Church leaders abducted amid renewed violence in Kaduna state


Church leaders have been abducted as farming communities in Kaduna state are experiencing renewed violence and abductions by armed assailants of Fulani ethnicity.

As international attention remains focused on events in north western Nigeria, following the release of over 300 abducted schoolboys in Katsina state, farming communities in Kaduna state are experiencing renewed violence and abductions by armed assailants of Fulani ethnicity.

On 24 December, Mrs Jumai Luka, the wife of Rev Luka Shaho of Assemblies of God Church in Ungwan Waziri, in Chikun Local Government (LGA), central Kaduna state, was abducted by armed men who had beaten her husband “mercilessly.”

On 21 December, Reverend Thomas James of Godiya Baptist Church Gwazunu was abducted following an attack by over 100 well-armed men on the Gwazunu community in Gwagwada, Chikun LGA.  The militia went on to attack the Gbaja Katarma community, where eight people were killed and four reportedly sustained gunshot injuries.  According to information received by the media house War Desk, villagers subsequently fled to the Sarkin Pawa community in neighbouring Niger state as attacks continued and assistance was not forthcoming.

On 19 December, Rev Luka Dani of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) was abducted following at attack on the Galumi community in Gwagwada, Chikun LGA. Several villagers had reportedly been abducted from Kugosi and surrounding communities a week prior to this attack.  Rev Dani was eventually released on 23 December and has now left the area.

On 17 December, 10 people were killed, and 18 homes burnt down during an attack by armed men of Fulani ethnicity on Gora Gan village in Zangon Kataf LGA in the Atyap Chiefdom in southern Kaduna state. Five of the victims were from the same family. The attack constitutes the latest violation of a much vaunted peace accord, the most infamous breach being the murders on 15 November of the District Head of Ma’Zaki, Mr Haruna Kuye and his son Destiny, 9.  Mr Kuye’s wife and daughter survived the attack despite suffering severe injuries.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Executive of  Zagon Kataf Local Government Council, dated  21 December, the Ikulu Traditional Council warned that the Government Secondary School in Unwan Gimba was being used as a base by unidentified armed men. These men, who were suspected of being responsible for the attack on Gora Gan, had killed a local youth and “forced the inhabitants to flee the area to nearby villages for their safety.”

Elsewhere, on 17 December, armed men riding in pairs on motorcycles attacked Kujeni Tudu in Kajuru LGA, southern Kaduna, killing Bala Umaru, 75, and looting the village. According to the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), four people went missing after the attack. They were named as Dada Bulus, 55; Peter Tanko, 43; Buba Yakubu, 51; and Emma Dauda, 38.  

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “We offer our condolences to those who lost loved ones in this month’s attacks in Kaduna state, and our thoughts are with those whose family members are still missing or injured. The urgent and deteriorating situation in Kaduna must not be forgotten, nor must the religious element to these attacks be brushed aside. The authorities must develop a comprehensive security plan that considers the different dimensions to this security crisis, amid signs that the violence is not only continuing but has also spread to other areas.”

Inadequate official intervention to address ongoing violence by armed men of Fulani ethnicity on Christian farming communities in central Nigeria, and a concomitant proliferation of light arms, has occasioned a general rise in lawlessness which terrorist factions based in the northeast increasingly exploit. 

This situation is particularly stark in the north west, where armed bandits of Fulani ethnicity largely target Hausa Muslim farming communities.  Recent events in Katsina state, where the release of 344 boys abducted from their school in Kankara, allegedly in exchange for a ransom, was followed immediately by the rescue of around 113 Quranic students from Mahuta by local vigilantes, have highlighted both the critical levels of insecurity in the country and the growing nexus between terrorist factions from the north east and rural banditry in the northwest.

Reports emerged on 23 December of the death of Pastor Kabiru Babangida, a convert to Christianity who worked in remote villages in the north western states of Kebbi and Niger. The pastor was abducted and hacked to death by assailants who had initially demanded N4 million in ransom, before raising the amount to N10 million, then switching off their phones. Villagers subsequently decided to search for the pastor and eventually found his bound and mutilated corpse. The pastor is survived by his wife and two children, as well as by his parents and siblings who had disowned him due to his conversion.  

Attacks are also occurring in the south of the country with increasing frequency. On 2 December, Fulani assailants stormed the prayer retreat of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) near Abeokuta in Ogun state at around 1 am, stealing cash, phones, and other valuables from the worshipers. Several pastors and worshipers were attacked with machetes, and three women were abducted for ransom, including the wife of a senior pastor. 

Mervyn Thomas continued: “More must be done to address  Nigeria’s security vacuum, to stem the staggering loss of life across the nation, and to assist, compensate and rehabilitate victims of violence.  There is a pressing need for an overhaul of the entire security structure, including with regards to intelligence gathering, coordinating action between the security services, and equipping troops in a manner commensurate with terrain and challenges. A holistic security strategy must be formulated as a matter of urgency, given the increasing links between what may have initially appeared to be disparate sources of violence.”