For far too long, there has been great darkness in Nigeria where innocent and vulnerable citizens are regularly killed extrajudicially by non-state actors (and in some cases, by state actors). Citizens of the Christian faith in parts of the North and Middle-belt particularly face persecution and daily violence. Instead of taking action to stop the violence, the country’s own government has stood by idly as the blood of innocent Nigerian people has been spilled at the hands of the extremists, Islamist terrorists of Boko Haram, and some Fulani Militants.
As a result, Nigeria and the Lake Chad region have been transformed into an epicenter of terrorist activities and a ticking time bomb. Geopolitical and inter-group tensions have risen so high that any random event could trigger a major catastrophe. PSJ UK & ICON argues that if Nigeria implodes, so goes the whole of Africa. In the ‘Silent Slaughter Report’, PSJ UK & ICON presents carefully researched and documented data and analysis that makes a prima facie case for the religious persecution and genocide that is occurring in Nigeria and the critical need for intervention by the international community – The United Kingdom government needs to make the addressing of this problem, a foreign policy priority.
What is Genocide
The specific definition of genocide includes a precondition of intent and prohibited acts, but it also specifies that the crime of genocide may be committed in a time of peace or in a time of war. The definition of genocide, according to Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:
Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily harm;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
After the Holocaust and genocides and mass killings in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur, many dreamed of a world without genocide and mass atrocities. That goal has not been achieved and the world is staring at another ‘Never again’ catastrophe.
Genocide in Nigeria
The situation in Nigeria is dire. Boko Haram has openly and clearly stated their aim to eradicate Christians and they often mount illegal roadblocks on main roads where they separate the Christians from others and proceed to kill, violate and/or abduct them for ransom payments. There is hardly any part of Nigeria, North or South, where there has not been an allegation or genocide or some crime against humanity.
PSJ UK & ICON’s report outlines as much of this data as could be reasonably collected. The report recognizes that there are several types of perpetrators, but concentrates on two main actors:
- The available literature on the activities of Boko Haram shows clearly that the sect is an Islamist group committed to the enthronement in Nigeria of Islam as the only religion sanctioned by God. Abubakar Shekau, the sect’s leader, does not mince words in stating the objectives of his group. He has couched the violence as a war (jihad) between the faithful and the infidels. His aim is clearly the establishment of a caliphate under the effective control of his sect where every non-Muslim will either convert to Islam or be killed. Boko Haram, therefore, targets Christians, other non-Muslims, and also Muslims opposed to their ideologies.
- The Fulani Militants have engaged in the same anti-Christian violence as their Boko Haram counterparts. The Bishop of Truro’s Review, for instance, clearly finds and declares, in unequivocal terms, that the herdsmen are a growing threat to Christian communities in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, where their activities have been most felt, and indeed other parts of the country. Fulani Militant attacks have repeatedly demonstrated a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity.
Over the years, these militant groups have killed thousands and destroyed a lot of properties. The government claims to be “on top of the situation,” but terrorist attacks continue to ravage different parts of the country, and perpetrators appear more emboldened as the political will to professionally investigate the crimes and hold perpetrators accountable is grossly lacking. Impunity reigns.
While religious violence predates the very existence of Nigeria, the report uses data covering January 1, 2000, to January 31, 2020, and speaks to the atrocities taking place during that period of time. Some of the key facts and statistics are highlighted here:
Incidents and Deaths – it is very difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the exact number of people who have been killed or displaced by attacks carried out by Boko Haram and the Fulani Militant in Nigeria from 2009 to the present. Despite challenges, credible attempts have been made to document the extent of the damage. PSJ UK & ICON rely on various credible sources, including Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project; Nigeria Security Tracker; Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism; and ‘EyeWitness to Atrocities App’ to gather the following data:
- 20,995 total Nigeria incidents, including:
- 5,662 as a result of the terrorism inflicted by Boko Haram/ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State/ISWAP/Al-Queda;
- 1,961 as a result of the terrorism inflicted by Fulani Militant Extremists; and
- 13,301 as a result of the terrorism inflicted by all other actors
- Resulting in 96,309 total Nigeria deaths, including:
- 43,242 as a result of the terrorism inflicted by Boko Haram/ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State/ISWAP/Al-Queda;
- 18,834 as a result of the terrorism inflicted by Fulani Militant Extremists; and
- 34,233 as a result of the terrorism inflicted by all other actors 3
- Nigeria alone is experiencing more incidents and deaths compared to the entire surrounding West Africa region (i.e. Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali). Nigeria is enduring attacks on multiple fronts with Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists and Fulani Militants playing major roles.
Targeting Christians – the report reflects some of the worst atrocities inflicted on churchgoers anywhere in the world.
- Nigerian victims are being forced to convert to Islam or risk being killed, raped, or subjected to gruesome acts of torture.
- Based on data collected, between 2000-2019, deaths resulting from Fulani Militant attacks include 17,284 across Nigeria and 13,079 in predominantly Christian states (Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, and Taraba). o That means three of every four Fulani Militant victims during this time were Christians.
- Attacks on predominantly Christian states increased under President Buhari’s Administration: o From 2000-2014, our data show 5,890 deaths recorded o From 2015-2019, our data 7,189 deaths recorded
- Leah Sharibu is still in Boko Haram captivity – she was taken more than two years ago and continues to be held because she will not renounce her Christian faith. o More girls are kidnapped nearly every week.
- From 2006-2014 between 9,000 and 11,500 Christians have been killed. More than a million have been affected with many driven from their homes and 13000 churches have been destroyed or abandoned.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This executive summary only provides key points from the report. The full report is far more detailed and paints a very full and troubling picture of the atrocities taking place. The facts speak for themselves: they serve as evidence that genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity have been and continue to be committed. The Nigerian government has not demonstrated sufficient willingness or ability to deal with the crises; hence the atrocities have persisted and proliferated. By failing to take action, the Nigerian State is perpetuating the issue. Every day without decisive action, more lives are being lost, thereby inching the country’s destination closer to another Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Darfur, and Myanmar. Can the country survive it? Many believe Nigeria could implode – this would also destabilize the surrounding countries and send millions of refugees into Europe and beyond. Because this is a problem that could affect us all in the global village, PSJ UK is urging Her Majesty’s Government that having played a pivotal role in birthing the country of Nigeria that we know today, the UK has a moral obligation to help safeguard the lives of vulnerable people caught up in the various insecurities which Nigeria presents today.