Christian Farmer Community Faces Persecution in Nigeria; Death Toll Rises to Hundreds

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into a recent upsurge in radical Fulani attacks on Christian communities in Benue State, Nigeria. The announcement comes after a week of brutal assaults tallied reports of hundreds of deaths, including 145 killed throughout 25 villages in Agatu Local Government Area alone.

Nigerian newspapers report that the violence displaced nearly 7,000 villagers.
For the past two weeks, the Christian farming community in Agatu Local Government Area (LGA) in Benue State, Nigeria has experienced hell on earth. From February 22 to 24, radical Islamist Fulani herder militias have invaded the county, wildly sacking whole villages destroying homes and farmlands, and murdering hundreds.

Though some Nigerian news media outlets reported death tolls between 140-150, sources close to the situation in Benue told International Christian Concern (ICC) that close to 300 were actually killed, while as many as 7,000 were displaced.

According to local sources, the assault continues unabated, despite Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s launch of an official investigation on Monday looking into the crisis.

Villages attacked include Akwu, Adogbo, Ayilla, Ogboju, Okokolo, Abugba, among several others.

Benue State Police Commissioner Paul Yakadi told the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard that the Fulani attackers came from nearby areas. “The worrisome renewed attack on the Agatu communities by Fulani herdsmen was as a result of the alarming influx of the herdsmen into the area through neighboring towns of Naka in Gwer West local government area of Benue State, Loco and Doma of Nasarawa State, where cattle are made to swim across the water to Agatu,” he said.

“The Command, which was on an assessment tour of the area few days ago to identify areas that security needed to be beefed up, discovered Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons with their cows numbering over 5,000,” he added.

According to local reports, Agatu villagers rejoiced at the news of the government investigation, but still, the bloodshed continues.

Agrarian Christians across Nigeria’s ‘Middle Belt’ region face what some observers are calling genocide after enduring 15 years of brutal Islamist Fulani raids with countless people being slaughtered on a near-weekly basis. Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, and parts of Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, and Gombe states make up the region most heavily under attack from these Islamist Fulani gangs.

Buhari expressed shock about the recent attacks. He also urged Nigerians to put aside their differences and live in peace.

Buhari’s comments come in a long pattern where Nigerian officials have failed to truly evaluate the root issues. They continue to constitute these ongoing horrific attacks only as historical tensions over land rights for cattle grazing versus farming.

While Boko Haram continues its terrible attacks on communities in north-eastern Nigeria, the Fulani herder onslaught in the Middle Belt continues unabated, claiming nearly as many lives and causing a similar toll of destruction on churches and Christian homes.