Religious and ethnic tensions continue to worsen in the African nation of Nigeria, as Muslim herders launch grisly attacks on Christian farmers.
The latest attack, which has reportedly left 70 Christians dead over two days, was a supposed response to the alleged killings of five Fulani herders, according to The Christian Post.
The attacks took place in the Nigerian state of Benue, in the village of Gbeji.
Local officials have been begging the Nigerian government for more advanced weapons due to the onslaught of violence that has plagued the region.
According to Secretary to the State Government Anthony Ijohor, the government has taken no such action.
“We are standing on our request for the federal government to give us a license for our Volunteer Guards to bear AK-47s and other sophisticated weapons…the security agencies have been overstretched and, that being the case, our people have to defend themselves.”
Governor Samuel Ortom is urging young farmers to protect their land and property in the absence of proper government security, as reported by the Daily Post.
Senator Suswam, who represents the Benue region, went even further when criticizing the central government.
“So far 36 bodies have been recovered from this dastardly attack by herdsmen. This is totally unacceptable by all standards. It is a clear indication that the federal government has failed in protecting of lives and property of the people they swore to protect,” Suswam declared.
He continued by lamenting, “what this means in effect is that power has been transferred to non-state actors. They are totally in charge now and come to kill people at will and go freely and no person has ever been arrested,” as reported by the Daily Post.
This is not the first attack in this region but it is one of the bloodiest; the village of Yelwata suffered a tragic incident on Oct. 12 in which five Christians were murdered on their land, according to the Christian Post.
On Halloween of last year, at least 60 Christians were kidnapped at gunpoint while attending Sunday services; this act was also perpetrated by the Fulani.
The conflict between the Fulani herdsmen and the Christian farmers is a rather complex one.
The Fulani are a nomadic tribe of herders who are spread across large swathes of West Africa; Nigeria is home to as many as 13 million Fulani making them a sizable minority, according to the Catholic Pillar.
While they are Muslim and that contributes to the tensions, a substantial reason for their aggression comes down to land rights.
The state of Benue is situated within Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” region which is home to the country’s richest agricultural land, and that agricultural industry has grown with Nigeria’s population.
This growth has spread onto Fulani grazing lands, leading to violent clashes between the herdsmen and the predominantly Christian farmers.
Islamic extremist groups, like Boko Haram, have used these religious and political tensions to boost recruitment in the form of young Fulani males, thus exasperating the incessant targeting of innocent Christians.
The Nigerian government has yet to quell this violence effectively, much to the chagrin of local leaders like Senator Suswam and Governor Ortom.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.