Nigeria: a farmer sees his mother, brother and a son murdered by Fulani herdsmen

CLEMENT USOO, 65, IS FROM TSE-UMANDE VILLAGE IN NIGERIA. HE LOST HIS MOTHER, BROTHER, SON, AND FOUR OTHER RELATIVES IN AN ATTACK BY FULANI EXTREMISTS ON JUNE 1, 2019 AND WAS SHOT IN THE CHEST HIMSELF.  Additionally, the Fulani herdsmen took his land and his town, forcing him to move to an IDP camp with his family. At the camp, three of his ten children died, and six others were assigned housework in various cities. Clement shared his fears and his sorrow in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need.

What happened to you?

On that fateful day, I was on my way to a farm that was close to my house. My older brother happened to be at a nearby farm, opposite mine. Suddenly, we heard gunfire in the village. My brother and I stopped what we were doing and ran to our house. As we approached our house, the sound of gunfire got closer, and we could hear people screaming and crying. 

People came running from every corner of the village. My goal was to save my mom and my oldest son, who was at home then. Stepping into the house, I saw everything scattered about. I started calling out to my mother and son. My brother ran inside the hut while I went outside to see if I could find them. Then I heard my brother scream. I rushed inside and saw my son’s head in one corner of the room and the rest of his body in the center.

I was confused; I quickly took his head and placed it on his body. I cried and shook the body, to see if God would have mercy and bring him back to life—but that never happened. Just when I was about to run out of the room, four Fulani herdsmen ambushed us. They grabbed me, and one of them shot me in the chest, while another slashed my hand with a machete. I was also stabbed in the back. They grabbed hold of my brother and mother, tormenting her, telling her to watch them slaughter her son. One of them had an AK47 and shot my brother, who died instantly. My mother could not hold back her pain and collapsed.

Clement Usoo

On seeing that, I fell unconscious, and the attackers thought I was dead and left. Soon after they left, villagers began to collect all the dead bodies for mass burial; that was when they found out I was still breathing. They rushed me to the hospital, where I spent a few months. When I was discharged, I was told that four more of my relatives had been killed by Fulani herdsmen. Meanwhile, all the villagers made their way to the camps for safety. My wife and I joined them in Guma Camp, and in 2021, I lost my dear wife, who died because of the hardship in the camp and all the trauma she had experienced. Today, my village of Tse-Umande is still occupied by Fulani herdsmen.

Is this the first time you were confronted with Fulani violence?

Fulani attacks on farmers in [Nigeria] are too numerous to be counted. And the most upsetting part of this is that the government is not doing anything to stop the attacks. It almost seems as if there is a plan to kill all the Christians here.

What kind of services does the Church provide in the camp?

The Church helped me regain myself, though I am not as happy as I was in my village. Whenever I remember the loved ones I have lost, it is very hard. My son was my breadwinner, and he is gone. I always feel sad. But despite it all, I am thankful to be alive. I get help from various people.

What are your prospects for the future?

I am very old now, and my strength is gone. I can do little until I finally join my ancestors. I just wish to spend the remaining days of my life in happiness, with food on my table, in good health, and thus, finally, to prepare to rest in Christ.

Has your faith been a source of strength for you?

Truthfully, no. After that day, I stopped participating in Church activities. I also stopped going to Mass for some time. I stopped praying and believing in God. I lived like a pagan for so long, but I am glad that I am now able to let go of my past and come back to God.

Aid to the Church in Need supports the work of the Diocese of Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria, as it comes to the aid of Internally Displaced People in 14 camps and in 13 hosting communities.

Besides providing pastoral care, the local Church provides trauma counseling, scholarships so that children can continue their education, as well as food and other forms of humanitarian aid. In 2022, Fulani herdsmen attacked 93 villages in Benue State, killing 325 farmers.

—Patience Ibile