WND reported recently the deaths of dozens of Christians in attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria.
Such attacks have been carried out for years, and now the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States has ordered the Nigerian government to investigate the mass killings and destruction of several villages in a series of attacks in 2016 in Benue state.
The investigation is expected to result in the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators and compensation for the victims.
“Around 500 people are thought to have died when Fulani militiamen, who were allegedly backed by helicopters, devastated the Agatu community during a series of attacks in 2016,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The court eventually agreed in a lawsuit by a Catholic priest, Solomon Mfa, and 11 others. They charged that the president, the inspector general of police, the army chief of staff and others were in “violation of their obligation to protect the human rights of the Agatu community and prevent its violation.”
The court “additionally ordered the government to provide adequate security by deploying more security personnel to Agatu ‘to protect the community and prevent the further occurrences’ of this violence,” CSW said.
“Significantly, the court rejected the federal government’s description of the violence in Benue state as communal clashes between farmers and herders, and upheld the plaintiffs’ argument that armed Fulani herdsmen were attacking and killing communities in Benue. The court also rejected the contention that the defendants (the Nigerian government) could not be held responsible for any ethnic crime committed by unidentified and unknown persons,” the organization said.
“We welcome the ruling of the ECOWAS Court of Justice and urge the incoming Nigerian government to comply by investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of the 2016 attacks on Agatu as swiftly as possible, and compensating the victims,” said CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
“We also appeal for this action to be replicated for every community in central Nigeria and elsewhere that has been devastated by militia attacks in recent years. It is particularly important to note the court’s rejection of the characterization of this violence as ‘farmer-herder clashes’, and its acknowledgment that in reality, armed herders are attacking communities.”
CSW said in 2016 that more than 10 villages in Northern Nigeria were under siege by armed Fulani herders.
A statement released by the office of Sen. David Mark, who represents the area, revealed following his visit to Agatu at least 500 people died during the attacks and “all the primary and post primary schools, health centers, worship centers as well as the police station in the area have been burnt down.”
Angele Dikongue-Atangana, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Economic Community of West African States to Nigeria, remarked that in 20 years of working as a humanitarian, she had “never seen such a level of destruction.”
CSW said the ruling “validates CSW’s assertion that the ‘communal clashes’ narrative has been rendered obsolete by the sustained, asymmetric and orchestrated nature of the current violence, which can be described legitimately as ethno-religious cleansing.”
“It is time to end the mischaracterization of this violence, and for the government to move swiftly to end the impunity that surrounds it.”
The latest attacks were reported in villages in and around Maro, in Kajuro County.