By Douglas Burton
Today, I cede this space to my friend, veteran American journalist and investigative reporter, Douglas Burton. This article initially appeared in The Epoch Times, USA, on Thursday May 27, 2021.
For 34-year-old conflict reporter Lawrence Zongo, Nigeria’s “silent slaughter” struck too close to home this week. ”On Monday, I helped bury my cousin, Wiki Moses, and her two small children,” he told The Epoch Times. She was among the 27 citizens of the Northern Plateau State who have fallen victim to terrorist attacks since May 21, he said.
“Yesterday (March 24), I attended the burial of my friend, Mangawa Bulus, 32, a beloved gospel singer, who was killed that same day as he was returning with three others from a funeral. In my area of Miango, there were three people killed today.
“It’s so dangerous that people don’t want to leave their homes.”
Bulus and three friends were walking down a road on May 25 to their homes in Miango after a funeral for victims of the wave of Fulani jihadist slaughters in Plateau that began a week ago.
“Suddenly Mangwa fell from a bullet wound to his neck,” Zongo said. “His friends solicited a motorbike from local residents and transported him to the hospital in Miango, but he passed away during the trip.”
More than 60,000 Nigerians have lost their lives to attacks by Muslim terrorists since the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency surfaced in 2010.
By the estimate of Anglican Archdeacon Hassan John, from Jos, the true number of fatalities is at least 500,000. In a podcast by the International Committee on Nigeria, ICON, on May 26, Zongo reported that terrorist attacks over a broad swath of territory in the Northern Plateau are preventing farmers from going to their fields during the planting season, which may lead to significant food shortages.
On Sunday May 23, herdsmen militias descended on the villages of Dong and Kwi in Jos North Local Government of Plateau State, killing 16 people and maiming many more. The staccato of gunfire was within hearing range of a police station.
Lawrence Zongo is among a handful of conflict reporters in Plateau State who rush toward the danger when they hear of terror attacks on hamlets occupied by unarmed farmers within a 50-mile radius of Jos, a metropolis.
The police in the Jos area are more cautious. They did approach Dong Village in the North Jos Local Government Area on May 23 after hearing it was under attack by gunmen around 9:00 p.m., Police Commissioner Edward Egbuka told The Epoch Times.
Although police could hear shooting in the village, which is 2 1/2 miles from the Rantiya Police Division headquarters, the officers feared going into the village until an armoured personnel carrier could be secured, according to the commissioner, the top police official in the state.
After the shooting stopped, police entered Dong between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., but by then, the gunmen had left eight residents dead, including a family of six.
“The first responders had to wait for adequate resources to arrive; we needed the APC,” Egbuka told The Epoch Times on May 26.
Asked if police could hear the shots from AK 47 rifles, Egbuka said: “The police could hear the shots, but they didn’t know what was going on. Look, you can’t expect the policemen to commit suicide.”
A similar attack that same night was launched by gunmen in the Kwi community, an hour’s drive south of Jos in the Riyom Local Government Area. Seven residents were killed.
Although the Maxwell Khobe army base is just over a mile from Dong, the Nigerian army didn’t arrive on the scene until 8:00 a.m. the next day, according to Solomon Dalyop, a human rights lawyer in Jos.
“There is an army checkpoint barely 90 meters (295 feet) from Dong,” Dalyop told The Epoch Times. Despite the presence of the military and police on May 24,… terrorists re-entered the village after the burial of eight victims and began shooting, murdering three senior citizens who couldn’t run, according to Zongo.
US State Department criticized
The gangs of gunmen are known by their victims as “herdsmen”, due to the fact that they’re ethnic members of the Fulani tribe, known for cattle herding. The U.S. Mission in Abuja has downplayed the sectarian motivation of the terrorists, who are known to be allies of the better-known insurgencies linked to ISIS, such as Boko Haram and ISWA, or the al-Qaeda-linked Ansaru.
The U.S. Mission has attributed such killings to “communal clashes” or farmer-herder conflicts.
The U.S. Department of State reports that “land disputes, competition over dwindling resources, ethnic differences, and settler-indigene tensions contributed to clashes between herdsmen and farmers throughout the north-central part of the country,” in its “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria.”
The position of the Nigeria police is that the marauding criminals are “bandits”, not jihadists.
“I am not aware that there are any jihadists in Plateau State,” Commissioner Egbuka told The Epoch Times. But few of the families of the murder victims are under any such illusion.
ICON has dubbed the rampant killings as Nigeria’s “silent slaughter”, because the atrocities are under-reported by Western media and even local Nigerian media.
A respected rights watcher has called out the U.S. State Department for inept diagnosis of the sectarian nature of what many are calling a genocide against Nigerian Christians.
“The U.S. Ambassador in Nigeria and officials in the Africa bureau in the State Department are in denial,” Gregory Stanton, founding president of Genocide Watch and a former State Department official, told The Epoch Times.
“They adhere to the ‘farmer versus herder’ explanation for the massacres, as though they have arisen out of traditional conflicts. In fact, these are genocidal massacres by Islamist Boko Haram, Fulani jihadists, and (ISWA) militias, against Christian civilians.
Gospel singer, Mangawa Bulus, was killed in a terror attack in Miango, Nigeria, on May 25, 2021. According to Lawrence Zoneo:
“The …jihadists are taking over land farmed for centuries by Christian villagers. We have strong evidence that the jihadists have deep support from inside the Nigerian army and police, which are led by Muslims from Northern Nigeria…
“A full-scale U.N. commission of inquiry must be launched into these genocidal massacres. The investigation should also be pursued by the International Criminal Court. If the Nigerian government tries to block a U.N. commission of inquiry or an ICC investigation, it is evidence of Nigerian government complicity with the… jihad.”
Nina Shea, a religious freedom specialist at The Hudson Institute, said the Nigerian crisis warrants the label of “genocide”.
“The government has allowed the Fulani to massacre, kidnap, and pillage with impunity, and for that, in 2020, they were designated a Country of Particular Concern under the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act, placing them among the world’s worst persecutors,” Shea told The Epoch Times.
“Now there’s mounting evidence that high-level…government officials are doing something far worse than giving their fellow tribesmen a pass.
“The facts suggest that they are complicit in a ruthless demographic conquest of vast areas of the country, in which the presence of other ethnic and religious groups is targeted for eradication, and their communities, at least in part, destroyed. This development is a clear warning sign of genocide.”