Nigeria: A killing field of defenceless Christians: 350 Killed in January & February 2020
… between 11,500 and 12,000 died in 57 months (Since June 2015), 4m-5m fled & over 2,000 churches lost
Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria, Sunday, 8th March, 2020 – Nigeria has fully become a killing field of defenseless Christians. Available statistics have shown that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christian deaths were recorded in the past 57 months or since June 2015 when the present central Government of Nigeria came on board. Out of this figure, Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for 7,400 Christian deaths, Boko Haram 4000 and the ‘Highway Bandits’ 150-200.
While 100 percent of the victims of Jihadist Herdsmen attacks across Nigeria are Christians, the estimated 4000 Christians killed by Boko Haram were part of the estimated 6000 massacred by the sect since June 2015. Generally, many, if not most of the victims of Boko Haram/ISWAP attacks in Nigeria’s Northeast are Christians. On the part of ‘Bandits/Highway Kidnappers’ in Northern Nigeria, most of their rural victims are Muslims while many, if not most of their outlet or roadside victims are Christians traveling to Northern or Southern parts of the country using the Birnin-Gwari Federal Road, near Kaduna, etc.
Also, in the past two months or January and February, 2020, no fewer than 350 Christian deaths have been recorded and between 100 and 150 Christian travelers abducted on highways. And out of the 350 Christian deaths, Jihadist Fulani herdsmen accounted for no fewer than 250. Boko Haram and ‘Highway Bandits’ are responsible for the remaining 100 deaths. The Killings targeted at Christians in Nigeria have continued into the first week of March 2020 leading to hacking to death of over a dozen more.
Among the worst hit in the latest round of Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen attacks are Plateau State with 70-80 deaths, Kaduna 50 deaths, Kogi 30 deaths, Benue 15-20, Delta 16 and Taraba 10. Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen have also in the past two months of Jan and Feb 2020 carried out attacks in Nasarawa, Adamawa, Edo and other parts of the country, leading to death of dozens of Christians. The anti Christian attacks by Boko Haram since Jan 2020 have also intensified in Borno, Adamawa and Taraba States; claiming between 50 and 70 Christian lives and loss of churches and other buildings belonging to Christians, while those of “Highway Bandits/Kidnappers” included raiding and looting of Christian villages and ambushing of Christian travelers.
By the account of the Vanguard Newspaper, “320 persons were killed in Nigeria in the month of Jan 2020” and by that of Sahara Reporters, “223 persons died in Nigeria in the month of Feb 2020”. The 2019 Global Terrorism Index also stated that “2,040 persons (all Christians) were killed by radicalized Fulani militants in Nigeria in 2018 alone”. Intersociety, on its part, stated in March 2019 that ‘no fewer than 2400 defenceless Christians were hacked to death by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen in 2018 alone and in 2019; the number went down to between 1000 and 1,200 Christian deaths.’ This is just to cite but few.
In all, not less than 10, 475 Christians were hacked to death by non state actor Jihadists in the past 57 months, out of which Fulani Jihadists accounted for about 62% or 7,400 deaths. At the state actor level, the country’s security forces (Army, Air Force and Police) have been responsible for 1,050 Christian deaths. All the deaths occurred outside the law and were perpetrated in gross violation of the international human rights and humanitarian laws. Till date, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes or atrocities have remained on the prowl.
We have monitored violence against Christians in Nigeria since 2010
Expertly speaking, the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law – Intersociety – formed and registered in Nigeria since 2008, is a leading investigative and research rights advocacy group in the country. Led by criminologists, lawyers, journalists, security, peace and conflict studies’ graduates, Intersociety opposes inter-faith violence or killing in the name of radical Islamism including persecution of Christians and destruction or burning of churches and other Christian worship centers.
Intersociety had monitored and documented killing of Christians in Nigeria since 2010 and spoken out against same using several dependable mainstream and online media platforms of local and international credibility. In its monitoring and documentation, Intersociety relies on credible local and foreign media reports, eyewitnesses’ accounts and reports from Christian bodies and church media. Also relied upon are reports from local and international rights and research organizations and credible Government accounts (if any).
20 clergymen killed & 50 abducted since June 2015
No fewer than 20 clergymen including at least eight Catholic Priests/Seminarians were hacked to death in the past 57 months and not less than 50 abducted or kidnapped. Among the slain Priests are Rev Father Clement Ugwu, abducted and killed on 14th March 2019, Rev Father Paul Offu abducted and killed on 1st August 2019 and Rev Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha killed by Jihadist Herdsmen at St. Ignatius Quasi Parish Ukpor-Mbalom (Benue) on 24th April 2018. Among the newest victims of killings targeted at Nigerian Christian leaders are Reverend Pastor Lawan Andimi and Reverend Pastor Denis Bagauri, all top officials of CAN in Adamawa State.
