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Herdsmen in Nigeria attacking villages before change of government

Nigeria map with flag

hyotographics | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 05/21/23

Official speaks of the houses he saw burned and the corpses he helped collect for burial.

In the wake of more attacks on Christian villages in the north of Nigeria, a local government is helping to bury victims and feed, clothe, and house survivors.

The Pillar website reported last week that violent attacks on nine northern Nigerian villages killed more than 100 people.

On Saturday, Aleteia spoke with a local government official who has been assessing the damage and trying to help the community pull together. Some villagers were able to take shelter with relatives, but others needed a place to stay, as their villages were completely overtaken by Fulani herdsmen. 

“Currently our people are in a state of disarray,” said Patrick Toholde, a regional councilor in the local Mangu government in Plateau State. “They don’t have food or clothing, because some of them were just coming from the farm – some of them were still on their farm – when the attacks started. They couldn’t carry anything from their houses, so we are trying to see how we can provide food and shelter and then clothing to all those that have left the villages.”

Toholde witnessed houses being burned down with foodstuffs inside. He subsequently went to some of the villages to collect corpses, which they buried Friday. He said that when the attackers saw him and his colleagues come into the villages in armored tanks, they ran away. “But as soon as we left the villages, they came back to occupy them,” he said.

Most of the people in the villages of Mangu District are Christian, Toholde said, while the Fulani herdsmen are Muslim.

Nigeria map with flag

Attacks began in April, he said, and so far about 10 villages have been taken over. In addition to the religious angle of the conflict, there is a political one, he said.

“It’s a movement by them to grab all the arable land that the locals have” for their cattle to graze, he told Aleteia. He said the Fulani see this as a sort of last-chance moment before a change in local government at the end of May.

“The governor-elect is from Mangu this time around, and they perceive that with the coming of the governor their people might not find the grazing land they want to grab.”

Nigeria is the country with both the largest number of Christians killed and the highest Mass attendance in the world:

A whopping 94% of Nigeria’s adult Catholics report attending Mass at least weekly, the highest rate anywhere in the world.

The World Index of Christian Persecution cites Nigeria as the first in terms of violence against Chritians. It is estimated that 89% of Christians killed throughout the world are located in Nigeria.

AfricaNigeriaPersecution of Christians
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