levels of insecurity were brought into stark focus on 24 August by a spiralling
death toll in Plateau state and an armed assault on the country’s foremost
military training institute in Kaduna state, that resulted in the deaths of two
officers and the abduction of another.
Around 36 people were killed on 24 August in an attack by armed assailants of Fulani origin on Yelwan Zangam, a community located near the University of Jos, which began at around 8 pm. Several victims were burnt to death in the house in which they had taken refuge. Militia men also damaged a bridge connecting Yelwan Zangam with the neighbouring Anaguta community, possibly to prevent them from assisting their neighbours. Grieving members of the community subsequently transported the bodies to the official residence of Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, and to the State House of Assembly, where they demanded effective action to end the violence.
The attack on Yelwan Zangam was the latest in an ongoing campaign of violence targeting communities belonging to predominantly Christian ethnic minority people groups in Plateau state, that claimed the lives of at least 70 Irigwe people within a fortnight. It occurred despite a curfew imposed on Jos North and Jos South Local Government Areas (LGAs) after 22 Muslim men were killed when their convoy was intercepted along the Rukuba Road area of Jos North LGA, in an act of violence that was condemned widely by both Christians and Muslims and that is currently the subject of competing narratives.
One narrative describes the men as followers of the Tijaniyyah religious leader Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, who were killed in transit to Ondo state in the south of the country. The other contends that a convoy of vehicles transporting “able-bodied men” through Jos as the mass burial of victims of earlier militia violence was due to commence, was stopped, questioned, searched, and attacked when one of the vehicles was found to be carrying weapons.
Tensions were exacerbated further by subsequent media reports attributing the murders to “Irigwe youth,” or “Christian militia,” along with threats of retaliation by Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, and a viral video by Islamic cleric Uztaz Abubakar Salihu Zaria, in which he vowed to waylay and kill Christians in northern and central states.
Significantly, while the attack on Yelwan Zangam was condemned by the Plateau state chapter of the Muslim umbrella group, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to comment on recent or previous attacks on the Irigwe community, despite immediately condoling Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi following the killings of his followers, inviting him to the presidential villa and directing security agencies to find the killers.
In a stunning breach of security that also occurred on 24 August, armed assailants attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Akafa, Kaduna at around 1am, killing Lieutenant Commodore Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Okoronkwo, and kidnapping Major Christopher Datong, who is from Plateau state. The reportedly “harsh speaking” abductors later demanded a ransom of N200million (around $450,000), refusing to reduce the sum. While initial accounts suggested Major Datong’s body was found hours after his abduction, a subsequent report claimed his family and the military had received proof he is still alive.
Kaduna state is currently an epicentre of kidnapping and banditry activity, with the southern part of the state having suffered relentless attacks since 2011. The Atyap Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf LGA in southern Kaduna has seen a surge in attacks since July, despite having a joint military and police camp located 3km from the main town. Reports are still emerging of attacks in the LGA during the evening of 26 August.
On 22 August, 17 people were killed, an unknown number were injured, and several houses were torched in Ungwan Doh village in Mabushi. Most of the victims were women and children. On the evening of 16 August, Amos Bulus, Bulus Swan and Simon Akut were killed and a woman identified only as Kezia was injured during an attack on Goran Gida in the Gora District.
Insecurity is also rampant in northwest Nigeria, where attacks by diverse armed gangs largely of Fulani ethnicity primarily target predominantly Hausa Muslim farming communities. In the president’s home state of Katsina, 32 out of 34 LGAs are under siege, including the state capital. Members of the House of Assembly were reportedly reduced to tears on 24 August while discussing the deteriorating security situation.
CSW Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “We extend our condolences to the families and communities who lost loved ones in the latest attacks in Kaduna and Plateau states. These brazen assaults, that have now extended to a key military installation, indicate the existence of a well-resourced, highly coordinated militia that appears to enjoy high-level sanction. CSW applauds the courage of Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (retd.), a former member of Nigerian military intelligence, who in a landmark television interview highlighted the ‘religious and socio-cultural’ source of the current security challenges, and raised the issue of individuals currently in high office who have allegedly sponsored this violence. These thorny issues must be confronted and addressed as a matter of urgency. The unprecedented levels of violence and criminality are taking an enormous toll on Nigerian citizens. They deserve far better. We therefore reiterate our call for international pressure to be brought to bear on the Nigerian authorities to galvanise them into securing the nation and ensuring protection for all citizens, regardless of creed or ethnicity.”
On Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily programme, former member of Nigerian military intelligence Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (retd.) said the source of Nigeria’s current security challenges was “religious and socio cultural.” He added that the “centre of gravity of Boko Haram and insurgency in Nigeria are the sponsors,” and that several of them are in the present administration, the Senate and are serving as governors. He also highlighted that insecurity was continuing because “this government does not want to solve this problem. They are escalating it because of tribal and religious sentiment.”
The Commodore went on to state that the attack on the NDA was meant to “send a message, to create fear and to show the military that ‘we can come for you and there’s nothing you can do.’ It’s not about ransom.”
Notes to Editors:
- The Tijaniyyah is a Sufi order that originated in the Maghreb but is widespread in West Africa, including in Nigeria.