Mariam Habib Matta, CSI
Christian Solidarity International’s research has found that, in the first three weeks of 2022 alone, hundreds of Nigerians have been killed and abducted by Fulani militants, and thousands displaced as a result of the extreme violence affecting communities in Nigeria.
From 1 to 21 January, at least 615 people were reported murdered by ‘bandits’, ‘herdsmen’, ‘gunmen’ and ‘Fulani’ militants, and at least 231 known persons were abducted by the aforementioned. Approximately 13,050 Nigerian people were displaced from their homes due to the violence. These statistics have been aggregated from reports in both the international and local Nigerian press. (Table available for download below). They almost certainly represent an undercount, as many killings go unreported in the press.
The first day of 2022 was marked with violence and death for Christians in Nigeria. Fulani militants attacked worshippers returning home after attending an annual new year’s prayer meeting in the Irigwe chiefdom in Plateau State. The following three weeks brought more attacks on Christians: A chieftain with the All-Progressives Congress party was shot dead in Ikot Udoma after attending Qua Iboe Church; four seminarists were abducted; and a Christian man was murdered and his pregnant wife abducted near Kaduna city. Raids on predominantly Christian villages by militant Fulani herdsmen have continued. In one incident in Tyaana, Plateau State, three young men were killed with guns and machetes.
On average, it appears that at least 29 people were killed daily in Nigeria within the first three weeks of 2022. Plateau State has the highest number of incidents (killings, abductions and/or displacements), followed by Kaduna. Muslim-majority Zamfara State has had the highest number of killings, estimated at 272 people, withh 200 of them killed in one single attack. Some 10,000 people were subsequently displaced. Across the country, it is estimated that at least 231 people have been abducted. The majority of these abductions occurred on expressways, highways, and roads or in raids on villages.
Christians in Nigeria have been under attack by heavily armed Fulani herdsmen militias for decades. These attacks have greatly intensified in the last seven years, as herders push south from their traditional grazing lands and migrate to Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. This migration has often resulted in waves of attacks on Christian communities.
In 2021, the Observatory of Religious Freedom in Africa (ORFA) reported that 4,303 Christians had been killed in Nigeria, and in 2020 that at least 3,613 Christians had died. It is clear from CSI’s findings that the first weeks of January alone are representative of the continuation of the steep incline in the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria, and that their plight will continue without urgent action.
Despite the escalating violence and the failure of the Nigerian government to protect its citizens, the US State Department removed Nigeria as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for religious freedom in November 2021. In response, CSI has urged the US government to return Nigeria to CPC status, and to re-orient its Nigeria policy around ending the ongoing massacres of Nigerian Christians and other Nigerians.
The data presented is based on collected news reports of killings, abductions, and displacement of people in Nigeria by ‘bandits’, ‘Fulani militants’, ‘Fulani herdsmen’, and ‘herdsmen’. These figures represent what has been reported by news outlets and may not present the full spectrum of violence. They should be understood as indicative of the scale of the violence in Nigeria rather than as definitive numbers.