Report from Nigeria

September 17th, 2013

Report from Nigeria

HART’s visit to Nigeria last week revealed a worrying growth in violence and terrorist activity by militant groups, including the self-avowed Islamist Boko Haram which has declared its intention to drive all Christians out of northern Nigeria. During September we visited our partners in Plateau, Kano (including Bari) and Bauchi States to review ongoing projects and to obtain up-to-date information and evidence regarding the situation in Nigeria.

In Bauchi and Kano States there has been an escalation of violence against Christian communities and churches, which we witnessed in a visit to Wasasa, in Kaduna state, where an Evangelical Church of West Africa was bombed in June. Muslims who do not support Boko Haram are also being targeted, and in an attack on September 1st 2013, three Muslim people were killed, including a policeman, a village head, and the director of a hospital.

The acceptance of Sharia Law over Federal secular law in Bauchi and Kano State means that the non-Muslim population find it difficult to buy into business and are heavily discriminated against in access to higher education, employment and government positions.  Christians are also forbidden from purchasing land to build places of worship and repairing churches which have been damaged during terrorist attacks. These factors have led to a mass exodus of non-indigenes. The Bishop of Kano told us, “The indigenes [Christians] have nowhere to flee. But Boko Haram is succeeding in its objective of driving all other Christians out of northern Nigeria.”

Plateau State, which had enjoyed relative stability over the last 18 months, has experienced some serious incidences of violence this year, including an attack in South Jos in July, in which 28 people were killed. There is also a rising number of small-cases in which 2 or 3 people are killed a week in urban and rural areas, generating a climate of terror which renders normal life, including the cultivation of crops, impossible. In addition, the traditional tensions and conflicts between indigenes and nomadic Fulani over land rights and cattle grazing grounds has become increasingly violent, and questions remain regarding who is arming and motivating these groups.

The authorities have failed to hold anyone accountable for these attacks, and some believe this culture of impunity is rooted in a network of support for Boko Haram in official and political circles. There is also evidence that the Boko Haram militants have received sophisticated training and weaponry from sources such as Afghanistan, Egypt and Mauritania, suggesting a wider international agenda. Fearful for their lives some Christian communities, and especially youths, feel they must arm themselves in the absence of protection from official security, army and police forces, creating potential for the conflict to escalate in the near future.

Some religious leaders are attempting to promote harmonious relationships between Muslim and Christian communities through interfaith dialogue and intercommunal initiatives. This is undoubtedly a positive step, however we have some concerns that those leading the dialogue may not be speaking the same language and seeking the same objectives, and moreover the groups leading the violence have been absent from such initiatives. These talks do not resolve the issue of supremacy between Federal or Sharia law nor the wider problem of a growing internationally supported Islamist agenda which uses terror tactics to achieve its ends.

Baroness Cox, HART CEO, stated It is essential for any consideration of responses to this dangerous situation, which has already caused far too much suffering for far too long for far too many people, to accept a realistic and comprehensive analysis and to take appropriately comprehensive measures to address the threats to Nigerian citizens in these parts of Nigeria – and the risk of far-reaching implications for the Nigerian nation.”

The full report can be downloaded below.

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