ABUJA, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen last week killed more than 70 Christians in a village in central Nigeria, prompting state officials to state that lack of government protection means citizens must defend themselves, sources said.
In what a Benue state police official suspected was a revenge attack for the alleged killing of five Fulani herders in three different incidents in the area on Tuesday (Oct. 18), herdsmen the next day attacked Gbeji village in Ukum County, Benue state.
“In just two days, over 70 Christians were killed by Fulani militiamen in Gbeji community in our local government area,” said Terumbur Kartyo, chairman of the Ukum Local Government Council in Benue, state.
Kartyo added that in Guma Local Government Area, herdsmen last week shot and injured more than 100 Christians in Udei and Yelewata villages, displacing thousands.
Ukum area resident Bede Bartholomew told Morning Star News in a text message that at least 56 Christians were killed in Gbeji town last week.
“About 36 corpses of some of the victims have so far been recovered and taken to the mortuary,” he said.
Another area resident, Terrence Kuanum, said Gbeji was attacked along with the villages of Vaase, Daudu, Tyotyev, Udei and Yelwata.
“Fulani herdsmen have been wreaking havoc in many parts of the state,” he said.
Benue state government officials who visited the area last week after the attacks said the federal government’s inability to curtail the violence justifies providing high-powered arms to citizens’ defense groups.
“We are standing on our request for the federal government to give us a license for our Volunteer Guards to bear AK-47s and other sophisticated weapons,” said Secretary to the State Government Anthony Ijohor, representing Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom. “The security agencies have been overstretched and, that being the case, our people have to defend themselves.”
In Daudu, Guma LGA, herdsmen on Tuesday (Oct. 18) killed Philip Tavershima Tyohenna, a Christian who was working on his farm when attacked, area resident John Terver said.
On Oct. 12 in Yelwata, herdsmen killed five Christians, residents said.
“The Fulani herdsmen attacked our community of Yelwata at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 12 October. Most of the victims were Christians working on their farms,” James Orduen said. “Five corpses were recovered by members of our community on their farms. Six other Christians were shot and injured.”
Waku Christopher, a member of the Guma Local Government Council, confirmed the killing of the five Christians.
“It is true that Fulanis attacked and killed five members of our community in Yelewata,” Christopher said, adding that four of the wounded were receiving hospital treatment.
Christian Girls in Captivity
In northwestern Nigeria, five Christian girls are among the 11 high school students still in captivity after Islamic extremist militants kidnapped them in June 2021, a rights activist said.
Terrorists with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) on June 17, 2021 abducted 70 students from the Federal Government Girls College, Birnin Yauri, in Kebbi state. Following negotiations with the Nigerian government, most of the 59 students since released were Muslims; the reasons for holding the other 11 are unknown.
“These girls have been with their captors for one year and four months – they’ve been abused, tortured and raped,” rights activist Hauwa Mustapha Babura said in a statement. “What have they done to deserve this traumatic experience?”
Babura, a Muslim, released the statement in observance of the Oct. 11 International Day of the Girl Child. She identified the Christian girls as Elizabeth Ogechi Nwafor, Esther Sunday, Rebecca James, Neempere Daniel and Bilha Musa.
Danjuma Haruna, president of the Parents/Teachers Association of Nigeria, called on the Nigerian government to ensure the release of kidnapped high school girls.
“The Nigerian government should as a matter of urgency try all it can to rescue our kidnapped children in the hands of terrorists,” Haruna said in a statement.
Kebbi state spokesman Yahaya Sarki said efforts were continuing to secure the release of the remaining students.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.
Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.
In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.
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