86 farmers killed by herdsmen in Central Nigeria’s Plateau State

Curfew was clamped in Plateau State in central Nigeria on Sunday, a day after 86 people were killed when suspected Fulani herdsmen armed with guns targeted ethnic Berom farmers of six villages in Barikin Ladi area in a tit-for-tat attack, local reports said.

As violence spread, dusk-to-dawn curfew was declared in Riyom and Jos South, besides Barkin Ladi.

Expressing his deepest condolences to the affected communities, President Muhammadu Buhari said the perpetrators and sponsors behind the massacre will be quickly brought to justice.

Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong visited the violence-hit villages and appealed for calm as the government launched an investigation into the killings.

Dozens of people were also injured and at least 50 homes torched in Barkin Ladi as the suspected herdsmen avenged the attack on them by Berom farmers on Thursday.

On Sunday, ethnic Berom youths hit back by setting up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacking motorists who looked Fulani and Muslim, police said. The angry youths smashed up vehicles before setting them on fire.

While police declined to comment on deaths in the highway violence, a non-Fulani motorist who escaped the attack said he saw six bodies.

Five ethnic Fulani herders were reportedly killed on Thursday when Berom farmers attacked their truck carrying cattle at Heipang in Barikin Ladi.

Police declined to comment on the killing but said they have registered a case of arson and kidnapping of the herders. A spokesman said they were searching for the five victims.

Drought in the north is driving nomads and their cow herds to south in search of water and green pastures leading to conflicts with locals. Incidents of clashes over land, resources and grazing rights have been rising in recent years between the state’s predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

An ethnic-religious-political pattern has emerged for such conflicts and their recurrence is adding pressure on the Buhari government which faces elections next year.

Buhari’s critics say he is not acting against herdsmen because he is a Muslim and a Fulani. But the president has dismissed such allegations and said the government has proposed setting up cattle ranches to prevent tensions over grazing land.

Many are not convinced and they fear this communal conflict may snowball into a threat far more serious than Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency.