Nigeria will not stand for further govt inaction over the Fulani crisis

 

Nigeria will not stand for further govt inaction over the Fulani crisis

Author: 

George Conger

The Primate of All Nigeria has warned the government of President Muhammadu Buhari that their failure to resolve the Fulani crisis will lead to their removal from power. The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh's warning comes as church leaders denounced the murder of 18 people by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Benue state in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. The 24 April 2018 attack on St Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Mbalom killed Fr. Joseph Gor and Fr. Felix Tyolaha and 16 worshippers attending the parish’s 5:30 am mass.

The attack comes amidst a campaign of violence and intimidation waged by Muslim pastoralists against predominantly Christian farming communities, as the herdsmen move South seeking grazing land for their cattle. Hundreds have died so far this year in the clashes. The latest attack came four days after Fulani herdsmen murdered ten people in the neighboring Guma Local Government Area where over 300 homes were reported destroyed by the invaders.

Christian leaders have denounced the government’s failure to stop the violence, but the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has said it is doing all it can to resolve the conflict. President Buhari released a statement following the Mbalom attack saying: “This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable. Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting.”

In a 3 Jan 2018 posting on the social media forum Facebook, Fr. Gor wrote the community was “living in fear. The Fulanis are still all round us here in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves.”

The Anglican archbishop of Jos, the Most Rev. Ben Kwashi, reacted to the murders with horror. “The priests conducting and leading worship with their congregation of worshippers shot at to death in church... hard to imagine!”

“As a priest I am wondering who knows which will be next church or next priest? It has graduated beyond farmer herdsmen clash it is now armed bandits freely killing worshippers and their pastors... Which church or priest will be next? I put myself in their shoes...I am a Pastor!”, he wrote.

On 24 April 2018 the Director of Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Fr. Moses Iorapuu wrote: “In their classic style, [the Fulani] burnt down homes, destroyed food items and killed at will. The police seem to know nothing of the attacks which have been going on in other villages within Benue state since the Anti Open Grazing Law came into effect last year.”

The depredations of the Fulani were not solely driven by economic needs, Fr. Iorapuu wrote, but were an act of Jihad. The goal of the Fulani was to conquer Benue and the Tiv people in the name of Islam, he said.

On 27 April the government’s National Executive Committee (NEC) announced a plan to resolve the pastoralist/farmer disputes by banning the open grazing of cattle across Nigeria. The committee led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo recommended the government set aside state lands for ranching. They further recommended the government set aside funds to build schools and health facilities for the nomadic communities.

Speaking to reporters in Enugu state on Thursday following the dedication of a new bishopscourt for the Diocese of Enugu North, Archbishop Okoh laid the blame for the continued violence upon the government's failure to act.

"The security of the country is essentially the responsibility of the government because that is why they were voted to power. Voting is a part of the contract between the people and all those who were being governed and the essential element of that contract is security. So it is left for the people to know whether the contract is being kept or not."

The Guardian reported the archbishop urged Nigerians to register to vote as the ballot box was the best weapon to ensure the government listened to the needs of its citizens.

 
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