At least 142 people were killed, 156 were injured and 70 were abducted on 10 April during simultaneous attacks on communities in the Kanam Local Government Area (LGA) of Plateau state, Nigeria by hundreds of armed assailants of Fulani origin.
Survivors from the affected communities, which included Dadda, Dadin Kowa, Dungur, Gyambawu, Gwammadaji, Kukawa, Kyaram, Shuwaka, Wanka, and Yelwa, said their assailants arrived at around 3.45pm in large numbers, with three men riding on each motorcycle, just as people were preparing their farmlands for the rainy season. As well as killing and abducting villagers, they burnt down at least 100 homes, destroyed farmlands, looted barns and stole livestock. Most of the abductees were female.
The attacks in Kanam LGA are part of the latest surge in an ongoing campaign by Fulani militia men, who have been targeting non-Muslim communities in central states in this manner since 2010, when at least 400 people were killed overnight in Dogo Nahawa, Ratsat and Zot villages in Plateau state. The eyewitness accounts of three assailants riding on each motorcycle are consistent with the testimonies of survivors of attacks on villages in Taraba and Kaduna states between 2017 and 2019, who informed CSW their assailants rode on motorcycles carrying three people, one of whom drove, as the other two would shoot towards the left and the right respectively.
Speaking to CSW, The Most Rev. (Dr.) Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican Archbishop of Jos, said: “The massacre in the Kanam areas was the most horrendous, unexpected surprise attack. Kanam is a mixed community where Christians and Muslims have been living together for hundreds of years. The two ruling houses, one Christian, one Muslim, have always interchanged. So this is not an issue between either of the communities because they are so mixed that separating them is difficult. This is definitely an unwarranted attack on a very peaceful community. My heart goes out to the families that are bereaved right now, to the wounded.”
Prior to the attacks in Kanam LGA, heavily armed assailants had broken into the home of the Plateau State Commissioner for the Environment in Gindiri, Mangu LGA on 9 April, abducting his wife and daughter. A week earlier, 10 people were killed and 19 were injured on 4 April in an armed attack on a cultural festival in Bassa LGA. An attack in the Miango District on the same day left three people dead and one injured, while around 25 homes, 40 grain stores and an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) building were burned down.
Archbishop Kwashi continued: “This is another indication to the Federal Government of Nigeria that it is doing too little save the poorest of our communities. There is nothing more heinous than being unable to protect the poor, the vulnerable, the orphans, the widows and the helpless, as is being witnessed in Nigeria today. Security is not provided for the rural dwellers and for the rural farmers. Obviously, that is ravaging the poor. The rains have started to come and farmers will now be fearful to go to the farm. It is also a warning sign, because it shows that there is now an inroad into Plateau state from its southern side. There has always been a northern entry point, but now there is a southern entry.”
The Kanam LGA attacks also occurred amidst warnings that militia men had set up camps in forests in Wase and Kanam LGAs, and rumours of an imminent terror attack on Jos which meant security in the city was reinforced, leaving rural areas more vulnerable. There has been a significant increase in similar violence in neighbouring Kaduna state, where a terrorist presence has been noted in forested areas since 2021 and where those responsible for an attack on an Abuja-Kaduna train have reportedly demanded the release of 16 top commanders and sponsors who are in government custody in exchange for the release of over 100 abductees. There are also reports of at least 13 communities in the Gassol and Karim Lamido LGAs in neighbouring Taraba state being occupied, and of the sighting of 17 major armed groups moving from Zamfara state towards Kaduna, Niger and Kebbi states in large numbers, prompting fears of a further escalation in violence.
A government gazette published in January 2022 designated non-state actors operating in northwest Nigeria who were previously described as “armed bandits”, as terrorists, and extended this designation to “other similar groups” operating “in any part of Nigeria, especially in the North-West and North-Central Regions.”
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “Insecurity in Nigeria is at a critical level. We urge the Federal authorities and the administrations of Plateau and other affected states to formulate and initiate a security strategy that is comprehensive enough to contain the movements of violent non state actors, while also addressing the distinct outworkings of violence in each state. While the violence predates the advent of Nigeria’s current administration, its exponential growth in scope and scale coincides with its tenure. Therefore, we also urge members of the international community, and particularly the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, given their warm relations with the ruling party while it was in opposition, to hold it to account for its failure safeguard Nigerian citizens, and to offer every possible assistance to stem violence which now poses an existential threat to the nation, and risks undermining the peace and security of the entire West African region.”