NIGERIA: THE GATHERING STORM
Johan Viljoen, Rea Tloubatla
15 September 2023
The situation in Nigeria is continuing to deteriorate. This week we see reports of kidnappings-of priests, seminarians, and civilians. We also see a concerted effort by affected communities to stand up to the abuse they are facing at the hands of Fulani herdsmen and other bandits, calling on state and federal authorities to assist them in their efforts to stop the bandits from destroying their communities and livelihoods.
1. Insecurity: 5 Sokoto LGs under bandits, terrorists’ siege
The security of lives and property in the eastern part of Sokoto State appears to have hit an all time low as undesirable elements now enjoy free reign in killing, kidnapping, and maiming innocent members of the communities. Consequently, fear of the unknown has gripped the affected communities, especially those in Isa, Sabon Birni, Rabah, Goronyo, and Illela local council areas of the state, whose natives have been forced to resign their fate in the hands of God.22 This is because the people are completely at the mercy of bandits and other criminal elements now roaming the areas freely and daring anyone or group to challenge them. The new wave of uncertainty now pervading Sokoto East has also resulted in many people not visiting or staying in their native communities, especially against the backdrop of the unwarranted arrests of innocent persons by armed men. In the latest round of attack unleashed on the area, a flourishing young businessman was brutally shot and killed at close range for reasons not known. It is a negative development that many of the community members view as premeditated assassination. Perhaps the only known offence that residents can attribute to the deceased is that he funded the election of a top politician from the state who is currently serving in the National Assembly. Beyond the slain businessman, many have been kidnapped, tortured and brutally wounded by the bandits in the course of trying to eke out a living either on their farms or on their business premises. With the escalating level of criminality and violence, all – security agents, farmers, locals, and visitors – have become targets for the terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, and armed robbers, who are not even afraid of the security agents. In some instances, many soldiers, policemen, and personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, have also been killed since the deadly gangs took over the five council areas of Sokoto State and have continued to attack anyone in sight. Many communities and hamlets across the eastern part of the state have been set ablaze, forcing residents to flee to urban centres where they feel more secure, thus leading to the emergence of more internally displaced persons centres in Sokoto, the state capital. The residence of the former governor of the state, Attahiru Bafarawa, was once attacked in Bafarawa when bandits forced their way in with the hope of kidnapping the former governor. They killed a policeman in the process. Following these repeated attacks by bandits, the Olusegun Obasanjo College of Science and Technology in Bafarawa, which was inaugurated by the former president in 2006, has remained under lock and key and deserted despite the heavy investment made by the state government. The situation is so bad that in Bafarawa district of Sokoto State, bandits openly wield their weapons without any form of challenge by anyone, either in mufti or in uniform. The upsurge of displaced persons in the capital has also resulted in the conversion of every available uncompleted structure and building into camps, especially for the underaged and children of school age, who have been forced to stop going to school on account of either the death of their parents or kidnapping of the same. As a result of the relentless attacks, Sokoto has emerged as one of the worst-hit states in the Northern part of Nigeria in the last two years. Barely a month ago, armed men invaded the immigration checkpoint at Mamman Suka village along Sokoto/Illela Road, shot and killed two immigration officers, and wounded four others. They went away with the brutal murders without any confrontation by any security agents. A resident of Isa Town, Alhaji Yusuf Sada, told Arewa Voice that the town had become a recruitment base for bandits because of the presence of ‘countless informants’. Sada said: “Isa has become a recruiting centre for bandits with a countless number of informants who give details and movements of people to bandits. I am over 60 years old, but the most unfortunate and annoying thing is that I have to sleep with my mother and her grandchildren in the same room for fear of informers who may likely give information that I am in town. Imagine, I have to pass my own house and sleep in my mother’s room with the children when I have my own private apartment, just for the sake of fear of unforeseen marauders. I have since relocated to Sokoto, the state capital.” Due to the fear of bandits and terrorists, who are constantly on the prowl, the 120-kilometre Marnona/Isa Highway has been deserted for over five years now, with citizens of the area taking the risk of crossing over to Zamfara or passing through Sabon Birni, a neighbouring local government, just to stay alive. Insecurity: 5 Sokoto LGs under bandits, terrorists’ siege – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)
2. A seminarian brutally murdered and another kidnapped in Nigeria