The abducted priests or clergymen included Catholic priests (Fathers Dim, Ezeokana and Chukwuemeka) abducted while returning from Nsukka to Onitsha and Nnewi when they were attacked by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen in Sept 2016 along Nkpologwu-Nimbo Road in Enugu State. One of them later died. On the same Monday 26th September, 2016, a Vincentian Igbo Priest whose name was not given was also kidnapped with his brother along Abuja-Lokoja express way.
Five pastors of the Reverend Enoch Adeboye owned RCCG, all Igbo citizens, were abducted on Friday, 2nd August 2019, but later freed. The five Igbo-pastors are Deaconess Ibelegbo Chidinma, Chidozie Eluwa, Chiemela Iroha, Okoro Ohowukwe and Ndubuisi Owuabueze. In Dec 2018, two Catholic Priests were abducted by suspected Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen. The two Priests were of St Teresa’s Catholic Church Umueze Anam in Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State. The source said the priests were abducted at Umuleri while returning from an official function. This is just to cite but few.
Christian travelers abducted in their hundreds
Targeting and abducting Christian travelers on highways particularly in Northern Nigeria who are mainly citizens of Igbo extraction have also intensified and taken a dangerous dimension in recent months-whereby the victims are separated at gunpoint according to their tribe and religion. Same is applicable to victims of house to house looting during which Christians are separated from others at gunpoint and taken away or killed on the spot.
Christians, particularly those of Igbo extraction, are waylaid on highways and abducted into the bush and forced to pay ransom or face death including beheading or forceful conversion to Islam. Women among them are routinely subjected to sexual violence including rape and other forms of sexual assault. On 14th Jan 2020, no fewer than 58 Igbo Christian travelers through the Ezenwata Transport’s luxury bus were ambushed and forced to stop after which they were abducted.
The Boko Haram, Jihadist herdsmen and “highway bandits” have been abducting travelers on major Nigerian highways including Abuja-Okene, Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna and Benin-Ore Federal Roads, etc. The abductees are held and tortured in captivity until they pay ransoms running into millions of naira each. Those who are unable to pay run the high risk of being killed or raped to death in captivity, if they are young women.
Jihadists have forced 4m-5m Christians to leave & destroyed 2000 churches in 57 months
Ceaseless killing of Christians in Nigeria particularly since June 2015 and burning or destruction of their churches and other worship centers followed incessant attacks against them by Boko Haram/ISWAP, Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and a branch of Boko Haram, called “Bandits/Highway Kidnappers” who engage in roadway abductions and armed robbery and house to house looting; all for purpose of radical propagation of Islam and raising of ‘blood funds’ for themselves and advancement of their terror activities.
Generally, the number of indigenous Northern Christians forced to flee their ancestral homes, farmlands and sacred places of worship so as to escape being hacked to death or face forceful conversion to Islam and concomitant sexual violence or enslavement had sharply risen from “over 1.3m in 2014” (Open Doors Report 2015) to between 4m and 5m. The affected population had fled the country or relocated to some less risky capital cities in Northern Nigeria or cities and communities in the Southeast, South-south and Southwest parts of the country. The educated among them have become “urban refugees”.
The total number of Jihadist Herdsmen and Boko Haram generated internally displaced persons and refugees in Northern Nigeria-mostly Christians, are presently estimated at over 3m, rising from 2.6m as at 2017. Among the refugees are some ’90,000 Christian dominated Nigerian refugees (from Borno’s Gwoza alone) presently in Cameroon. Joined in fleeing the Islamic jihad affected parts of the North are sizeable number of Igbo Christian population resident in the areas, but now resettled in the Southeast and the South-south parts of the country.
The number of churches and other Christian worship centers destroyed or burnt since June 2015 in the North has also risen to over 2000, out of which Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen account for over 1500 while Boko Haram accounts for 500 others. Of the churches destroyed or burnt by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen, Benue, Plateau and Southern Kaduna are the worst hit. In eight years, between 2011 and 2019, Benue State had lost 600 churches and other Christian worship centers to Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen. By the account of Open Doors Int’l, “over 13,000 churches and 1,500 Christian schools were destroyed or burnt; with over 11,500-12,500 Christians killed and over 1.3 million Christians forced to flee their homes to escape being hacked to death by Boko Haram Jihadists between 2009 and 2014”.
