Nigerian farmer dies protecting his son in Fulani herdsmen attack

On September 1, 2022, Rebecca Agidi, 33, lost her husband in an attack by Fulani herdsmen on the village of Umela in Nigeria.  Her husband died while protecting the couple’s four-year-old son, Oryiman, who was shot in the thigh but rushed to the hospital. Rebecca hid in the bush and was later brought to safety. She spoke about this  ordeal with Aid to the Church in Need.

What happened to you?

September 1 will always bring back sad memories. It was at noon, in broad daylight, that the attack took place. That fateful day, I asked for my husband’s permission to visit some of my friends in Guma camp. Sometimes I would bring them food. I finished dressing and was about to step out of the house, when my husband called out, “Are you not going with Oryiman [the couple’s youngest child]?” I replied, “No! I won’t be long.”

I was so happy that fateful day. But a few minutes after I arrived at the Guma camp, we heard gunshots coming from my village. I started crying, but my friends in the camp consoled me, telling me that all would be well with my son and husband. But suddenly, everybody was on the run. I started running toward my village. Once I got there, I saw many dead bodies, and all of them were male. I ran to my hut, where I found my husband lying in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the head, and he was lying on top of our son, who was also covered in blood. I could not control my tears. I was devastated!  I was not in my right mind, and I started walking toward the bush. How can you see someone one minute, and the next minute, they’re gone? I kept whispering to myself: “How it is possible? Are they truly dead?  How can death knock on my door at this moment? Why me?”

I don’t know how I got there, but when I came back to my senses, I found myself deep in the bush. At that point, I was not afraid of death or any dangerous animals around me. I was prepared to die and join my husband and son, who I believed had died as well. I spent the night in the bush with no food or water, but I was not hungry or thirsty.  I sat under a tree for many hours, my body tense. Finally, I cried myself to sleep. The sun woke me up at noon.

 When I got up, I saw three residents of my village and a woman I didn’t know. I was surprised to see them and asked them how they found me. The woman hugged me and whispered in my ears, “He is alive. Your son Oryiman is alive.” She continued, “In the wake of the attack, people were running with their families to a safe place, and I was running with them. Then I saw a man on top of a little boy covered in blood; the little boy raised his hand, seeking help. I quickly pushed away the dead body, freeing the boy. He breathed a sigh of relief.”

Rebecca Agidi and her son Oryman

“I handed him over to workers from the Foundation for Justice, Development and Peace, which is run by the Diocese of Makurdi. They rushed him to the General Hospital in Makurdi. He’s now stable.” On hearing that, my heart leaped for joy, and I begged the workers to tell me the ward where my son was taken. I started running toward the town, and several people called out to me, telling me to accept a ride on a bycicle. But I felt that wouldn’t take me there as fast as my legs could. I refused to stop. I continued running until I reached the General Hospital, where I saw my child alive, though he had been shot in the thigh.  I rushed in and hugged him. I was super excited to see him alive.

When he saw me, he started crying, calling out for his father. I told him I thought he had died alongside his father, and he said to me, “Father covered my face with blood; he laid on top of me and I couldn’t breathe properly, not until a woman came and freed me.”I looked at him and said, “Your father has gone to be with God. He covered your face with blood to save you from being hurt by those evil men.” I am glad that God sent an angel in the form of that woman to save my son. Yes, I lost my husband, and we must beg before we eat, but I still appreciate God in all things.

Are you living in the camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP?)

Yes, I am staying in the Cortese camp in Benue State [in Nigeria].

What kind of services does the Church provide?

The Church has been so helpful. If not for the Church, I would have lost my son. They give us food, clothes, and shelter. We have been able to learn certain skills to help us support our families.

What are your prospects for the future?

I would consider going back to the farm. My husband and I were farmers before the incident, so if I can get a plot of land somewhere, I will gladly go back to farming to take care of Oryiman and his two older siblings, who dropped out of school due to the hardship we suffered. If there is anything that I love and enjoy, it is farming. I would also be very grateful for a scholarship for Oryiman.

Has your faith been a source of strength for you?

My trust in God cannot be shaken! He has shown me mercy, and I will forever remain steadfast in my faith. I believe everything will be fine. He has kept us, and I am sure he will take care of us.

Aid to the Church in Need supports the work of the Diocese of Makurdi, 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