Armed attackers raid communities in Plateau state amidst last year’s Christmas preparations

How you can help displaced and injured survivors

Since the turn of the millennium, Plateau state has been beset by fatal bouts of insecurity, leading to the killings of thousands and injuries to many more. Dating all the way back to the deeply saddening Jos riots of 2001, the central Northern/middle belt state has dealt with several conflicts, many of them reportedly centred on religious tensions. Amidst last year’s Christmas festivities, armed groups killed over 100 people, injured and displaced many more across three local government areas in the state.

According to reports, the fatal attacks began in the evening of Saturday, 23rd December, and lasted untill the early hours of Christmas morning. Initially, local authorities stated that 16 people had been killed in the attacks, before the numbers were reported to be more than 113 people. Addressing the press just in the aftermath of the attacks, Monday Kassah, head of the local government in Bokkos, said the attacks were “well-coordinated” and they happened across “not fewer than 20 different communities.”

With rural communities making up the grounds of these attacks, analysts have pointed at climate conditions as a core cause of the attacks, noting that farmer-herder clashes have been frequent in the region, owing to locals seeking to protect their farmlands at a time where fertile lands are decreasing. The local community have also claimed that ethnoreligious motivations play a huge role in fulani, muslim herdsmen attacking local, predominantly christian communities. In survivor accounts, the herdsmen – or bandits as they’re often referred to by news media – killed, maimed and chased people out of their homes, and also razed houses and food barns to the ground.

Located in the middle of the country, separating the mainly muslim north from the south, Plateau State is in close proximity to the insurgency that has plagued the North. In the last two-plus years, the danger of armed herdsmen attacking locals in communities as far as Southeastern states and Southwestern states has been a recurrent issue, with concerned citizens even forming vigilante groups. The attacked communities in Plateau state also formed vigilante groups for self-defence, however, locals claim that local police frequently arrest and disarm young people found with firearms, which leave them at the mercy of the same police force and military personnel who reportedly have extremely slow response times.

The Christmas attacks took affected communities by surprise, bloodying what should have been a joyous festive period. “We were scared because we weren’t expecting an attack. People hid, but the assailants captured many of us, some were killed, others wounded,” Markus Amorodu, a resident of Mushu village, told AFP. Immediately after the tragedies, condolence messages poured out across social media, from concerned Nigerians to the global Christian community, who identified the attacks as a fatal persecution for the thousands who live in these communities.

Currently, many of the survivors have been displaced, while many killed victims were buried in mass graves. Many displaced survivors are living in IDPs, barely subsisting on donations from individuals. A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist survivors during these difficult times, and volunteers have reached out to people from these communities, publicly sharing their stories and how the donated funds are being used. The NATIVE urges everyone who can donate to please do so.