NIGERIA: THE GATHERING STORM
Johan Viljoen, Reabetswe Tloubatla
29 September 2023
Nigerian Villagers Duck for Cover as Terrorists Spread Fire Amid Fresh Military Orders
The Nigerian government rescued Sept. 26 between 14 and 20 university students (reported numbers vary) abducted last week from a campus in the northwestern state of Zamfara. But in the strife-ridden areas of the middle belt, civilians continue to seek refuge from the constant threat of terrorist gunfire. At least four people have perished in isolated attacks in the States of Benue and Plateau since the country’s officials issued fresh directives to the military to end terrorists’ siege of communities and rescue the abducted students. Lawmakers speaking to TruthNigeria have alleged the attacks by terrorists flooding the country’s food-producing middle belt region from neighboring majority-Islamic countries are aimed at establishing an Islamic state. Even as the Nigerian Senate on September 25 charged that the threat posed by terrorists had reached “alarming levels” and could no longer be overlooked, two residents lost their lives in separate attacks 12 miles apart in Plateau State. In a statement by Senator Abdulaziz Yar’ Adua, Chairman of the Committee on Army, the Senate told the military to make the rescue of the all-female hostages kidnapped on September 22 from the Federal University Gusau a “top priority”. President Bola Tinubu had issued a similar directive to the military the previous day restating his commitment to protecting communities. Just few hours after the Senators’ charge, terrorists struck in two communities south of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, killing two people. A truck driver returning from a farmers market in the northwest of Bokkos County, 40 miles southwest of Jos, was ambushed and killed close to his village of Machambe according to its mayor, John Makwal. An unspecified number of terrorists hiding in tall corn farms along a bumpy earth road unleashed automatic gunfire on the victim’s vehicle as he approached the village on a sunny afternoon at about 2 pm local time, killing him instantly, said Makwal. The terrorists spoke the Fulani dialect, said Makwal in a telephone interview with TruthNigeria.
Militants identifying as members of the group have been blamed for thousands of genocidal massacres targeting chiefly Christian farmers in Nigeria. Approximately 15 miles away in neighboring Mangu county, a similar ambush at about the same hour killed one farmer near the town of Panyam, said a tribal youth leader, Jethro Jacob. The victim was returning from his farm along with five other residents when they were accosted by armed terrorists speaking the Fulani dialect according to Jacob who is the secretary of the Mwagavul Youth Movement. Three people were injured in the attack. Both Christian and Fulani residents had claimed victim status in the attacks described by local officials as “clashes between farmers and herdsmen. The U.S. mission in Abuja as well as the U.S. Department of State agree with this position. But William Murray, an American missionary who operates an orphanage that treats victims of attacks in Nigeria recently disputed the narrative during one of his humanitarian visits to Mangu.
“Christian farmers in Nigeria are on their land when they are killed, and their homes burned down by Fulani herdsmen with automatic weapons,” said Murray to TruthNigeria. “The farmers, who are law abiding, have no guns. “Gun ownership of any kind is forbidden in Nigeria, yet the Fulani have arms similar to those of the Nigerian army. How can the State Department classify a massacre as a clash?” said Murray. On the same day of the alleged murder of the Fulani leader, an early morning battle ensued between citizen guards and Fulani militants attempting to invade a previously displaced community 100 miles away in the State of Benue, according to a former county official. One resident was killed as a group of terrorists armed with assault rifles attempted to invade the town of Udei a few minutes after midnight before citizen guards responded and pushed them back, said Mike Nyieakaa, the former Chairman of Guma county, to TruthNigeria. The village of approximately 1,000 residents located close to the border with Nasarawa State was previously displaced by terrorists who killed several residents in a series of attacks during the last 4 years. A few residents have managed to return to their small-plot farms following fresh military orders by the new administration of President Tinubu. However, the terrorist attacks on their own farms are still pounded by killing squads, said Nyieakaa. The attack was a reprisal against an earlier confrontation between local residents who attempted to evict a group of herders from the surrounding where they were caught grazing on mature crops, Nyieakaa said. “It is a routine in this area,” said Nyieakaa in a telephone interview. “They provoke you and attack you when you try to react,” he said. Lethal invasions at 2:00 a.m. like this one are recorded by Western observers as “farmer-herder clashes,” a term the Nigerian government has adopted as convention, but which are considered a false narrative by the editors of TruthNigeria.
