After 19 Catholics were killed reportedly by herdsmen in Benue State, the Catholic Church members in Nigeria took to the streets across the country in protest. Among those killed included two priests, bringing the total number of those killed in the state to 406. The protests coincided with the burial of the 19 members that were killed.

The protests are line with a directive from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. The Christian Association of Nigeria, the Protestants bloc, joined the protests in solidarity.

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo reportedly told people at the burial that the killers would not go unpunished. “The perpetrators of such dastardly and heinous crimes do not deserve to live among decent people,” he said.

“In these difficult days, we grieve with you and remain committed to the cause of justice, healing and rebuilding. Together, Nigeria will prevail,”Osinbajo wrote on Twitter.

“We do not take this lightly and will ensure justice by apprehending and punishing the assailants,” Vice President Osinbajo added.

The longstanding conflict is over fertile land. There have been reports of numerous killings by herdsmen in many parts of Nigeria, and mostly farmers have been targeted. The result has been destruction of farms, and loss of lives. The conspicuous silence from the government has been heavily criticised, with accusations of government complicity in the criminal activities of the herdsmen. The herdsmen who are fully equipped with AK-47s have not been met with much strong reprimand from authorities.

President Muhammadu Buhari who happens to come from the Fulani ethnic group, the group accused of these killings has been unable to curb the ongoing menace that has plagued the country.

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Nigeria is still battling with the Boko Haram insurgency three years after President Buhari took over power. A general air of despondence has overtaken the country as there has been no solution to the many killings taking place. As the country gears towards elections next year, the key issue of security would be one that President Buhari would find hard to defend.

President Buhari came into power on the promise of putting an end to the Boko Haram insurgency. The case has however escalated as another security challenge involving herdsmen clashes has arisen and the problem is not likely to be solved soon.