Nigerian Archbishop says security forces to blame

24 July 2019


Mgr. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of the Diocese of Jos

As more Christians have died in attacks by Fulani herdsmen, a Catholic Archbishop has accused security forces of bias.

At least 50 have Christians died and 8500 were displaced in fresh raids this summer by Fulani herdsmen in Taraba State, eastern Nigeria.

The violence began on 6th May following an argument between Fulani herdsmen and a farmer from the Kona minority group, which is Christian. Fulani herdsmen mounted on motorcycles subsequently attacked 11 predominantly Christian villages, shooting indiscriminately and killing mostly women and children. They destroyed at least ten churches, two primary schools and a health centre.

Counterattacks by the Kona led to the deaths of 23 Fulani and the burning of two mosques; in June security forces arrested a number of Kona youths.

Canon Hassan John from the Anglican Diocese of Jos comments: “We are now breeding a generation of children who know nothing but violence. And the federal and state governments are reluctant to stop the killings… We see communities arming themselves. The perpetual violence is breeding anarchy, where people become their own authorities, and it is just a matter of time before they go out of control.”

Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja, himself a Kona, noted that “the youths claimed that they were shot at and arrested for rising in defence of their community against the marauding herdsmen.”

He spoke of “biased and prejudiced official security reports” which “heighten tension when they blame the victims instead of the aggressors…This sadly keeps the fire of the crisis raging.”

The Archbishop said he had contacted Falaye Olaleye, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), about the attacks. The DCP reportedly remarked: “Your people like fighting.”

Archbishop Ignatius has served as chairman of the Plateau State-convened “Interreligious Committee for Peace”. Together with the late Emir of Wase, Alhaji Haruna Abdullahi, he has been involved in promoting mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.

The Nigerian military and intelligence are dominated by Fulani. According to the Global Terrorism Index, attacks by Fulani in 2018 caused six times more deaths than those by Boko Haram.

The former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has written an open letter to President Buhari, in which he warns of the possible disintegration of the country if the current pattern of killings and kidnappings continues.

“The issue I am addressing here is very serious,” he writes, “It is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria. This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling glove.”

He comments that “the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite” and that “even more unfortunately, many Nigerians, and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria, attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship”.

The Miyyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the political pressure group controlling the Fulani herdsmen, has admitted responsibility for the killings in several villages in the middle belt region of the country. President Buhari is a Patron and a member of the association.

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