A pastor and his driver were beheaded in the Cross River state of Nigeria over the weekend as the communal conflict continues to plague the area.
The pastor has been identified as George Lifted, while the other victim was a commercial motorcyclist who was giving a ride to the pastor.
According to Daily Post, the pastor was being driven from Ebom to Assigha in the Yakurr local government area when the men were attacked while traveling through Adim. Ebom is one of the communities in the state that is plagued by clashes between the Usumutong and the Ediba people.
“The people of Usumutong ambushed the victims and killed them at the road leading to Adim,” Ebom village chief Henry Bassey told the Daily Post. “The pastor was going to his village with the cyclist conveying him. We have reported the incident to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Ugep and he asked us to bring the corpses and we did that.”
A source in the area told the Daily Post that the incident occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning along Adim road.
The source explained that because of the communal conflicts, people in the area have had to pass through Adim in order to get to Ebom.
“[T]hat is where Usumutong people went and ambushed and killed the duo and had their heads cut off,” he explained.
The village head of the Usumutong, who also serves as ruler of the Abi local government area, Ovaı Solomon Osım Edward denied the allegations that Usumutong people killed the victims.
“How can we kill them? We are in our community, how can we go into Ebom community and start killing people? Our community was attacked and several houses burnt,” Osim told the Daily Post. “They are liars, we have not entered their community. Come to Usumutong and see what they did to us, the destruction of our property and the number of people killed.”
Although the pastor was originally from Assigha, he lived in Ebom and had a church there, according to the source. People from Assigha came to Ebom to collect the pastor’s head and body, the source added.
The victims’ deaths are being investigated by police.
Nigeria ranks as the 14th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List.
A large reason why Nigeria is ranked so high on the World Watch List is the fact that violent Fulani herdsmen continue to attack Christians and farming communities.
Fulani herdsmen have murdered thousands of Christians and ransacked numerous farms and villages this year.
“Recently we have seen Fulani militias have Boko Haram branding and wreaking havoc in communities with sophisticated weapons and anyone who stands in their way is killed or decimated. When this happens, they occupy," Stephen Enada, co-founder of the International Committee on Nigeria, recently told The Christian Post. "It is not that they are unknown. It is just that government is looking the other way. If someone is a terrorist and overruns a community, the government should make sure certain people are arrested and prosecuted."
Enada and others are calling for the Nigerian government to step up and hold the Fulani herdsmen accountable when they try to drive farmers from their lands.
"These communities and villages have been displaced and ransacked and you see Fulani imposing themselves in that community. They are not arrested. They are not prosecuted,” Enada said. “Rather, it is just government inaction showing us that government is culpable."