ACN International denounces the latest attack on the Catholic Church in Nigeria, in which a seminarian was burned to death in the diocese of Kafanchan, as well as the kidnapping of another seminarian in southern Kaduna. The terrible incident took place last night, around 8 pm, Thursday 7 September, when a large group of Fulani bandits attacked and set fire to the rectory of St. Raphael parish, Fadan Kamantan, in the diocese of Kafanchan, in the state of Kaduna. According to information sent to the international Catholic charity by different sources and confirmed by the Bishop of Kafanchan, Msgr. Julius Kundi – the parish priest Fr. Emmanuel Okolo and the assistant priest were able to escape the fire, but a seminarian, Na’aman Danlami, 25, died in the attack. Seminarian Na’aman Danlami died in Kamantan, Nigeria Speaking by telephone to ACN, Bishop Kundi said: “The attackers were aiming to kidnap the parish priest. When they failed in their attempt to enter the father’s house, they set it on fire. The two priests were able to escape but, terribly, the seminarian was burned inside. The assault lasted more than an hour, but there was no reaction or support from the military forces. A kilometer away there is a checkpoint, but there was a total absence of reaction. Nigerian citizens are unprotected. We hardly benefit from the security forces.” ACN deplores this latest in a long line of attacks on Church members and property in Nigeria. A very similar incident took place in January 2022, when Catholic priest Father Isaac Achi was murdered and burned in his rectory. His assistant, Father Colins Omeh, suffered gunshot wounds. “It’s a terrible loss. We recovered the body of Na’aman Danlami this morning and took it to the morgue. This seminarian is the second member we have lost in the diocese at the hands of terrorist attacks by Fulani bandits, last year Father John Mark Cheitnum, Director of Communications of the diocese of Kafanchan, was kidnapped and brutally murdered”, said Bishop Kundi. The news of this latest attack in Nigeria comes on the same day that the ACN foundation was informed about the kidnapping of another seminarian, Ezequiel Nuhu, taken on Thursday in Kaduna, along with his father. Nuhu is a seminarian in Abuja, but had gone to Southern Kaduna to spend a holiday with his family. Nigeria has been a particularly dangerous country for Catholic clergy in recent years. In 2022 four priests were killed in the country and 28 were kidnapped. In 2023 the number of members of the clergy victims of kidnapping has already reached fourteen. Aid to the Church in Need asks for prayers for the repose of Na’aman Danlami and for consolation for his family and his community. It also prays for the safety and quick release of Ezekiel Nuhu. A seminarian brutally murdered and another kidnapped in Nigeria – ACN International
3. Renewed attacks in Benue
The following reports were sent to DHPI by a partner in Makurdi, Benue State. It is of concern that the attacks occurred a few meters from the entrance to can IDP camp.
Date:- 11th September, 2023
Time:- 6:30pm – 7:00pm
Location:- Few Meters Away from Ortese IDP Camp, Guma Local Government
Name of Victim (Dead) :- Mr Isherev Dzenga
Age(Victim) :- 32years
The deceased is survived by his aged mother
Reports from IDPs at the Ortese camp indicate that for some days leading up to this attack Fulani herdsmen have been coming to graze livestock very close to the idp camp and nearby villages. There has been reports of the destruction of crops and farm produce by the herders but sadly nothing has been done to stop the herdsmen from continuing to destroy farmers crops. Last night, 11/9/23 Gunshots were heard though initially the camp and people in the surrounding took cover for fear of what took place after awhile some men formed a search party along with some local Vigilantes to find out what had transpired. That night the search accomplished very little but the deceased was found this morning (12th September, 2023). As at the time of filing this report we are still trying obtain further details about the victim. We appeal that you keep the communities in the troubled areas under your constant prayer. The Fulani terrorists herders have reentered Benue in their numbers. They are not only killing but they move herds of cattle to destroy farmlands. The consequences down the line can only be imagined.
Date: 14th September, 2023.
Location : less than kilometer away from Ortese.
Camp : Ortese in Guma L.G
Name of Victim (Dead): Alhaji Akaagbough.
Age: not known
Late Alhaji Akaagbough was attacked by Fulani terrorists who have laid siege on the surrounding villages where the incidence took place. The deceased was killed right in his farm and was on those taking refuge at Ortese Camp. Like most idps who go out in search of food in nearby farms, he left for farm yesterday 13th September, 2023 and he didn’t return back only his corpse to be discovered his corps today 14th September, 2023 at his farm less than a kilometer away from the Ortese Camp. What keeps baffling everyone is why all the incessant killings with the federal security presence just around the corner? Why is no one ever brought to book for masterminding such acts. the attacks continue to happen on a daily basis without any responses from the security personnel, why, why, why. Like all incidence such as this the Catholic Church’s Foundation for Justice, Development and peace continues to offer support in all ways toward peace for all the cases.
