1. No official statistics yet on number of Priests killed


A report by SB Morgen intelligence claimed that in the year 2022, no fewer than 39 Catholic priests were killed in instances of religious violence across Nigeria. . The report is accompanied by a detailed map, showing the instances of violence. SBM Morgen Intelligence is a research body, specializing in compiling and analyzing Nigerian data happenings. According to the report, the NorthCentral areas of the country are the worst hit, with 12 killings, and the North-West follows with 9 killings. The South-east and South-South regions both had 5 killings, with the North-East and North-West both counting 4. Of the killings, 28 are attributed to kidnappers, three to herdsmen, presumable Fulani herdsmen, two to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), two by Boko Haram, and a single incident each by bandits and mob violence. In this report, SBM says “2022 was an awful year for the clergy. none in that group suffered more than Catholic priests, who at a point, were subjected to near-daily abductions with ransom demands set at an average of N50 million per priest.” https://www.sbmintel.com/2023/01/chart-of-the-week-attacks-on-priests/

The Christian Association of Nigeria described the country as a killing field and urged its members towards self-defense. “The continuous killing, as well as kidnapping of Christian clerics in Nigeria, is alarming. This has to be stopped at all costs. Nigeria is becoming a killing field where Christian clerics and its members are slaughtered like chicken. The Christian community must rise up and come together to put to an end this insult. They should take up arms and defend themselves legitimately. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/01/39-catholicpriests-killed-30-abducted-in-2022-report/ However, in a rebuttal to this, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Aya Sumjumi, says this is incorrect. According to the church in Nigeria, there has not been an official collation of the number of priest victims, and cautioned against the republishing of figures that have not yet been verified officially. “There have been attacks on Catholic priests, but the number does not correspond to what has been published. We are still collecting data, even though they are coming slowly from the dioceses. In any case, the figure given by the online publication is not correct. According to the information we have the data is not entirely correct.” The bishops cautioned against the growing trend of repackaging actual human suffering into easy, bite sized quantified bits of information, leaving out the actual human devastation, for nothing more than ‘scientific understanding and rigour’. http://www.fides.org/en/news/73321AFRICA_NIGERIA_The_Nigerian_Bishops_Conference_Published_figures_of_priests_killed_or_abducted_are_incorrect


2. University of Benin political science lecturer gives history and analysis of spread of terrorism in South Eastern Nigeria


