COUNTRY PROFILE

NIGERIA

“There is a clear agenda – to Islamise all of the areas that are currently predominantly Christian.”(1) This analysis, given by Bishop Wilfred Anagbe of Mukurdi, came amid reports suggesting that over the period under review there was an upsurge in the number and severity of attacks against Christians in the Middle Belt region. Although the context of this violence was complex, with ethnic rivalries, climate change and an increasingly desperate search for fresh pastures each playing a part, militant Islamist Fulani herdsmen were held responsible for the attacks, clearly displaying virulent religious hatred. Such was evident from the violence, which included an April 2018 gun attack at a village church in Benue State that left 19 people dead, including two priests. Reports for that year indicated “a rise”(2) in attacks both by the Fulani and by militant Islamist group Boko Haram, active especially in northeast Nigeria. The following year, clergy were reporting that attacks against Christians were “growing in ferocity and frequency”(3) – with Fulani attacks now outnumbering those by Boko Haram. By then, there was declining confidence that the government of Muhammadu Buhari, re-elected President in February 2019, was winning the battle against militant Islamist insurgency, with bishops calling for him to “consider stepping aside”.(4)

1. “Nigeria – A New Emergency”, Aid to the Church in Need (UK), June 2018, https://acnuk.org/campaign/nigeria2018/ (This and all sites below for Nigeria country profile accessed 7th June 2019, except where stated).
2. “Nigeria”, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Report 2018, pp. 54-55 https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2018USCIRFAR.pdf
3. John Newton and Roman Kris, “Attacks on Nigeria’s Christians are growing”, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) News, 7th June 2019, https://acnuk.org/news/attacks-on-nigerias-christians-are-growing/
4. Murcadha O Flaherty and John Pontifex, “Bishops – President should resign for inaction over ‘killing fields and mass graveyard’”, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) News, 30th April 2018, https://acnuk.org/news/bishopspresident-should-resign-for-inaction-over-nigerias-killing-fields-and-mass-graveyard/
5. “Christian Lawyers Call for Release of Leah Sharibu”, CSW, 23rd March 2018, https://www.csw.org.uk/2018/03/23/press/3887/article.htm; “Nigeria: Security forces failed to act on warnings about Boko Haram attack hours before abduction of schoolgirls”, Amnesty International, 20th March 2018, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/nigeria-abduction-of-schoolgirls-security-forces-failed-to-act-boko-haram/
6. “Over 300 Nigerian Christians slain in merciless killing spree by Fulani militants since February”, Barnabus Fund, 19th March 2019, https://barnabasfund.org/en/news/over-300-nigerian-christians-slain-in-mercilesskilling-spree-by-fulani-militants-since; “Hundreds of Christians killed in Nigeria attacks”, ABC Action News, 19th March 2019, https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/world/hundreds-of-christians-killed-in-nigeriaattacks; “Militia attacks claim 120 lives since Feb”, CSW, 14th March 2019, https://www.csw.org.uk/2019/03/14/press/4249/article.htm (all sites accessed 26th July 2019).
7. Lindy Lowry, “Urgent Prayer: 25 Christians in Nigeria killed by Boko Haram in door-to-door attacks”, Open Doors (USA), 2nd May 2019, https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/urgent-prayer-25-christians-in-nigeria-killed-by-boko-haram-in-door-to-door-attacks/; “25 Christians Killed by Boko Haram in Door-to-Door Attacks”, International Christian Concern, 3rd May 2019, https://www.persecution.org/2019/05/03/25-christians-killed-boko-haram-door-door-attacks/

February 2018

Islamist militants kidnapped about 110 students from a college in Dapchi, Yobe State, in north-east Nigeria on 19th February 2018, releasing all of them within one month, except one, 14-year-old Leah Sharibu, the only Christian among them. After their release, some of the girls said Leah had been held back because she had refused to abandon her Christian faith. At the time of writing, more than 18 months after she was kidnapped, Leah Sharibu is still held captive.(5)

February -March 2019

According to reports more than 280 people were killed in a spate of attacks on predominantly Christian settlements across Kaduna State by Fulani herders. Sexual assaults and maimings were also reported. This included the deaths of at least 120 members of the Adara ethnic group in Kajuru, apparently killed in the reprisal attacks that followed state governor El-Rufai’s TV announcement that 66 Fulani had been killed by Adara. El-Rufai later claimed the Fulani death toll had risen to 130. His claims were widely questioned.(6)

April 2019

Boko Haram militants went from door to door on the evening of 29th April 2019, killing up to 25 people in a largely Christian community in Kuda, near Madagali, in Adamawa State, north-east Nigeria. The next day, as survivors began burying their dead, the Islamist militants “were spotted approaching for a second attack,” prompting local people to flee. Following the attack, more Christians fled Kuda.(7)

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