Forty-eight Christians were massacred in nine days of violent attacks in Plateau state, with some of the survivors describing the terror they felt at the hands of Fulani herdsmen who broke through their doors and destroyed houses and churches.
“Every one of us ran to save his life,” church elder Dauda Samuel Kadiya of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwrua, said. “I was shot at, but the bullet only bruised my hand. You can see the wound yourself.”
The herdsmen slaughtered a total of 48 Christians in several attacks carried out between Oct. 8 and Oct. 17, survivors said, with many fleeing villages and abandoning worship buildings.
“Some of the church buildings were destroyed by the attackers,” Kadiya added.
Agado Aura, 62, said he and his wife barely escaped after the herdsmen came one night from the eastern part of their Zanwrua village.
“They broke the doors to our rooms and then set fire on my house,” said Aura, a Roman Catholic.
“Having set fire on my house, they went to the next house and did the same. They continued burning houses until they were done, before they left. I was watching all they were doing from my hidden spot behind those rocks you see over there.”
International Christian Concern, which reports on the persecution of Christianss around the world, pointed out that although such raids are not new for the area, the “ferocity and number of attacks in this short period have caused major problems for the beleaguered citizens.”
“Also, the fact that there is a military force stationed in the area, that has been completely ineffective, raises even more cause for concern,” ICC stated.
Moses Tsohu, a Zanwrua village leader and ECWA member, also asked how is it that the Fulani are carrying out their attacks despite the presence of army soldiers at check points in the area.
“These attacks are being carried out daily. Every blessed day we witness the invasion, killing of our people, and the destruction of their houses,” Tsohu said.
Sunday Abdu, president of the Community Development Association of the predominantly Christian Irigwe ethnic group, noted at a press conference:
“It is painful to note that all these happened despite useful, timely information provided to security personnel, regarding movement and mode of operation of the assailants.”
The Fulani raids in Plateau State have sparked outrage from Christian leaders, who have accused the army of failing to defend villagers on a number of occasions.
“The soldiers had told the women and children to go and hide in the primary (elementary) school class at night while the men in the village constituted a vigilante group and join[ed] the soldiers in patrolling the area. Sadly, the militia descended and the soldiers fled, leaving the defenseless villagers to be massacred by the terrorists,” the Rev. Andrew Okebe, the Zonal Coordinator of Christian Association of Nigeria, Miango District, said after one of the major attacks earlier this month.
President Muhammadu Buhari himself has lamented the growing number of casualties.
“President Buhari believes that this madness has gone too far. He has instructed the military and the police to not only bring the violence to an instant end, but to draw up a plan to ensure that there are no further attacks and reprisal attacks by one group against the other,” said Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, in a statement earlier this month.