Concise background of Christian population in Nigeria & their settlements in the North
Nigeria is home to between 95m and 100m Christians, out of which estimated 30m (indigenous) Christians are found in the North. This is going by the country’s estimated total population of 200m citizens. The indigenous Northern Christian population is boosted by estimated 11m-12m Christians dominated by Christian citizens of Igbo extraction living in the North. Southeast and South-south regions of Nigeria are also home to the largest Christian population in Nigeria, followed by the Southwest and the old Middle Belt Region in Northern Nigeria. The Southwest Christians are further boosted by estimated 6m Christians dominated by Christian citizens of Igbo extraction largely found in Lagos.
In the Northeast, indigenous Christians are found in large numbers in Taraba State (about 60%), Adamawa (about 40%), Borno (about 40%), Gombe (sizeable) and Yobe and Bauchi (fraction). They are generally boosted by resident Christians dominated by Christians of Igbo extraction. Totality of these was the case as at 2009 and still substantially the case today particularly in Taraba and Gombe States. That is to say that Borno and Adamawa States are the hardest hit in the raging or ongoing anti Christian persecution or killing of Christians and burning or destruction of their churches.
Before the 1961 plebiscite, the old Gongola (now Adamawa and Taraba States of Nigeria) was part of the Republic of Cameroon with moderate religious practices including substantial Christian population. In Borno State, the area formerly Kanem-Bornu (Kanuri) Empire, is one of the oldest moderate Islamic settlements in now Northern Nigeria and was then under the Duguwa Dynasty that lasted from 700AD to 1086AD. The area specifically embraced moderate Islamism around AD1090s when its King (Sef Mai Umme) became a Muslim and changed his name to Ibn ‘Abd al-Jalil. That was about 128 years after the death of Prophet Muhammed in 632AD.
The area later found itself under Kanem-Bornu Empire formed in 1380 AD. It also embraced Islamic civilization early enough. Noted also is the fact that the area now called ‘Borno and Adamawa regions’ were the only areas in Northern Nigeria that withstood and resisted the Fulani Jihadist incursion in early 1800s. Christian missionaries also went to the areas in 1800s and 1900s and established Christianity, which led many to embrace Christianity. Today, Christians and Christianity religion in the areas (Borno and Adamawa) are almost uprooted by terrorist activities of Boko Haram and Fulani jihadists.
By the account of Dr. Bitrus Pogu, the Adamawa State’s senior member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), translated as Church of the Brethren in Nigeria: “In many communities in Northeast Nigeria, the killers (Fulani and Boko Haram jihadists) take over ancestral lands and communities that for generations belonged to Christians. The majority of Christian-dominated areas in southern Borno have been taken over by terrorists. In the area, only southeastern Damboa has large Christian settlements… Many of them [Christians living there] have been killed. The remnant who attempted to go to their farms were shot and killed, so the place is empty now. The area of Askira Uba, where Christians were dominant has all been deserted. In Gwoza, you will hardly find one Christian in all the settlements. Any Christian who goes home would see what had happened there and run away.
“The Cameroon refugee camp alone has more than 90,000 persons from Gwoza who are dominantly Christians. Many of them have moved out to Abuja and other cities. The villages are deserted; they have left even local government headquarters. A place like Chibok is predominantly Christian but people have left the villages around Chibok town as a result of series of attacks. Where Rev. Andimi hails from is about six kilometres from where the last settlement is. …. there is nobody living there, apart from those who settled along the main road. Askia Uba is the last area north where Christians are. In Adamawa State, there is Madagali, where you have Gulak. Right south you find Christians, but north there are no people. The terrorists are approaching Adamawa proper, because Adamawa and Borno intersect from Uba…”
Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen & ‘bandits’: Three names with one mission
At non state actor level, there are two major armed Islamic jihadist groups terrorizing Nigeria and its defenseless citizens particularly members of the Christian faith. They are the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and the Boko Haram jihadists. The international offshoot of Boko Haram is called Islamic State in West Africa or ISWAP. While Boko Haram was formed in 2002, the terrorist Fulani Herdsmen were armed terrorist and Islamic jihadist department of the Fulani Herdsmen in Nigeria; created and funded by extremist Northern politicians and security chiefs and made operational immediately after the return to civil rule in late May 1999.
The terror group was formed and funded using the instrument or hiding under the cover of existing Fulani rural cattle grazing in Nigeria. Initially formed and funded to wrestle the country’s seat of presidency power from the South targeted at making same ungovernable, the mission of the terror group and its sponsors later changed to jihadist Islamism in 2015. The change in its mission also followed the emergence of Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, a known Fulani (Daji) and member of conservative Muslim faith, as the sixth civilian president of Nigeria in late May 2015. Mr. Buhari, till date, is the life patron of the mother body of the association of Nigeria’s cattle herders, called ‘the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria’.
