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Nigeria’s Militants Enjoying High Level Protection to Terrorize Christians: Global Charity

Map showing Nigeria's Kaduna State and other neighboring states. Credit: Public Domain

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights organization, has condemned the sharp increase in attacks targeting Christians in Nigeria’s Plateau State since the August 14 attack and killing of 23 commuters in the Nigerian State, saying that those behind the subsequent killings appear to be enjoying high level support to advance their agenda.

In a Friday, August 27 report, CSW leadership documents a series of attacks in the State including an August 24 killing of 36 people near Nigeria’s University of Jos in Plateau State and the attack on the country’s military training institute in Kaduna State in which two officers were killed and one abducted.  

CSW President Mervyn Thomas has condoled with the victims of the attacks, which he says bring to the fore the impunity enjoyed by militias in the country.

“We extend our condolences to the families and communities who lost loved ones in the latest attacks in Kaduna and Plateau States,” Mr. Mervyn says.

He adds, “These brazen assaults, that have now extended to a key military installation, indicate the existence of a well-resourced, highly coordinated militia that appears to enjoy high-level sanction.”

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CWS reports that the 36 people were killed by armed assailants of Fulani origin on the Yelwan Zangam, a community located near the University of Jos.

According to the organization that works on behalf of those persecuted for their religious beliefs, several victims in the attack were burnt to death in the house in which they had taken refuge.

Militia men also damaged a bridge connecting Yelwan Zangam with the neighboring Anaguta community, “possibly to prevent them from assisting their neighbors,” the organization reports. 

According to the UK-based organization, grieving members of the community are said to have transported the bodies of the victims of the attack to the official residence of Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, and to the State House of Assembly, where they demanded effective action to end the violence.

The attack on Yelwan Zangam was the latest in an ongoing campaign of violence targeting communities belonging to predominantly Christian ethnic minority groups in Plateau state, that claimed the lives of at least 70 Irigwe people within a fortnight. 

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According to the leadership of CSW, the attack occurred despite a curfew imposed on Jos North and Jos South Local Government Areas (LGAs) after 22 Muslim men were killed when their convoy was intercepted along the Rukuba Road area of Jos North LGA, in an act of violence that was condemned widely by both Christians and Muslims and that is currently the subject of competing narratives. 

Reports have described the men who were killed in transit to Ondo state in the south of the country as followers of the Tijaniyyah religious leader Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi.

Tensions were exacerbated further by subsequent media reports attributing the murders to “Irigwe youth,” or “Christian militia,” along with threats of retaliation by Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi.

Islamic cleric Uztaz Abubakar Salihu Zaria has been quoted as threatening Christians in various Nigerian States following the August 14 attack on Muslim travelers. He threated to waylay and kill Christians in Northern and Central States.

The leadership of CSW finds it baffling that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to comment on recent or previous attacks on the Irigwe community, despite immediately condoling Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi following the killings of his followers.

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The organization reports that President Buhari invited the Muslim leader to the presidential villa and directed security agencies in the country to act fast to nab the killers.

In a separate attack on 24 August, armed assailants reportedly attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna at around 1 a.m., killing Lieutenant Commodore Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Okoronkwo, and kidnapping Major Christopher Datong, who is from Plateau State.

According to the leadership of CSW, Kaduna State is currently an epicenter of kidnapping and banditry activity, with the Southern part of the State having suffered relentless attacks since 2011. 

“The Atyap Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf LGA in Southern Kaduna has seen a surge in attacks since July, despite having a joint military and police camp located 3km from the main town. Reports are still emerging of attacks in the LGA during the evening of 26 August,” the organization says in its August 27 report.

The organization details that on August 22, 17 people were killed, an unknown number were injured, and several houses were torched in Mabushi, outside Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. According to CSW, most of the victims were women and children. 

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The leadership of the international Christian entity has also reported heightened insecurity in Northwest Nigeria, where attacks by diverse armed gangs largely of Fulani ethnicity primarily target predominantly Hausa Muslim farming communities.

The Christian organization reports that in the president’s home state of Katsina, 32 out of 34 LGAs are under siege, including the State capital. 

CSW has applauded the courage of Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, a former member of Nigerian military intelligence, who in a landmark television interview  highlighted the “religious and socio-cultural” source of the current security challenges, and raised the issue of individuals currently in high office who have allegedly sponsored this violence.

On Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily program, Mr. Olawunmi said the source of Nigeria’s current security challenges was “religious and socio-cultural.”

He added that the “centre of gravity of Boko Haram and insurgency in Nigeria are the sponsors,” and that several of them are in the present administration, the Senate and are serving as governors.  

He also observed that insecurity was continuing because “this government does not want to solve this problem. They are escalating it because of tribal and religious sentiment.”

CSW President, Mr. Mervyn, has described the situation in Nigeria as a thorny issue that must be confronted and addressed as a matter of urgency.

“The unprecedented levels of violence and criminality are taking an enormous toll on Nigerian citizens. They deserve far better.  We therefore reiterate our call for international pressure to be brought to bear on the Nigerian authorities to galvanize them into securing the nation and ensuring protection for all citizens, regardless of creed or ethnicity,” Mr. Mervyn said.