A judge in the Abuja division of Nigeria’s Federal High Court has backed down from officially declaring Fulani attacks on Christian communities as acts of terrorism. The leadership and educated elite of the Fulani ethnic group, living in towns and cities, are Muslim, although many of the uneducated nomadic Fulani herdsmen follow traditional African religions.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba is the second judge to avoid ruling on the case, after the judge who was originally assigned the motion secured a promotion. Justice Dimgba ordered the case to be re-assigned to the Chief Judge of Nigeria’s Federal Court on 29 August.
A lawyer from Benue state, which has witnessed multiple Fulani attacks since the start of 2018, filed a motion in May for the Nigerian Federal Court to officially declare the “killings, massacre, [and] wanton destruction” carried out by Fulani herdsmen as acts of terrorism. In April, 16 people including two church pastors were killed in a Fulani attack on a church in Ayar-Mbalom, Benue, during a morning church service. The attackers went on to set alight 50 houses in the town.
As well as claiming 50 million Naira (around £104,000) in damages for the affected communities, the case is seeking to get Nigeria’s Attorney General to rule that President Buhari has a duty under Nigerian law to act to halt the attacks.
Church leaders in Nigeria have repeatedly called on President Buhari, who is himself a Fulani Muslim, to take decisive action against the scourge of attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christian farming communities.
The British government continues to state there is no religious motivation behind the attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christians. Barnabas Fund patron Baroness Cox raised the issue of Fulani attacks in the House of Lords on 17 July asking, “Given the escalation of attacks on Christian communities in which many hundreds have been killed recently and that the Nigerian House of Representatives has declared this to be genocide, does the Minister agree that while the causes of such violence are complex, there is a strong ideological dimension to the Fulani attacks?”
In her response, Baroness Goldie stated, “Our assessment is that they are not religiously motivated.” During the same debate, she also refused to explicitly affirm Conservative peer Lord Elton’s assessment that “Fulani herdsmen have destroyed 500 churches since 2001 and that in the first quarter of this year  they have caused 1,061 deaths, mostly in attacks on Christians.”