Dr Iro Aghedo, through the Nextier SPD research group, and senior lecturer in the department of political science, University of Benin, Edo state, says that ungoverned forests, easy access to weapons and poor military strategy have led to the spread of Islamic terrorism throughout southern Nigeria. The Nextier SPD group says, “One way to stop the weaponisation of these forests is for the federal and state governments to cultivate and use them for large-scale agriculture. Security forces need to rely on state-of-the-art intelligence to identify the sources and channels of illegal weapons. Rather than a hit-and-run approach, security agencies must deploy an extermination strategy to stamp out terrorism. All these factors aiding the spread of terrorism need to be urgently addressed if the state is to gain the upper hand against the jihadists. Slowly but steadily, non-state violence is spreading across the length and breadth of Nigeria, and the state is largely unable to halt it. The rural banditry which erupted in Zamfara state in 2011 has engulfed most of the North-Western zone and large swathes of the North-Central today. Even more worrisome is the mobility of the Boko Haram insurgency. Since the Ansaru broke away from Boko Haram in 2012, followed by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in 2015, jihadist violence has spread rapidly across Northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, including Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. The spread of jihadist violence towards southern Nigeria has gained unprecedented momentum in the last couple of years, especially since the execution of Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau by ISWAP  forces in 2021. The north-central zone, especially Niger, Benue, Plateau and Kogi states, have been a significant attraction to jihadists in their push towards the south.” there were three hotspots identified: Niger, Benue and Plateau. “Of the three states, Niger state has been the worst hit in the last three years, recording 1100 deaths, 942 kidnaps, and 150 incidents between January 1 2020, and January 12 2023. In the second position, Benue state recorded 616 deaths, 25 kidnaps, and 116 incidents for the period under review. In the third position is Plateau state which recorded 470 deaths, 65 kidnaps and 110 incidents for the period under review. Indeed following the establishment of Ansaru and ISWAP cells around the New BussaBabanna axis of Niger state, many communities have become vulnerable to terrorist attacks. After taking advantage of the ungoverned spaces of vast forests, terrorists began to unleash their campaign of violence on the communities. Even though terrorists have hibernated in Niger state for several years, their presence was officially heralded in April 2021 when a terrorist leader with links to Boko Haram hoisted their flag in Kaure village in Shiroro area. In recent months, the terrorist cells have launched attacks in the areas, including the one on a mining site at Ajala-Aboko community in Shiroro on June 30 2022, in which 43 persons, including 37 security personnel, were allegedly killed by suspected ISWAP members. Another attack happened on July 23, 2022, when 50 persons from Kuchi in Munya LGA were abducted by an unarmed terrorist group which launched a house-to-house operation. Two days after this incident, the Shadadi community in Mariga LGA was attacked on July 25, 2022. Over 15 persons, primarily women and children were kidnapped. Another set of three women was kidnapped on August 8, 2022, and some fuel tankers were set ablaze at Saminaka community in Lapai LGA. Similarly, in the last decade, many communities in Benue and Plateau states have been under incessant Fulani herder’s attacks. There have been deadly clashes between Fulani herders and farming communities in Plateau state. In recent years, Kogi state has witnessed deadly terrorist attacks, especially in Okene, Eyima, Okehi, and Adavi in Kogi Central Senatorial District, where Ansaru, ISWAP, and Boko Haram have set up local cells. The presence of Ansaru in the state was made known in 2016 when one of its leaders, Khalid al-Barnawi, was arrested in Lokoja after many security breaches. One of the widely reported terrorist activities in the state was the attack on a medium security custodial centre in Kabba on September 13, 2021, in which over 200 inmates were set free and two security personnel were killed. On June 5, 2022, terrorists allegedly linked to the ISWAP cell in Kogi state bombed a Catholic church at Owo in Ondo state and killed 40 worshippers. The Owo massacre marked the beginning of jihadist terrorism in southern Nigeria.” A huge problem contributing to the spread of radical jihad is the unguarded forests cutting across the country. “The vast availability of ungoverned forestlands has provided cover for terrorist groups to incubate and fester. From the Sambisa forest in the northeast, Boko Haram, Ansaru and ISWAP jihadists have been weaponising forests in their movement towards southern Nigeria. Besides serving as their abode and camps, the forests are also used as training grounds to stockpile deadly weapons. In Kogi state, the forests through Bassa, Dekina, and Omalla, and River Niger and Benue, have been used by terrorists operating from the flank of Abuja and Nasarawa state to build their cells and unleash terror on Kogi state.

The Allawa and Gawu forests in Niger state have links to Sarkin Pawa, Kuduru, Kamuku, and Kuyanbana forests in Kaduna state and Dansadau forest in Zamfara state have also been exploited by terrorists operating in Shiroro Local Government Area in Niger state. Thus, one way to stop the weaponisation of these forests is for the federal and state governments concerned to cultivate and use them for large scale agriculture, thereby aiding food security. Like the Boko Haram terrorism, banditry in recent times started with a lone criminal gang in 2011 and grew from a single cell operating mainly in Zamfara state. As of 2021, there were over 120 gangs across six states in north-western Nigeria. The hit-and-run military strategy only scares the terrorists away from one place to another and thus promoting their spread. Rather than a hit-and-run approach, security agencies need to deploy and extermination strategy to stamp out terrorism. To address this, the security forces need to rely on state-of-the-art intelligence to identify the sources and channels of illegal weapons.” https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/01/terrorism-spreading-to-southern-nigeria-throughnorth-central-research-experts-lament/


