Days after Catholic bishop of Sokoto Diocese stirred the hornets nest with allegations of persecution of Christians, an Onitsha-based civil society group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), has put the number of Nigerians killed on account of their Christian faith at 3,462 in the last two hundred days.
The group makes no mention of the number of persons of other faiths killed in the spiralling violence that has kept the country on edge in the last few years.
However, it says Fulani bandits, who came into being in Zamfara State in 2011, are jointly responsible for terrors going on in parts of Southern Kaduna, Niger, FCT, Nasarawa and Kogi States.
According to the group, “They are also responsible for attacks on indigenous Hausa Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi. In Kebbi State, for instance, the Muslim Fulani Bandits target and kill or abduct both Christians and Muslims; holding against their fellow Muslims a jihadist belief that the “indigenous Hausa Muslims are not pure Muslims”; same reasons used in the ferocious jihadist attacks against their fellow Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Muslim areas of Kaduna and Niger States.”
The 3,462 Christians killed so far is just sixty-eight deaths less than the total deaths of Nigerian Christians in 2020 which the Open Doors’ World Watch List of Persecuted Christians put at ‘3,530’, the group says.
Said the group in a Sunday statement: “This number further represents daily average Christian deaths of seventeen and second highest since 2014 when over 5000 Christian deaths were recorded in the hands of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. While Boko Haram killed over 4000 Christians in 2014, the Fulani herdsmen accounted for 1,229 Christian deaths.
“In our last report issued on 11th May 2021, covering January to April 2021, we found that no fewer than 1,470 Christians were hacked to death and in the past 80 days or 1st May to 18th July 2021, not less than 1, 992 Christian lives have been lost. We also found that no fewer than 780 additional Christians were abducted in 80 days or 1st May to 18th July whereas between 1st January and 30th April, 2200 were abducted. This brings the total number of the abducted Christians since January to 3000, out of which at least three out of every abducted thirty Christians were most likely to have died in captivity; thereby indicating additional secret death in jihadists’ captivity of 300 Christians. Additional deaths of 150 is also added to represent ‘dark figures’ or deaths that occurred but not reported or recorded.”
The group estimates that the number of churches threatened or attacked and closed or destroyed or burnt since January 2021 is estimated to be around 300 with at least 10 clergymen abducted or killed by the jihadists.
It said Taraba State was discovered to be the most affected with at least seventy churches threatened or attacked, and closed, burnt or destroyed.
Intersociety claims to be a research and investigative rights group which has been monitoring and investigating religious persecution and other forms of religious violence by state and non state actors across Nigeria since 2010, adding that it carries out its job through the use of direct contacts with the victims, eyewitnesses, media tracking, review of credible local and international reports, interviews, among others.
It frowns at what it describes as the impunity and complicity of Nigerian security forces in some of the deaths.
“The surviving victims and families of the dead victims are also totally abandoned by the Government of Nigeria. The Nigerian Government has continued to face sharp criticisms and strong accusations of culpability and complicity in the killings and supervision of same,” it states.
Intersociety alleges that the security forces hardly intervene when the vulnerable Christians are in danger of threats or attacks, but only emerge after such attacks to arrest and frame up the same population threatened or attacked.
According to the group, in the North, the killer squads operate freely under the alleged cover and protection of security forces; abducting, killing, looting, destroying or burning and forcefully converting their captive and unprotected Christians and their homes and sacred places of worship and learning.
Recall that just on Saturday, the Atyap Community Development Association (ACDA) alluded to the same tendency when its head told journalists in Kaduna that in all the attacks in the 12 different villages in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State a total of 42 people were killed and 338 houses burnt with seven people wounded.
“Our revered places of worship were not spared as seven churches and their pastorium were razed by fire in various locations…. The entire Atyap nation seems to be at a loss to explain these senseless killings by the Fulani militia as we have bent over to implement the decisions of the peace accord reached with the parties involved…. There is no place in all the areas attacked that is more than 10 to 15 minutes’ drive from one security checkpoint to the other.”
According to the group, herdsmen killings are most widespread, accounting for 1,909 deaths in 200 days.
It is closely followed by Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani Bandits, mostly Muslims, which jointly killed 1,063 Christians.
It accused security forces of being allegedly responsible for 490 deaths.
Said Intersociety: “The killings by the Fulani herdsmen are also the most widespread cutting across the entire six geopolitical regions of Nigeria targeting Christian areas of Taraba, Adamawa and Gombe in the Northeast; Southern Kaduna (Northwest) and other Christian settlements in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and Kogi States in the North-Central; Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun in the Southwest; Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Abia in the Southeast; and Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Rivers in the South-south.
In a state by state breakdown, Benue State tops with deaths in the past 200 days followed by Kaduna State with 410 Christian deaths; Taraba State came third with 240 deaths; Plateau 170 deaths.