Up to 20,000 people are reportedly homeless following brutal attacks on Christian villagers in central Nigeria’s Plateau State over Christmas. The attacks, which left more than 200 dead, have been blamed on Islamist Fulani militants.
A Plateau State civil grouping has issued an emergency statement calling on the population to be on “red alert” following a wave of coordinated attacks across the state that targeted Christians celebrating the religious holiday. From December 23 to 25, 160 people were reported to have been killed by terrorists invading dozens of Christian villages in Barkin Ladi, Bokkos and Mangu counties.
“These terrorists who attacked these Christian communities were in the hundreds, and they carried out the attacks as the hapless Christians were preparing for Christmas programs lined up by their pastors,” Bokkos resident Dawzino Malau told Morning Star News. Most of those killed were women, children and the elderly who were unable to escape, he said.
In the aftermath of the killings, on December 26, CSI received a video call from our partners in the area. This showed a mass burial that was taking place in Maiyanga village in Bokkos county. Our partners stated that these victims were killed on December 24, but could not be buried for two days because of the ongoing insecurity in the area.
“So far, statistics show that more than 200 locals were killed in Bokkos alone, with over 300 houses, 1,290 cars burnt, [and] 19,995 people displaced…,” the Coalition of Plateau State Indigenous Youths/Ethnic Nationalities wrote. It called on the federal government to set up a commission to aid the displaced.
Additionally, the statement called for a probe into the military response. “The coalition observes with deep concern the actions of military personnel on the Plateau, based on their actions and responses during distress situations,” it said. Eyewitnesses had accused the military of “giving cover [to] and aiding” the Fulani attackers, it added.
Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang spoke of a “Christmas genocide” in a post on X (formerly Twitter) to mark the new year. “These unprovoked and simultaneous attacks in different villages were clearly premeditated and coordinated,” he said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is a misrepresentation of facts to describe these needless and unprovoked attacks on our people as a farmer-herder clash as has always been the traditional narrative. Let us call a spade a spade, this is simple genocide!”
Governor Mutfwang separately declared a week of mourning from January 1 to 8 and called on Muslim clerics and Christian clergy to hold special prayer days for lasting peace in Plateau.
Let us call a spade a spade, this is simple genocide!: Plateau Governor Caleb Mutfwang
In a continuation of the violence, suspected Fulani militants invaded villages in two southern districts in neighboring Kaduna State on January 3, killing 41 Christians and abducting two others, Morning Star News reported. Quoting local sources, it said 17 were killed in Kauru and 24 killed in Kajuru local government areas. Police confirmed the attacks.
Two days later, on January 5, Islamic extremists killed a church pastor, Luka Levong, and 13 church members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in an attack in Yobe State, northeastern Nigeria, according to Morning Star News.
It quoted local residents as saying that members of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked Kwari, close to the border with Niger, at about 1 a.m.
“The terrorists set fire to the COCIN church building and destroyed vehicles parked in the premises of the church, and also set fire to the houses of Christians in the town,” said area resident Aaron Bwala.
On December 29, the United States issued its special watch list of countries deemed of particular concern (CPC) on religious freedom grounds. Once again, Nigeria was not among those countries. CSI has campaigned to have Nigeria reinstated on the list since 2021 when it was first excluded.