3. No end to bloodshed in Benue State


A community opposite the IDP camo in Abagena, Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue was attacked by bandits, resulting in the death of eight people, including women and children. According to an eyewitness, another eight people were injured in the attack and had to be evacuated to a local hospital. “Some of the victim were beheaded and their heads taken away. The bushes are still being combed in search of more victims. A man, his wife and four children were all wiped out in the attacks. The casualty figure may likely rise as three other persons were fatally shot and may not service the injuries to their chests,” he said. Although the police spokesman in Benue, SP Sewuese Anene confirmed the attack, he said the number of fatalities and injured still needs to be confirmed. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/01/bandits-kill-8-in-benue-community/

The Executive Secretary of Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Dr. Emmanuel Shior, wept uncontrollably when he visited the location of the massacre. He visited the community, alongside the Benue State Commissioner of police, Wale Abass, and the Special Advisor to the Governor on Security Matters, Col. Paul Hemba. Speaking to the mourning community members, Dr Shior described the attack as inhuman, barbaric, and unacceptable. He called out President Buhari, urging him to live up to his oath of safeguarding the lives and properties of all Nigerians. “My heart breaks a thousand times at the rate things keep degenerating retrogressively, to an extent that you never can tell who will be the next victim. it’s a shame that the President, who is the Chief Security Officer of this country, wouldn’t rise up to defend the people who entrust their lives into his hands.” https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/01/idps-camp-attack-benue-sema-boss-visits-communityweeps-uncontrollably/

The report and photo below were received on 26 January 2023 from a source on the scene:

Six (6) dead bodies found so far are taken to the NKST Hospital Jato Aka’s Morgue this morning for deposit whose lives were lost during the yesterday Attack of Fulani Herdsmen on our Tiv Farmers. The attack which took place in the late hours of yesterday on Ichembe Community of Kumakwagh Council Ward of Turan, Kwande LG, Benue State led to the destruction of numerous homes and properties, killing of lives and living many lives injured. The lost lives whose deadbodies were found are suspected to be Mr Tersugh Justine Iorliam, Tersoo Samu, Ngolo Ndera, Ternenge Asaku, Ayuba Ndera and Udoji Penda while others on admission in the hospitals are too numerous. I actually witnessed as Mr Udoji Penda’s Corps were taken to the Mortuary myself while some were already in the Morgue as at the time of my arrival. Jato Aka is on danger, We can sense that anything can happen at the moment because our enemies are not far from us and the worst is, they are not afraid again to penetrate the ancestral Land. We pray and hope that God intervene to curb this uncalled for menace.

Ategher, the village of chief Abom Tse after kpata was attacked by herders at 7pm on Wednesday 25 January 2023. Four persons were killed.The village of Tsekumbur, under Doma Local Government was burnt to ashes. See photos above and below.




4. St Monica Catholic Church in Kaduna State attacked. Catechist kidnapped


This past Thursday, the catechist of St Monica Catholic church in Ikulu-Pari, in the Chawai chiefdom, Kauru Local Government Area, Kaduna state, was abducted. Gunmen stormed the church, and when they could not locate the parish priest, Fr Joseph Shekari, they took Mr Kefas Ishaya. It would not have been the first time Fr Shekari would find himself in this situation, having been a victim of kidnapping in February 2022. The parish chairperson had this to say: “Thank God Father travelled. They didn’t get him, but they picked our catechist. They dragged the catechist to the bush. They took him with his phone. We have been calling the line but it keeps ringing out. Immediately they broke into the house they searched and ransacked everywhere. They checked under the beds and wardrobes, bathrooms and kitchen. They even checked the ceiling, but Father had travelled. So, they did not get him. In anger, they took our catechist. As we speak, he is with them in the bush.” a woman who attends the parish says, “It is a very sad situation. This is devastating. They dragged catechist on the ground like a dog. They came again to take him. Luckily, he wasn’t in. this is really a dark period for us.” https://punchng.com/gunmen-miss-rev-father-abduct-catechist-in-kaduna/

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