by Masara Kim, Jos
Christians displaced in Nigeria’s Plateau State have expressed alarm that terrorists are taking over their towns while the government turns a blind eye.
“These killer herdsmen, who are of course terrorists, are determined to take over those communities whose people were displaced through violence, and they want to turn it into their own land,” said Istifanus Gyang, the senator representing Plateau North in the Nigerian Senate.
More than 100 local towns have been seized in recent years, says Solomon Dalyop, the president of Berom Youth Moulders Association (BYM).
As many as 11,000 residents who have attempted to return to the towns have been killed in recent years, Dalyop told a press conference in Jos on 13 April.
In the latest instance, on 6 April, Fulani militants attacked ten Christian IDPs from the town of Rantis, who were rebuilding their destroyed houses. Two were killed and six wounded by gunfire.
The population of Rantis was displaced in 2015 after a series of attacks that killed close to 100 residents, according to media reports.
Residents recognized the attackers as Muslim nomadic herdsmen from the Fulani tribe whom they had accommodated for years.
IDPs dying of hunger
The attackers razed and demolished houses, and took over farms owned by the Christian locals, a tribal leader from the town, Gyang Tok, told our correspondent in Jos.
“We have not been allowed to visit or cultivate our farms since our displacement,” said Tok.
Many of the IDPs taking refuge in neighbouring communities have died of hunger, said a woman leader of the town, Vou Danboyi Chol.
“Even before the displacements, we struggled to feed ourselves,” she said. “When the displacements occurred, it became nearly impossible.”
Prior to the 6 April attack, authorities encouraged hundreds of thousands of displaced residents to return to their homes, announcing new laws to protect them from “land grabbers” but never kept their word, according to Dalyop.
“The IDPs of Rantis were brazenly attacked in the afternoon of Wednesday, 6 April 2022, with no challenge whatsoever from any security agents, who only appeared belatedly for the evacuation of corpses and the injured,” said Dalyop, who is also the founder of Emancipation Center for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN) - a nongovernmental organization that tracks terrorist attacks in Nigeria.
"It is on record that the notice of the rebuilding effort of Rantis was made to relevant security agents in the area including the local government authority, and a prior meeting was held with leaders of the Fulani with a view to securing a peaceful atmosphere in and around the area," he said.
Dalyop alleged that the government was complicit in the attacks, encouraging territorial expansion by the terrorists.
“The non-implementation of the anti-land grabbing law in Plateau State is presently aiding the territorial expansionist appetite of the Fulani invaders from within and beyond the state,” he said.
The attack is among several in recent weeks that targeted previously displaced residents in the state.
Close to 30 people were killed in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State from 28 March to 4 April, according to media reports.
The attacks have terrified the already traumatized villagers, who had been abandoned by the government, said Musa Agah, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, in a phone call.
“These attacks are heartbreaking, especially given that we have made frantic efforts to see that our people return home and continue their farming which is their main source of income,” he said.
“If the people are constantly killed and the government does not show concern, it suggests nothing but complicity,” he added.
At the funeral of the two killed, which was held near Jos on 13 April, the chairman of Barkin Ladi LGA, Joke Alamba, apologized to residents of Rantis for the attack.