Calls for international action after church leader and 11 others killed in Nigeria

(Photo: Unsplash/Greg Rosenke)

The international community is being urged to put pressure on Nigeria after another wave of violence this month left 11 people dead, including a pastor.

Rev Silas Yakubi Ali and the other victims were killed in a string of attacks in recent days by Fulani assailants.

The attacks all occurred in the Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA) of Nigeria's Kaduna state.

Rev Ali was senior pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Kibori-Asha Awuce and was last seen alive setting off for the town of Kafanchan by motorbike on Saturday.

When he didn't return for Sunday service, his congregation launched a search and found his body around half a kilometre from his home.

He was killed after being ambushed when his motorbike ran out of fuel. His body showed both bullet and machete wounds.

Kaduna state governor Nasir el Rufai offered condolences to the priest's family and appealed for calm while also urging security agencies "to intensify efforts towards apprehending the perpetrators of the heinous killing."

Rev Ali's death came just a few days after two young people were attacked and killed while working on farmland in the Kurmin Masara area.

On Sunday there were more deaths when at least 11 people, including two pregnant women, were killed in an attack on Apyizhime Jim village.

Ten of the victims attended another church overseen by Rev Ali, while the other belonged to the local Catholic church.

On Monday evening, Rev Fr Benson Yakusak, priest of St Matthew's Catholic Church Achuna-Sarki, was kidnapped by armed assailants.

Reverend Silas Yakubu Ali.(Photo: CSW)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) condemned the killings as it warned that Kaduna state has become "an epicentre of kidnapping and banditry activity", with the majority-Christian community in the southern region experiencing "relentless" attacks in the last decade.

CSW's founder president Mervyn Thomas said the kidnapping of Fr Yakusak demonstrated "the existence of a religious component to the violence". 

Former chair of the Nigeria Human Rights Commission Professor Chidi Odinkalu questioned why the region has been blighted by so much violence despite a strong military presence.

"Kaduna is the most garrisoned state in Nigeria bar none. The [number] of military & security installations in the state is fulsome. Yet, under their watch, entire communities are being liquidated, displaced, destroyed. & [people] say there is no state complicity?" said Odinkalu. 

Mr Thomas said the extent of the violence was "appalling" and welcomed the Kaduna state governor's call for action but also maintained that he and other Nigerian officials "have done woefully little thus far" to stem the bloodshed.

"This has allowed impunity to thrive and enabled this violence to metastasize," Mr Thomas said.

"Nigeria is currently failing due to the seeming unwillingness of federal and state authorities to respond swiftly and decisively to the existential threat posed by militia violence, while peaceful political dissent or expressions of concern about democratic backsliding and insecurity meet with an unnecessary show of force."

He called on both Nigeria and the international community to take action to end the violence.

"We urge the authorities to significantly increase their efforts to protect vulnerable communities, and to mount a sustained campaign against armed non-state actors across the country until Nigeria is secure," he said.

"We also urge the international community to assist in this, by applying pressure on the Nigerian authorities to take effective action, holding them to account if they fail to do so, and providing support in every way necessary."