Christian communities.
Many denounced the passivity of the army. On 14 October, attackers believed to be Fulani descended on one village, burnt over 30 houses and destroyed farmlands, despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the governor. Moreover, a member of the community said that following the imposition of the curfew, the soldiers had gone around the houses in the community and taken all the weapons the villagers had to defend themselves, thereby making them even more vulnerable to attackers.
A recent report, published by the International Crisis Group (ICG), said the response to the crisis at both federal and state levels has been poor.
“The government typically deploys the federally controlled police, and sometimes the army, to areas reporting attacks or clashes. These forces, poorly deployed in rural areas, often lack logistics for rapid response, especially across difficult terrain,” the report said.
- For the families of the victims
- That the government would do more to prevent further attacks
- That the police and army would have a better response to the crisis.
Source: World Watch Monitor