As the leader of a diasporan-led NGO working to stop the growing persecution of Christians in Nigeria, I was pleased to see the results of a new survey released by leading pollster Savanta ComRes. It said exactly what we knew all along: Nigeria’s suffering Christians who live north of the River Niger are being abandoned, and the British public are sick of it.
It emerged that three in five Brits support sanctioning human rights abusers, with 53 per cent demanding that foreign aid to Nigeria be made conditional on measures safeguarding the rights of Christians and other vulnerable people. On a daily basis, the UK gives over £800,000 to Nigeria yet there is not a lot to show for it, in a country that is ranked 146th in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, two places lower than in 2018, and scoring an abysmal 26 points out of 100, level with Iran.
Three in five UK adults say that they support imposing sanctions on individuals who have been held responsible for human rights abuses (58 per cent), similar to those imposed on some Russians following a new British sanctions regime being rolled out.
The majority of actions that the UK could potentially take in response to violence towards Christians in Nigeria had net support from the public.
Requiring that foreign aid to Nigeria must be targeted on measures that safeguard human rights, speaking out publicly against Christian persecution worldwide, lobbying the UN to send peacekeeping forces into parts of Nigeria, and speak out publicly against Christian persecution in Nigeria all receive strong support at 53 per cent each.
Following the exit from The EU, The UK has stated that it remains committed to being a force for good in the world, with democracy, human rights, and the international rule of law acting as our guiding lights.
Next month, the previously announced merger of the ‘Department for International Development’ and the ‘Foreign and Commonwealth Office’ will take place, an effort which should see the placing of our world-class aid programme at the beating heart of our foreign policy decision-making. We should expect that this merger should lead to the tackling of the world’s greatest challenges in a modern and innovative way.
Whilst aid money does not necessarily go directly to Nigerian government coffers, the newly merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will do well to prioritise the targeting of aid funds for Nigeria to improving access to security measures and strengthening community self-protection networks as it has done in Brazil. The UK should also support at-risk Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) who are increasingly been invited in for ‘Chats’ by The Nigerian Department of State Security (DSS). The social injustice of impunity for attackers is a malaise which the UK government can tackle with a combination of ‘Soft Power’ and legal support from the aid budget.
The International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) and PSJ UK recently reported that Boko Haram has killed 43,242 Nigerians since 2010. In addition, Fulani jihadists slaughtered 17,284 Nigerians since 2010, bringing the combined total to 60,526. The true number is feared to be far higher owing to mass burnings, chaotic attack aftermaths, disappearances and population displacement.
Rather than plumb more resources into a failed system, the British public are asking the British government to get ‘strategically creative’ in how it deploys it’s aid budget. The new poll indicates the majority can see their money is being wasted as highlighted in a recent UN report which pointed out that more than 40% of health facilities in the BAY tri-states (Borno, Adamawa & Yobe)have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the protracted conflict. Why should the UK be investing ‘Aid Pounds’ in unprotected facilities which are likely to get destroyed rather than serve the people who need them?
While the UN and the Nigerian government are the bodies seen as most likely to speak out (49 per cent each) and take action (44 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively) against violence against Christians in Nigeria, the UK’s potential contribution was not ignored. Two in five UK adults expect the UK to speak out against violence towards Christians in Nigeria.
For too long, Nigeria’s Christians have been silently slaughtered. Their cries have been ignored by the mainstream media and political establishment, both in Nigeria and across the Western world. There will be no peace in Africa until Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy and breadbasket of the future, can defend each of its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable.
The poll findings are highly encouraging, particularly as they indicate a strong expectation of British involvement to solve this crisis. Sanctions on high-profile rights abusers who contribute towards or permit the mass killing of innocent Christians is a good place to start, and I commend the British public for supporting this measure.
The UK Parliament’s APPG on Religious Freedom warned of an unfolding Genocide in Nigeria, PSJ UK, is working tirelessly to stop this impending genocide. We recently launched a global social media campaign, ‘Silent Slaughter’, reaching millions worldwide in a bid to make the Nigerian and Western governments listen to the cry of our Christian brothers and sisters. Please visit our site, give your support and share our message to stop the increasing bloodshed.
Only time will tell if Westminster truly cares about the most vulnerable people on the planet. Soon, we will also know whether it cares about the voice of its own people, and their cries in support of the oppressed.
Ayo Adedoyin is Chief Executive of PSJ UK, a humanitarian organisation campaigning against the persecution of Christians in Nigeria