Date: January 25, 2021
Killings continue unchecked in north-central part of country.
By Our Nigeria Correspondent
JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen in southwest Nigeria on Jan. 16 shot and killed a pastor who was also a university professor, sources said.
Amos Arijesuyo, pastor at Christ Apostolic Church and professor at the Federal University of Technology (FUTA) in Akure, Ondo state, was returning to Akure from Ibadan when herdsmen shot into his vehicle, a university spokesman said.
“His vehicle ran into an ambush laid by herdsmen who were operating on the road around 5:30 p.m.,” Adegbenro Adebanjo, university deputy director of corporate communications, said in a press statement. “The herdsmen shot sporadically at the vehicle, targeting the five occupants, and unfortunately some of the bullets hit Dr. Arijesuyo and the driver.”
The driver managed to maneuver the vehicle away to seek medical help, he said.
“Arijesuyo succumbed to the fatal injuries from the gunshots he suffered during the hellish encounter, while the driver is recuperating at a hospital,” Adebanjo said.
Adebanjo noted that the professor also served as the university’s deputy registrar and head of the guidance and counseling unit.
“The university condemns in the strongest terms this senseless attack that has led to the untimely death of an erudite university administrator and counselor par excellence,” he said. “Dr. Arijesuyo’s death is a big loss to FUTA, the academic community in Nigeria and beyond. It is a death that should not have happened in the first place.”
The management, staff and students at the university hope that security agencies find and prosecute the assailants, he said.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with the wife, children and family members of our departed colleague at this difficult period of unquantifiable grief,” Adebanjo said. “May the good Lord grant them the fortitude to bear this irreparable and painful loss and grant the deceased eternal repose.”
Joseph Ayodele, a member of the slain pastor’s congregation, told Morning Star News that Arijesuyo was an easygoing man of God.
“The pastor was a professor, born intelligent, and a passionate man of the word [of God],” Ayodele said.
Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.
Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to the WWL report. In the 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.
Killings in Kaduna State
In north-central Nigeria’s Kaduna state, Muslim Fulani herdsmen this month killed 26 people in predominantly Christian areas and wounded three others, sources said.
In Chikun County in southern Kaduna, “armed bandits,” the euphemistic term officials use for Fulani herdsmen, killed Nehemiah Ishaku and Yunana Mai-Mulo in Maskoro village, Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said in a Jan. 23 press statement. In Akunakwo village, Haruno Dogo and Danjuma Jagaba were killed he said, without giving dates for either of the attacks.
Herdsmen on Thursday (Jan. 21) attacked predominantly Christian Baranje village, also in Chikun County, killing four Christians, Aruwan said. He identified two of them as Dogara Yahaya and Reuben Adamu. A week earlier, assailants killed five other people in predominantly Christian areas in the southern part of Kaduna state, he said without giving details.
In Kauru County on Jan. 12, he said, two people were killed and two others wounded in an attack on the predominantly Christian village of Kizachi. Aruwan identified those killed as Musa Garba and Yakubu Yawo, and the wounded as Monday Joseph and Jacob Thomas.
“Musa Garba and Yakubu Yawo, were shot dead, while Monday Joseph and Jacob Thomas were shot and injured,” Aruwan said.
Armed herdsmen have destroyed 12 Christian communities in Chikun County in the past two years, displacing more than 1,000 Christians, said Gambo Yusuf, an area Christian community leader. Seven Christians were killed in the attacks on Kadori, Kaduna Katuka, Gofa, Chikun, Sape, Kadiso and other villages, he said.
“In Chikun ward, the herdsmen have already taken over some villages,” Yusuf said. “Recently, the herdsmen killed seven Christians in some of these villages. Most displaced Christians have been living in makeshift camps in the past two years.”
In Kaura County on Jan. 10, herdsmen attacked Kamaru Chawai village, killing three Christians and wounding another, area resident Gabriel Ezekiel said.
“Sunday Joshua, Samson Andy and Mrs. Tani Jacob were shot dead, and one John Joshua was injured during the attack,” Ezekiel told Morning Star News by text message. “It was a well-coordinated attack on my community.”
Kaduna state spokesman Aruwan confirmed the attack on Kamaru Chawai village and the three deaths.
In Jema’a County on the night of Jan. 1, armed herdsmen attacked predominantly Christian Nisama village and killed Yohanna Abu. Aruna said that the assailants kidnapped Abu and then shot him at close range.
“The gunmen … abducted Mr. Abu along with another resident, Mr. Charles Audu,” Aruna said. “A struggle ensued between the duo and the kidnappers, and while Mr. Audu was able to escape, the kidnappers shot Mr. Abu dead.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
The APPG report noted that tribal loyalties cannot be overlooked.
“In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, was elected president of Nigeria,” the group reported. “He has done virtually nothing to address the behavior of his fellow tribesmen in the Middle Belt and in the south of the country.”
The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.
In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”
On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.