Religious rights advocacy group, CSW has disclosed that a pastor and humanitarian who assists displaced communities in southern Kaduna, Nigeria, received a handwritten death threat on the evening of 12 July.
In a statement on Wednesday, the group said Pastor Gideon Agwom Mutum is the founder and director of Nehemiah Camp in Kafanchan, Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA), which he opened in October 2016 to assist displaced villagers following a surge in attacks by armed Fulani assailants on communities in Jema’a, Zangon Kataf and Kaura Local Government Areas (LGAs). The pastor is also a member of the Relief and Intervention Committee of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), and a CSW Nigeria volunteer.
Pastor Mutum, who lives in Kafanchan with his wife and young children, found the two-page letter, dated 12 July, at around 12pm near his car when he left his house to check if everything was locked. The letter accuses the pastor of having insulted the Fulani tribe in the media “for long” and threatens: “We will kill you like goats and your family. We know your house, your church and even your family.”
The anonymous writer threatens to destroy the school constructed by the pastor in Pasakori village in Kaura LGA, adding that “Misisi, Goska [and] Bakin Kogi” in southern Kaduna would be made to pay for unspecified offences.
The letter also threatened the life of Steven Kefas, a journalist and activist from southern Kaduna who was arbitrarily detained for 150 days in 2019: “tell Ste[ve]n Kefas we will also hunt him.” It concludes with the following warning: “Your movement is known by us. Tell your people to get ready for us. Inshallah we will come except you go back to tell the world you are sorry for all you […] said concerning the Fulanis. We are coming. Nigeria is our land. Southern Kaduna is our land.”
The written threat to Pastor Mutum was delivered during the same evening that armed assailants targeted communities in Zangon Kataf LGA for the sixth day in a row.
In a statement signed by its spokesman, Luka Binniyat, and dated 13 July, SOKAPU revealed that the daily assaults have left 33 people dead, 215 homes destroyed, and four churches razed to the ground.
According to SOKAPU, assailants “identified as Fulani herdsmen by victims” began by attacking the Makarau and Kachechere communities, killing at least 10 people and setting fire to the vicarages of the local Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) and Anglican Churches, and 10 other homes. The armed attackers subsequently descended on Magamiya village at around 11pm in four Toyota Hilux vans. They looted the compound of the traditional ruler of the Atyap Chiefdom of valuables and foodstuffs and set fire to buildings, killing Mr Toma Tauna, 70, a relative of the traditional ruler. The assailants went on to loot and burn six more homes in the village, killing Mr Mathew Pama, 62. They also attempted to set fire to St Pious Catholic Church, but fled when assistance arrived from neighbouring village.
The assailants went on to attack Matyei village at about 1.30 am on 13 July, burning down all 156 homes, along with the Catholic Church and rectory. The Catechist, a child and six others were killed in the attack. They moved on to target the Abuyab Community, where they burnt down an ECWA church and set fire to 12 homes, including that of the former Field Commander of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), Major General Shekari Billyok (rtd). A subsequent assault on the Runji Community was thwarted by the arrival of reinforcements. However, as they retreated the attackers partially destroyed the main bridge linking Matyei with Zangon Kataf town and other Atyap communities.
In addition, on 11 July, Fulani assailants who attacked the Warkan Community killed eight people, burnt down 11 homes and looted the village of goods and livestock. On 9 July, Mr Timothy Ayok, 35, from Makarau village was ambushed and murdered by Fulani assailants as he returned from his farm, and on 8 July, a widow identified as Mrs Esther Patrick, 65, and three members of her family were murdered, including her grandson, Yerima Godfrey, 6, during an attack on Kibori village.
The SOKAPU statement contrasted the official reluctance to investigate consistent allegations that Hausa settlers in Zangon Kataf town were harbouring “killer herdsmen” with the speed with which 15 Atyap people from four communities were arrested on 31 March after “Fulani squatters on Atyap land” claimed that Atyap people had killed their sheep and cattle. “The police alleged that the Atyap leaders, among them 85 years old Waje Laah, killed 706 Fulani cows and 75 rams in a single day and buried them in a ditch same day, which every rational person knows [is an] impossible feat to accomplish. But all the same, they were kept in detention for three months without trial and only released on bail last week.”
The statement concluded by calling for humanitarian assistance and relief materials “for the thousands of displaced Atyap women and children who are still moving away from several villages to various places around Samaru Kataf, Zonkwa and environs,” and for international pressure to be placed the Federal and Kaduna State Governments “to stop the genocide in Atyap land and bring the culprits to justice.”
Statistics released by the government of Kaduna state reveal that 545 people were killed and 1,723 people were kidnapped in Kaduna during the first six months of 2021. 323 were killed while 949 people kidnapped during the first quarter, while 222 were killed and 774 people were kidnapped during the second quarter. In addition, 20 people were raped and 266 injured.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is deeply concerned by the death threat made against Pastor Gideon Agwom Mutum, which comes as the Fulani militia continue to show just how dangerous they are. We call on the Nigerian government to address the threat posed by this militia swiftly and decisively, prioritising the protection of vulnerable individuals and communities, and bringing attackers to justice. It is unacceptable and inexcusable that attacks on Zangon Kataf LGA continued for six consecutive days without interception, indicating a comprehensive failure of both security and governance. The security crisis in Nigeria, and particularly in southern Kaduna, has gone on for so long that stemming it now seems beyond the capabilities of the state and federal authorities. It urgently requires concerted efforts by the international community to assist Nigeria in combatting it wherever possible, whilst also holding the government to account for its failure to assist targeted communities”.