Fulani Herders follow on from Boko Haram

2 July 2018


The Islamist insurgency in northern and central Nigeria continues to escalate as Fulani militants use sophisticated weaponry and “barbaric” practices to displace vulnerable rural communities.

Thousands of Christians have been killed and hundreds of churches have been burned. The attacks have not abated in recent weeks, despite official claims that the insurgency is under control.


  • The Fulani are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 west and central African countries.
  • Since time immemorial, they have driven their huge herds of cattle through other people’s lands, causing tensions and some violence, but traditionally, they have moved on.
  • However, in the last 2-3 years Fulani herders in northern and central Nigeria have adopted a new policy: attacking Christian villages; massacring local people; destroying homes; driving villagers off their lands and settling in their place.
  • The insurgency is not, as some have claimed, a mere “tit-for-tat clash between herders and farmers”. Rather, Fulani militants are strategically grabbing land and permanently displacing Christian communities.

Key facts

  • Fulani herders killed more people during 2015, 2016 and 2017 than Boko Haram.
  • In a recent attack, 22-24 June, at least 238 people were killed in Plateau state in Barkin Ladi. The majority of the victims were women and children. At one location, 120 were killed as they returned from the funeral of an elderly member of the Church of Christ in Nations.
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that, in the first quarter of 2018, Fulani militants perpetrated at least 106 attacks in central Nigeria. The death toll in these four months, purely from Fulani violence, stands at 1,061.
  • The recent deaths in Plateau state bring the number of casualties recorded so far in Fulani herder attacks in central Nigeria in the second quarter of 2018 to 440.
  • The local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria recently confirmed that Fulani militants have destroyed over 500 churches in Benue state alone since 2011.

Urgent concerns 

The Anglican Bishop of Bauchi, Musa Mwin Tula, represents many of the worst affected areas.

“The conflict between herdsmen and farmers has existed for a long time. But the menace in recent times has jumped from a worrisome itch in the north to a cancerous disease, spreading throughout the country, claiming lives and threatening to spiral into a monster.”


Rector of the minor seminary in Jalingo, Taraba State capital, Revd Emmanuel Atsue:

“The Fulani Killer Herdsmen (FKH) are unspeakably barbaric and brutal beyond words. They are much crueller than Boko Haram who strap bombs on kids and deploy them as suicide bombers. The FKH make sadistic butchering an art form. The disembowelling of pregnant women and the butchering of the foetus is a specialty of theirs. They intend to inspire the fullest possible terror by the horror of their atrocities. This explains why they mutilate corpses even after death.” 


Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi in Jos, who has taken custody of a baby whose mother was killed:

“We are continuing in prayers as we have hope in God alone. The intensity of the attacks is not abating as it scattered in different places across Plateau, Adamawa and Kaduna to divert attention but the evil is shown in a tally of figures. I am in tears because I have taken a child whose mother was shot dead. A family of four killed, another two young men shot dead and so on. Where are those who will protect the poor? Where is the leadership? It is a week and three days now with daily killings of poor unarmed and unprotected citizens of Plateau State.”


Baroness Cox, speaking in last week’s UK House of Lords debate on the escalating crisis:

“I visited four villages which had been destroyed by Fulani. I stood in the rubble of the pastor’s home where he had been slaughtered, and I saw the huge numbers of Fulani cattle roaming through the destroyed villages. There are concerns that the Fulani militants are now so well armed that they are possibly fighting a proxy war for Boko Haram, with the shared agenda of driving Christians out of their homelands.”


Some of the 238 people killed in Barkin Ladi (Photo: Revd Hassan John)
Digging a mass grave to bury the victims of the Fulani attacks in Barkin Ladi (Photo: Revd Hassan John)
Bodies of Pastor and wife found after the ambush in Miango (Photo: Revd Hassan John)
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