A resident of Udei, Kelvin Yowase, who witnessed the encounter said the battle on the eastern edge of the town lasted six hours before soldiers from a local military task force arrived. A group of ten citizen guards fired single shots from their homemade pipe guns hiding behind trees and brick buildings to scare the terrorists before soldiers arrived at 8 am local time, Yowase told TruthNigeria by telephone. The top spokesman for the Nigerian army in Abuja, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, did not respond to queries from TruthNigeria. Nyieakaa credited the Nigerian soldiers who arrived after many hours but nonetheless joined forces with the citizen guards and successfully repelled the attackers. The military then set up a camp in the town, said Nyieakaa. Yet, residents are still living in fear of attacks. “The herdsmen were chased away by the military, but no one knows when they will return or where they will strike from,” he said, calling for more protection to enable the displaced residents to return to their homes. Breaking: Nigerian Villagers Duck for Cover as Terrorists Spread Fire Amid Fresh Military Orders | Truth Nigeria
Nigeria bishops denounce violence, including assaults on priests and other Christians
Catholic bishops in Africa’s most populous nation have warned that Nigeria effectively has been taken over by insurgents, militia and criminal gangs, with Christians, including Catholic priests, among the most frequent victims. At the end of their Second Plenary Meeting, held in Abuja Sept. 7-15, the bishops denounced widespread violence and chaos in Nigeria, a situation they said is compounded by rising economic unease and lack of political transparency. On the security front, the bishops said insecurity “has remained a persistent problem in our country as insurgents, herdsmen militia, bandits, and so-called ‘unknown gunmen’ have continued to unleash terror. Kidnapping for ransom has continued,” the bishops said, with Catholic clergy particularly targeted. The latest priest to be kidnapped was Father Marcellinus Obioma Okide, who was taken on Sept. 17 but freed four days later. Some reports suggest that Obioma’s Diocese of Enugu paid an unspecified ransom to secure his release, although officials have not confirmed those claims. In general, kidnapping for ransom has become an important revenue stream for many of Nigeria’s armed groups. According to global research firm SB Morgan Intelligence, 30 Catholic priests were kidnapped in 2022, while at least 39 were killed. With a Christian being slain every two hours for their faith, Nigeria has the distinction of being the world’s greatest persecutor of Christians, according to Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors. In 2021, “More Christians were murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country,” according to the group. There were than 4,650 victims, or over 80 percent of all Christian fatalities worldwide. Nigerians also accounted for 4,726 of the 5,259 Christians kidnapped in 2022. Nigerian bishops complained that many of the country’s communities have been taken over by criminals. “The result is that many [people] have fled their homes, abandoned their farms, shops, businesses and other sources of livelihood,” they said in their Sept. 15 communiqué.
“The throng of internally-displaced persons in our country is ever-growing, with many children out of school, making them easy prey to human traffickers. This state of affairs has been compounded by the incessant sit-at-home orders in the South-East issued by non-state actors. Many have lost their lives for failing to adhere to such illegal directives.” The reference was to orders issued by insurgent groups in the southern part of Nigeria, mostly areas of the former Biafra which tried to break away and establish an independent state during a bloody 1967-70 civil war, for citizens to remain home during specified periods in order to pressure the government to give in to the groups’ demands. The clerics said the killings and kidnappings were being carried out by criminal elements with various levels of sophistication, with terrorists increasingly turning to soft targets “with Catholic priests in mind. The blood of the innocent continues to cry out to God for vengeance like Abel’s,” the bishops warned. They accused the country’s security apparatus of looking the other way as Christians are targeted for elimination. “The failure of the government to tackle the issue of killing of priests has further contributed to emboldening other criminals to do the same,” they said. “Those involved should be identified. They are not spirits, but human beings. If the security system is proactive enough, they should have been able to unearth the killers by now. The government has the responsibility to lead in dealing decisively with perpetrators of these atrocities which now serve as motivation for others to commit more crimes.” They said the federal government bears full responsibility for the killings, because it has “lost the capacity to rein in sundry cartels of gunmen who now terrorize different places, particularly in the North, without let or hindrance.” They called for a redesign of the existing strategy to stem insecurity. Adding to the rising insecurity is what the bishops described as a “failing and worsening economy” which has subjected Nigerians to “a life of poverty, hunger, hardship and suffering.” The World Poverty Clock says 71 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty, and the country’s National Bureau of Statistics last year said 63 percent of the population of 133 million people are “multidimensionally poor.” The World Bank predicts that between 2019 and 2025, the number of Nigerians living below the national poverty line will increase by 13 million, as population growth in the country continues to exceed efforts to combat poverty. The bishops blasted “the ever increasingscandalous comfort and remuneration of elected leaders to the detriment of the poor,” and urged the governments to cut the increasing cost of running government “and that the money saved be used to provide essential amenities and services.” Ultimately, the clerics believe that the way forward for Africa’s largest nation is to “journey together” in a spirit of synodality. “Synodality is a way of life,” they said. “It means journeying together as a people of God by way of communion, participation and mission. It fosters collaboration, forgiveness and reconciliation. “Synodality is facilitated by listening, a deeper form of hearing, shared responsibility and dialogue. To listen is to seek to understand; to understand is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation brings forgiveness; forgiveness brings collaboration which promotes growth and development.” They concluded that the principles of synodality offer “a true path to rebuilding our country. As we seek to do this, the different ethnic components, political affiliations and religio-cultural diversities should be helped to come together to work for peace, progress and development. In effect, synodality has the power to break all artificial barriers through cordiality and right relationships,” they said. Nigeria bishops denounce violence, including assaults on priests and other Christians | Crux (cruxnow.com)