Originally published in Morning Star News.
A Christian in north-central Nigeria who led a team of civilians that apprehended Muslim Fulani herdsmen after they allegedly killed five Christians on Thursday night (May 28) was blunt about their motives.
“These Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been attacking our communities because we are Christians”, Ibrahim Agu Iliya told Morning Star News. “Their desire is to take over our lands, force us to become Muslims, and if we decline, they kill us”.
Muslim Fulani herdsmen went into a mini-store in the Kwashie area of the town of Miango, in Plateau state’s Bassa County, and shot to death the store owner and four others, relatives said. They did not steal anything from the store or the victims, sources said.
Sunday Samuel, whose 42-year-old sister Asabe Samuel was the store owner, said he was in his home behind the store when he heard gunshots.
“I opened my bedroom window in order to find out what was happening”, the 53-year-old Samuel told Morning Star News. “I saw armed men with guns shooting all around, and I thought they would force their way into my house. I heard the attackers speaking to themselves in Hausa and Fulfulde, calling for a quick retreat from the spot”.
Sporadic shooting went on for about 10 minutes before the gunmen retreated, he said.
“I decided to go out and find out what had actually happened”, Samuel said. “I rushed to the store and found that the gunmen had killed my sister and four others”.
Samuel, a member of the area Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), said his sister was a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Miango.
Area residents identified the other Christians killed as Shadrach Joshua, 25, Abba Adi, 35, Gideon Tuku, 56, a member of the area ECWA church, and Audu Ahmadu, 52.
Samuel said that in spite of the presence of security agents in Miango, armed herdsmen were able to drive into the area during a Covid-19 curfew, kill defenceless people and then disappear.
“I strongly believe that some of these security personnel who are Muslims are conniving with these armed men to attack our people”, Samuel told Morning Star News. “These killings of Christians here are just too much of a pressure on us, and the sad reality is that our people have made representations to the government at both the state and federal levels and nothing has been done”.
Ruth Gideon, wife of the slain Gideon Tuku, told Morning Star News in her house in Miango that he had gone out to buy provisions ahead of reinstatement of a lockdown scheduled to resume on Sunday (May 31).
“At about 9.30pm, long after had he left home, we heard gunshots”, the mother of six children said. “My neighbours informed me that my husband was among the five victims that the assailants had killed”.
Also a member of the Kwashie ECWA church, she said her husband taught Agricultural Science at the Government Secondary School in Jebu Miango.
Adamu Moses, a relative of another victim of the attack, Audu Ahmadu, said that he heard gunfire about two hours after Ahmadu had left the house at 7 pm.
“I heard sounds of gunfire and then heart-wrenching cries from the store”, Moses told Morning Star News. “I bolted out of the house and decided to get there no matter what. And on getting there, I found out that he had been killed alongside the other four victims”.
A Morning Star News correspondent who visited the scene found the corpses of Adi, Joshua and mini-store owner Samuel inside the store. Tuku’s body lay beside his parked car in front of the store. The body of Ahmadu was in his house behind the store.
Relatives were awaiting the arrival of security agencies for investigation before burying the bodies in a mass grave, which was being dug as the Morning Star News correspondent departed.
Iliya, a 42-year-old member of a nearby ECWA church who led the team that apprehended the suspects, told Morning Star News he received a distress call from Miango the night of the attack.
He organised area Christians who, unarmed, mounted a roadblock along the Miango-Jos route, and at about 2 am on Friday (May 29), they stopped a minivan carrying 10 Muslims, he said.
“We stopped the vehicle and questioned those in it”, Iliya said. “Responses from them gave them up as we found out that they gave contradictory explanations about their presence in our area when there was a curfew in place. Our conclusion was that they were those who carried out the attack and killed the five Christians at Miango, and then retreated into the bushes to hide before venturing out at 2am in order to avoid being seen”.
The suspects appeared to have hidden their weapons in bushes, leaving them behind to avoid detection, he said. While the Christians at the sentry point were questioning the Muslim Fulani herdsmen, he said, police arrived and took them to the Bassa Division of the Nigeria Police.
“Those who attacked and killed five Christians in Miango are Muslim Fulani herdsmen, with one of them a local Muslim who served as their guide,” Iliya said. “The government’s inability to stop these Muslim Fulani herdsmen is because the government is being controlled by Fulani political leaders headed by Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, who’s also a Fulani man.”
On January 30 Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a genocide warning for Nigeria, calling on the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to take action. CSI issued the call in response to “a rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants in the country’s north and middle belt regions’”.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.