4. Armed men attack Benue govt transport vehicles, abduct 10 passengers
Suspected armed men have reportedly hijacked two fully loaded buses belonging to the Benue state governmentowned Benue Links Transport Company whisking away over 10 passengers from the Lagos-bound vehicles that took off from Makurdi. It was gathered that the armed men waylaid the vehicles at about 2pm on Sunday along AjaokutaOkene road in Kogi state. A source in the company who spoke on condition of anonymity in Makurdi disclosed that some of the passengers sustained injuries during the attack while some were lucky to have escaped unhurt. He said, “It is true, the incident happened along Ajaokuta-Okene road yesterday between 2pm and 3pm when the two buses were heading to Lagos. Available information indicated that ten passengers were abducted during the attack. And the incident was reported at Adogo Police station near Okene.” The official lamented that the Okene Ajaokuta road had become synonymous with the rampant kidnap of unsuspecting commuters. He said, “this is not the first time we are recording this type of incident on that particular axis of Kogi state and it is not peculiar to us. Several travelers have also fallen victim to the armed gang on that axis. Even at that nothing is being done to check the menace. We are appealing to security agencies to do something about these ugly incidents because people now feel very unsafe while plying that road to any part of the country.” No management staff of the transport company was willing to speak on the matter while the Benue State Police Command also kept mute over the issue probably because the incident did not occur within its jurisdiction. Armed men attack Benue govt transport vehicles, abduct 10 passengers – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)
5. Delta women protest incessant herdsmen attack, rape
Hundreds of women from Ekakpamre community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, have called on the federal and state governments to rescue them from the incessant attacks and gang-raping of women by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The mostly aged women, during the protest wielded fresh leaves and placards with inscriptions, such as “We do not want cows in our bush”, “They graze on our land”, “We are being raped and chased from our farms” and accused security agencies of supporting the herdsmen against them. The leader, Mrs. Loveth Boyi, who addressed newsmen, during the protest, said: “For over three years now, Fulani herdsmen have been troubling us, chasing us away from our farmlands. Just last week, five women were raped in their farms and as a result, we can no longer access our cassava farms, either to plant or harvest. The herdsmen will harvest our cassava and other farm produce and give to their cattle, our husbands are not going to the bush. Hence we are calling on the state and Federal Governments to rescue us from the shackles of herdsmen in the community.” Mama Blacky Raymond, an octogenarian, who twisted her kneel due to the herdsmen attack, said she could no longer get access to her farm after she was chased from her farm by herdsmen. On his part, the President General of the community, Edafe Kpohraror, said: “The women are on this protest because herdsmen have continued to chase them from their farmlands. There is one Imam in the community that is using the police and army to intimidate us, and as a result, many people have fled the town because of possible arrest. We are appealing to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori and President Bola Tinubu to rescue our community from the attack of herdsmen.” Delta women protest incessant herdsmen attack, rape – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)
6. Kidnapped Priest and Seminarian released in Minna
After three weeks in captivity, a priest and a seminarian have been released in the diocese of Minna, Nigeria. According to a statement released by the Missionaries of Africa, the two, who were released on 23 August, “are both fine, alive and healthy, despite the traumatizing experience they went through in the hands of their abductors.” Fr Paul Sanogo, originally from Mali, and Br Melchior Mahinini, originally from Tanzania, were taken on 2 August, in Niger state. The religious order they belong to thanked all who were involved in the release of the two, and for all the prayers they have received. “We pray for the conversion of those who continue to think that the easiest way to make money is by hurting others.”
7. 23 Pastors killed, 200 Churches closed in Kaduna State
Rev Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, asserts that in the last four years in the country, bandits and marauders have killed 23 pastors and caused the shutting sown of 200 churches across Kaduna state. Speaking at a meeting with police brass, including Commissioner of Police, Musa Garba, and pastors from varying denominations across 23 Local Government Areas, Hayab said the church had been through a very difficult time, placing the blame squarely at the feet of bandits and criminals in the state. “A pastor who was kidnapped on 8th August 2023, told CAN leadership that there are over 215 Christians abducted by the bandits in Birnin Gwani forest. Theya re still there and the pastor told us that the bandits asked him to lead prayers for the 215 Christians while he was in their den. We are calling on the CP to look into this issue among many other holistically to build the confidence of the people once again.” Former Secretary General of the Evangelical Church Winning All, Rev Yunusa Nmadu Jr, along with other church leaders, urged the law enforcement management to also look into charging pastors and imams who are known to engage in hate speech in their sermons, as well as look closely onto who is selling drugs, claiming a lot of the acts of violence are committed by people who are under the influence of drugs. The police commissioner said that criminality has no religion, and they will target and bring to book anybody who commits acts of criminality, regardless of their religious, ethnic or tribal identity. “Security is the responsibility of all and not only that of the government. While the government takes the lead in the protection of lives and property, individuals are also expected to play their parts particularly in the area of providing information. The meeting was basically to strengthen the relationship between the police and religious leaders listen to their challenges and together foster possible solutions. The police force under my leadership in her state will do its very best in the discharge of our duties. We should all be our brother’s keeper. Always reach out to security personnel around your communities with prompt information once you identify suspicious persons.”
8. 10 Killed in latest Fulani attack in Plateau State
Suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked a community in Kulben, Kombun District, Mangu Local Government Area, Plateau state on Sunday evening. A total of 10 people were killed, and an unknown number injured, and properties damaged and destroyed. A resident, Nanret Ishaya, recounts how some people were attacked even as they stood guard over the village: “armed Fulani militia attacked Kulben village around 10pm, on Sunday. Ten people were killed, others injured, and property destroyed. Arrangement is on for a mass burial for the victims.” The incident was confirmed by the spokesperson for state police, Alfred Alabo. “We are aware that something happened last Sunday night. The DPO has been working since 2am and we are awaiting his report at the headquarters.” The incident was further confirmed by Mwanghavul Development Association, Kombun District Chairperson, Dr Elisa: “From the information I got, 10 persons were killed during the invasion.”