21-Year-Old Mother, 19-Year-Old Christian Killed by Fulani Herdsmen in Miango Village, Plateau State, Nigeria

Fulani herdsmen killed the wife and nephew of a Christian in Plateau state, Nigeria in an attack on their home on Thursday night (May 20), sources said.

Jeffrey Moses, 26, said he and his wife, 21-year-old Ladi Jeffrey, and nephew Shadrach Zwewhie, 19, were all asleep when armed herdsmen attacked their home at about 9:20 p.m. in Jebbu Miango village, Miango District, Bassa County. Ladi Jeffrey was mother to a 16-month-old baby.

Earlier that day, Fulani herdsmen had trespassed on his farm and issued threats, he said. About five herdsmen forced their way into the house that night, each of them armed, Moses said, adding that he was asleep in his room with their baby while his wife slept in another room.

“I heard gun shots. I woke up and was very weak. I tried standing up but was unable to do so,” Moses told Morning Star News. “The herdsmen shot their guns three times before forcing their way into our house.”

Ladi Moses, instantly killed, was a member of a local Roman Catholic church, as is her husband. Zwewhie, a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), was taken to a medical clinic where he later died, Moses said.

“I believe those who attacked my family are Fulani herdsmen, because they’ve been responsible for the incessant attacks on our people,” Moses said. “Earlier that day at about 4 p.m., the Fulani had trespassed on our farm, destroying our crops, and threatened to attack us afterwards. We did not take their threat seriously, and we never knew they would attack us that same day.”

Moses, married in April 2019, said police did not arrive until about an hour after the attack and thus could not pursue the assailants.

“The sad thing is that there are soldiers stationed close to our village, but they did nothing to stop the herdsmen,” he said. “The government has not been able to address this issue, and each time we try defending ourselves, soldiers will stop us.”

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 Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List 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.

Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990. In this year’s World Watch List 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.

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.