United Kingdom-based All-Party Groups, comprising informal groups of members of the House of Lords and House of Commons have raised concern about genocide in Nigeria.
In a 39-page publication endorsed by Chair of the APPG, Jim Shannon MP, which he said was not an official position of both Houses, the group of parliamentarians said Boko Haram terrorists were the promoters of genocide in the country.
“They are promoting genocide by frequently abducting and killing those who refuse to conform to their extremist brand of Islam. The lackadaisical attitude and response of the Nigerian government also contribute to the development.
“For centuries, herdsmen have lived in relative harmony with settled farming communities. The two groups have benefited from symbiotic partnerships to keep farmlands fertile and cattle well nourished.
“Disputes would occasionally arise, as herders moved their cattle seasonally to farmlands in search of water and grazing areas, but leaders would generally resolve them peacefully through established arbitration mechanisms, which compensated losses and shared resources.
“Unfortunately, this relationship has deteriorated rapidly resulting in enormous violence,” the group said.
Although it could not mention the exact death figures, it said thousands of civilians were killed in herdsmen attacks and periodic reprisals violence.
“Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust reports that over 1,000 Christians were killed between January and November 2019 in addition to an estimated 6,000 or more deaths since 2015.
“Amnesty International (AI) estimated that between January 2016 and October 2018 “at least 3,641 persons may have been killed, 406 injured and 5,000 houses burnt.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), reported higher figures, insisting that Fulani herdsmen killed over 6,000 persons between January and June 2018.
“International Crisis Group (ICG) estimated that over 300,000 people have been displaced and that the violence has claimed the lives of six times more people than the conflict with Boko Haram. Its geographical footprint is also larger, with conflict manifesting in more states.”
Also, Search for Common Ground (SfCG) confirmed that between January 1, 2019, and January 1, 2020, intercommunal violence represented the most severe threat to the civilian population in Nigeria, while Mercy Corps reported that the violence cost the Nigerian economy £10.5b yearly.
The report indicated that some of the worst affected states are, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Kwara, Borno and Zamfara.
“On July 4, 2018, the House of Representatives declared killings in predominantly-Christian villages in Plateau State to be a genocide and asked the Federal Government to immediately establish orphanages in the affected areas.
On February 26, 2019, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice ordered an investigation of mass killings and destruction of property by herdsmen against the Agatu Community in Benue State in 2016, stating that government is “obliged to protect its citizens, as well as identify and prosecute the perpetrators and redress the victims.”
Listing factors responsible for the genocide, APPG examined multiple drivers of conflict, including resource competition, religious sectarianism, poor land management, population growth, climate change and insecurity.
While citing instances of atrocities, Shannon said, “Attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians. For instance, herdsmen in the Ropp district, Plateau State, attacked four Christian farming villages. The attack killed 21 people.
A survivor said, “They were trained terrorists with guns. They killed those who couldn’t run including the aged, children and the blind. A pastor was their first casualty. They surrounded him. They killed him and then they rejoiced, shouting ‘Allah u Akbar’ and ‘we have got a hero.”
Describing a similar attack in Jos, Susan Essam said, “On the outskirts of the city, under the foothills, are two houses close together, where Sarah’s family members lived. The Fulani had for a long time been coming around the area to graze their cattle and it was alleged that a Fulani boy was killed around there, but with no evidence.
“On the evening of Thursday, September 27, they attacked and killed nine people in one house and three in another, including a pregnant woman. They shot Sarah’s husband and children and so she begged them to kill her too, but they refused, saying they wanted her to cry and bear the pain.”
Describing an attack in Ngar village, a survivor identified as Margaret said, “I called my sister Nami’s cellphone because she lived in the village near me and we had been communicating during the attack, but this time a Fulani answered the phone.
“We later saw that she was raped and her wrists cut off before she was shot in the heart. They took my brother, his wife and all their six children, tied and slaughtered them like animals. In all, 18 people were killed in the house that day, while the rest were all burnt alive.”
In Ningon village in Gashing District, Lydia said, “They capture cows and surround our villages. They use pick-ups guns to loot and burn our homes. Before the attack, a Fulani told us, “There is no point in sowing because we won’t have a harvest to reap.”
She added that they were hacking and killing people, “and ensuring that those who were shot were finished off. They wore black and red to conceal blood splashes on their clothes as they butchered their victims.”
The group also cited the influence of politics, saying political actors working to further their own interests have deepened religious disharmony in Nigeria.
It further noted that criminality also played a crucial role in the violence, lamenting that rural communities across Northern and Central Nigeria, including Fulani herders and farming communities of diverse ethnic and religious identities, have lost their livelihoods to village raids, cattle rustling and kidnapping.
“The rising criminality has coincided with the skyrocketing price of cattle. Moreover, ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ are taking advantage of the Boko Haram violence in the Northeast and general insecurity in Nigeria to engage in widespread ‘rural banditry.’
Other factors are cheap and available firearms and misinformation, which had exacerbated the conflict between farmers and herdsmen through the spread of ‘fake news’ through social media.