Date: April 30, 2021
One of four still captive.
By Our Nigeria Correspondent
National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. (Creative Commons)
JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – One Christian student remains captive after three others escaped abduction on Thursday (April 29) by Muslim Fulani herdsmen from a Christian missions school in Plateau state, Nigeria, sources said.
School and government officials said the four students were kidnapped from The King’s School, a Christian missions school established by Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) in Gana Ropp village, Barkin Ladi County.
“Please pray for us, as we’re under attack here at our school in Gana Ropp village,” Bayo Famonure, head of the institution, had said in a text message to Morning Star News on Thursday (April 29).
After security agents repelled the herdsmen, Famonure sent another message to Morning Star News: “Four students were kidnapped, three escaped from the herdsmen, and one student is still being held captive.”
He added that security agents said they believe the herdsmen might be close by, “as the student being held by them phoned us to say they were already in the Fulani herdsmen’s camp, barely 20 minutes after he was captured and taken away.”
The Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, president of the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, said the attackers broke the rear fence of the school, drilling a hole to gain access to the compound and abduct the students.
Para-Mallam told Morning Star News by phone that security agencies prevented what could have been another mass abduction.
“Bayo Famonure, head of the institution, said that the herdsmen took to their heels after realizing the reinforcement of security agents in the area,” Para-Mallam said. “Let’s pray that God will work out the release of the abducted student, and as many that are also in captivity, especially students of Greenfield university and College of Forestry & Mechanisation both in Kaduna, Chibok girls in Borno, Leah Sharibu and others, in Jesus’ name.”
Gana Ropp village is located along the Jos-Barkin Ladi-Bokkos highway, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Jos.
CAPRO is an international, interdenominational Christian missions agency in Nigeria with more than 700 missionaries from 26 countries serving in 35 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. The school is the educational arm of CAPRO.
Police authorities in Jos confirmed the attack on the institution and said both police and military personnel have been deployed to the area to rescue the kidnapped student.
“Concerted efforts are on towards rescuing the victim and arresting the perpetrators,” said police spokesman Ubah Gabriel Ogaba in a press statement.
Priest, Pastor’s Wife Killed
In Benue state, Fulani herdsmen were suspected in the killing of a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban, on March 30.
Priest at St. Paul’s Catholic Church at Aye-Twar (Agu Centre) village in Katsina-Ala County, Ngugban and three of his parishioners were shot dead that morning, said Gbande Ulogo, a member of the parish.
“The herdsmen invaded the Christian community and set some houses alight. They then proceeded to the church, where they killed the priest and three parishioners,” Gbande said in a text message to Morning Star News.
Alfred Atera, council chairman of the Katsina Ala Local Government Council, gave the names of the three parishioners as Mfave Tumachihi, Mbangohor Tsebo and Orlukaa Ulu.
Area resident Christopher Utaver described the priest as a defender of the defenseless and a martyr.
“Having the thought that I will live never to glance at you face to face again is traumatic to my heart,” Utaver said. “You fought the good fight, father, and you accomplished your mission here in this cruel and wicked world that hates truth and light. You defended the innocent and defenseless congregation. You never denied your priesthood but stood firm even when your murderers stood close with guns pointed at you.”
Police spokesperson Sewuese Anene confirmed the attack.
“There was an attack on St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Kastina-Ala Local Government Area (LGA) by bandits, and a joint operation of police and other security agencies are on the trail of them,” she said in a statement.
Two days before the attack, the wife of a Pentecostal church in Otukpo, Benue state, was killed. Eunice Omaye Odoba, residents said, was murdered March 28 at her home.
Her brother, Mark Odoba, said she was stabbed to death by herdsmen. When church members noticed her missing from the Sunday worship service, they found her in a pool of blood at her home, he said in a text to Morning Star News.
“A dagger was used in attacking and killing her, and we believe she was killed by herdsmen as her house is located in the outskirts of the town,” Odoba said. “The members of her church reported the incident to the police, who are currently investigating the act.”
Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List report. In the 2021 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.
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 the WWL report. 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.
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.