A very dear friend of mine left for the epicenter of the Fulani massacres in Benue State a few days ago. I have asked for permission to post his report of this morning from the battlegrounds. Please pray for his safety and the safety of his team. Pray for the traumatized villagers in Benue. And pray for the peace of Nigeria.
His report is below:
“I arrived a few days ago to investigate what appears to be the worst massacre by Muslim herdsmen since the Dogo Nahawa atrocity of 2010. Over 500 Christian villagers were slain in one night. Sadly since I came, the attacks have remained an “active shooter” situation with authorities warning us not to go in and families unable to go in search of missing relatives. Yesterday even a police Inspector was killed while searching for family.
I feel a profound sense of despair when I see that the Fulani herdsmen’s assault is still going on. They are not only occupying the villages they attacked but are conquering new ones 10 days afterwards. It is simply depressing that unlike Boko Haram, these people are still at the scene of the crime. Yet, they haven’t been apprehended. This kind of impunity is sickening.
I hear they drafted some soldiers to Agatu some days ago. I was quietly jubilant about it until I was rudely awakened. For under the noses of those soldiers the Fulani not only attacked Odugbeho, killed nine persons but returned to burn it down today.
What is happening my people? Where do we get our protection from? Is it not the time for the Federal Government to call these attacks what they are? Jihadists, Terrorism, Insurgency and pay the necessary attention to it?”
On Sunday, we met 8 survivors and heard the startling testimony of a Muslim man Ibrahim who testified that the herdsmen in the Agatu massacre spared him after he recited a quranic verse. They claimed they were told that his people did not support Islamic worship. He denied this and showed them his mosque. It was spared but village churches were burnt.
Yet the US embassy still maintains that this is purely a turf war between farmers and grazers without religious undertones.
Part of our findings so far –
1. The attacks began last weekend and continued daily till mid week.
2. The attackers are currently still occupying some of the villages they attacked.
3. The army went to the villages, saw the attackers and turned back.
It appears therefore that the killers’ whereabouts are known but they have not been apprehended and are still occupying and looting the communities attacked.
I am in Benue state now and visited schools upon schools attacked by the Fulani herdsmen in 2014- churches upon churches – and we haven’t reached Agatu yet. It’s really an eye opener that these herdsmen in the north central have a similar animus and M.O. as Boko Haram in the north east. Any doubt that they are in cahoots has been erased.
We do not have adequate security we need but we are pressing on now.
Survivors say the attackers had AK47s and ammunition belts. Our escorts have barely five guns between them to protect a five car convoy and two dozen media and relief workers. But if we are scared of a three day visit, what of the thousands who live here moment by moment?
Of course it is not inspiring that we see churches along our route dotted with IDPs or vehicles going in the opposite direction with many more fleeing still…
The reason we press on against the odds is that unbelievably, the rumors making the rounds in official circles is that this is simply another communal conflict, and that the local police chief denies any herdsmen were involved.
Yet, state officials including the local police commissioner and the army have all reported the occupation by herdsmen.
The cover up has begun but the truth must March on! This is part of being the voice of the voiceless and especially the martyred! Please keep us in your prayers.”
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.