A prominent Nigerian church leader has called for urgent government action to prevent the “genocide” of the Irigwe people in the Bassa local government area of Plateau State.
The Irigwe, an ethnic group in Nigeria’s Middle Belt with a sizeable Christian population, have been under increased attack by Fulani militants for the past two weeks.
“We call on the state and federal governments to intervene, and prevail on the Nigerian Army and all security agencies to stop this genocide,” said Pastor Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA).
“The government must rise up to their responsibility of protecting lives and properties for all citizens,” he continued, “irrespective of their tribe, ethnicity or religion.”
Pastor Panya stated that in the two-week period from Sunday 23 July to Monday 2 August Islamist militants burned down 405 houses and church buildings, destroyed thousands of hectares of crops, and displaced around 20,000 Irigwe people from 15 villages.
Among these figures are the 275 houses burned down in an attack which began on the evening of 31 July and in which seven people were killed.
“The main town of Jebbu Miango and its surrounding villages such as Kpachudu, Kpetenvie, Nche-Tahu, Tafigana, DTV and Zahwra are completely burnt down and displaced,” explained Pastor Panya.
Panya added that many of the displaced have sought refuge in the towns of Miango and Kwall in Plateau State, but that “even these towns of refuge are presently threatened with genocidal attacks from the militants”.
The inability or unwillingness of the Nigerian Army or security forces to take action against the militants was, he continued, “eroding the confidence of the populace in the military and security agencies as unbiased protectors of all”.
Pastor Panya also called on the state and federal governments to send relief to the displaced, including funds to help hospitals in the region treat the injured, as well as asking Nigerians “to be their brothers’ keepers and open their homes for the displaced persons, provide support for food and water, clothing and medical services to all the victims”.
“God is watching and listening to our prayers and supplications,” he concluded. “We should not give up calling upon Him and depending on Him wholly for this situation to be brought to an end, especially as all human authorities have woefully failed us.”
Thousands of Nigerian Christians are the victims of Islamist violence each year. In July 2020 Pastor Panya said, “It is as if the lives of Christians no longer matter.”
From Barnabas Fund contacts