Armed Fulanis in Nigeria Hiding Behind “unknown gunmen” Label to Go Unpunished: Priest

Fr. Remigius Ihyula. Credit: FJDP

No one is being held responsible for the ongoing killings, kidnappings and “massive” displacements targeting Christians in Nigeria because those responsible are hiding behind the “unknown gunmen” label, a Priest in Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Makurdi has said.

In a Thursday, January 26 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Remigius Ihyula who has been compiling monthly attacks in the Diocese said that armed Fulanis are responsible for most attacks happening in the villages served by the Diocese, and that the Islamist group is thriving under the label, which was assigned by government authorities.

“About two years ago, media houses were given strict instructions not to refer to the attackers as armed Fulani herdsmen, but to call them unknown gunmen and bandits instead,” Fr. Remigius said.

He added, “This was a plot to hide the truth from coming out. They want to continue with the violence against Christians with no one being held responsible.”

“I have been compiling attacks against innocent civilians in villages served by the Diocese since 2015. A day hardly goes by without an attack. Yet no one has been held responsible for the killings, abductions and massive displacements,” the Priest who serves as the Diocese’s Director of Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) said.


He said that no one is being held responsible for the atrocities committed against Christian in Nigeria because the attackers have sympathizers within the Nigerian government, and are therefore “protected from above”.

 The Catholic Priest said that the only time that “noise is made” is when Fulanis are victims of an incident.

“Some Fulanis died yesterday (January 25) and there was noise all over about Fulanis being targeted. But attacks against innocent civilians happen almost on a daily basis yet no one talks about them. Today alone, I have already recorded two different attacks against villagers, and I am sure that no arrest will be made,” he lamented. 

At least 27 Fulani herders were reportedly killed on January 25 and several others wounded when a bomb exploded in the village of Rukubi on the border between Nasarawa and Benue states in central Nigeria.

Nasarawa Governor, Abdullahi Sule, commented on the blast, in a local report, vowing "to ensure that those behind the killings are apprehended and face justice."

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“On behalf of the state government, I want to sympathize with the Fulani people across the state over the killings of their people by an unknown bomber. I want to assure them of the state government’s commitment to finding the perpetrators of such acts so they face the full wrath of the law,” the government official said.​​​​​​​

Fr. Remigius, however, shared with ACI Africa the possibility that the Fulanis in the January 25 incident were not victims of an attack.

“There is a possibility that no one attacked those Fulanis. Some point to the possibility that it is their own bomb that exploded within their own camp,” he said.

Corroborating the Nigerian Priest's claims about the government protecting Islamist militias, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), Johan Viljoen, said, “Why is it possible that so many people have been killed and others kidnapped yet no arrest has been made?”

“A lot of time has gone by since the stoning and burning to death of Deborah Yakubu yet no one has been held accountable for the crime. There were very clear videos of the incident, showing perpetrators in broad daylight. Have authorities made them pay for the cruelty against the innocent Christian girl?” the official of the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said.


Mr. Viljoen decried what he referred to as “complacency” of the Nigerian authorities, and added, “What we see is a deliberate attempt by some people in the Nigerian government to Islamize the country.”

Armed Fulani herdsmen have been blamed for various attacks happening across various Nigerian States, with reports indicating that the Islamist Fulanis sometimes go after their Christian victims in their camp hideouts.

In an interview with ACI Africa last year, Fr. Remigius expressed concern that a majority of IDP camps in Makurdi had no security personnel and were vulnerable to attacks.

He said that the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi has many IDP settlements, adding that the Episcopal See that is under the leadership of Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe houses “over 80 percent” of the quoted 1.5 million displaced persons in Benue State.

Those who have been displaced fear going back to their homes as the armed Fulani militants continue to wreak havoc in Benue State, which is one of the most affected states by the ongoing insecurity in Nigeria, he said during the August 2022 interview.

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“Most people living in IDP camps used to be farmers and are still afraid of going back to the villages to continue with their lives. Militants are hiding in the bushes close to homes, roads and in farms and they kill these people on sight,” Fr. Remigius told ACI Africa last year.