Also, by the account of Comrade Steven Kefas, a fiery Kaduna rights activist, ‘what is called “Bandits” and “Ansaru” or “northern kidnappers” or “cattle rustlers” was nothing but a product of Government ‘labeling’. These groups are just ‘cells’ or ‘departments of Boko Haram’ charged with the responsibility of raising funds through various forms of roadway and street criminality including kidnapping-for-ransom, armed robbery and house-to-house raiding and looting’. At times, their criminality includes ‘pleasure crime’ such as rape and sexual harassment or ‘religious crime’ including abduction and forceful conversion to Islam or death in captivity such as public beheading for refusing to be converted. Comrade Kefas recently interviewed some survivors of the highway abductions on Northern highways and they confirmed same while sharing their sad experiences in the abductors’ captivity.
In all, there are ‘three names’ associated with Nigeria’s Islamic terror groups, but they have one mission: to terrorize, pillage, plunder and kill others in the name of propagation of Islamic religion or Islamism. Both Boko Haram and its international offshoot, ISWAP, kill and destroy in the name of religion. They despise ‘Christianity, Christians and western culture or education’ and seek to Islamize the entire country by ‘deepening Koran in the Sea’. Most of their victims from 2009 to date are Christians and it is only in rare circumstances that Muslims are targeted for ‘collateral killings’; usually in ‘revenge’ against Government attacks.
But for Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen, 100% of their victims are Christians, their churches, homes and lands. It has never been found where ‘Muslim farmers and their Mosques or homes are attacked and their lands forcefully taken over by Jihadist Herdsmen’, who appeared to be armed with “communal and forest mappings” across Nigeria. This is more so when majority of farmers in Northern Nigeria are Muslims. Apart from attacking Christian settlements in the North-Central, Northeast and some parts of the Northwest, Jihadist Herdsmen, with state cover, have also launched incessant attacks in the Southeast and South-south leading to death of no fewer than 200 Christians in the past 57 months. The killings were mostly recorded in Enugu, Anambra, Delta and Edo States.
Religious terrorists operate under state cover & complicity in Nigeria
The greatest challenge facing the Nigerian security forces or Armed Forces and the Police is ‘secularity question’ or lack of national cohesion, pluralism and belongingness. Going by the multi ethnic and religious composition of the country, its present Armed Forces and the Police ought to have been composed of 50-50 Muslim-Christian ratio, but reverse is sadly the case. The present headship of the country’s security establishments is structured along 80/20 Muslim-Christian percentage; thereby aiding and fueling the untamed butcheries in the country.
Aided by near total collapse of intelligence and ICT policing and soldiering, the country’s security forces are now widely perceived or seen by many as ‘a state actor insurgency organization’. This is because it is difficult to differentiate between the security forces and Boko Haram or Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and their genocidal activities. It is also no longer hidden that Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen are allowed by Nigerian Government to bear or possess assault rifles like AK-47s, but the same Government arrests and prosecutes those found in possession of ‘hunters’ guns’.
By the Firearms Act of 2004, assault rifles like AK-47s are prohibited from being borne by the citizens except members of the Armed Forces including Police and paramilitaries such as personnel of the Nigerian Customs, Prisons and Immigration Services as well as NDLEA, NSCDC, etc. But in practice presently, Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen have earned the status of ‘untouchable Janjaweed’; operating from left, right and center across the country with ‘prohibited firearms’; killing and plundering at will and with impunity.
Recently in Umuawulu Community, near Awka in Anambra State, some ‘Fulani Herdsmen’ were openly caught bearing and brandishing AK-47s and till date, Government including the Inspector General of Police recently petitioned by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has kept mute. A recent study conducted by a research group published by the Cable strongly alleged that “weapons used in farmer/herder conflicts (Jihadist Fulani terrorism) in the country are linked to Nigerian security agencies”.
The Government of Nigeria and its security agencies have also come out boldly to defend the terrorist activities of Fulani Jihadists. The Government also functions as their mouthpiece. ‘Figure spinning’ and ‘mangling’ have also become part of the Federal Government’s conspiracy and complicity-whereby Government denies out-right the casualty figures associated with Jihadist Herdsmen killings or have same brutally mangled. Censorship, false denials and falsehoods also characterize the Government’s response to Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen’s butcheries.
Apart from releasing into the general and the regimented (security formations) societies thousands of the arrested Boko Haram terrorists, classified as “low risk Boko Haram combatants”, the Nigerian Government is also ‘jihadist RUGA friendly’. The Government is bent and moving with full speed at establishing throughout Nigeria ‘Jihadist friendly “RUGA” and ‘National Livestock Transformation Plan’. “RUGA” in Fulani means “rural grazing area and rural human settlement”; designed to be hidden under to perpetrate Islamic jihadist campaign or violence.
This is despite the fact that in the country’s landmass distribution, out of total of 923,000km2, the North is allocated with 72% or 730,000km2 while the entire South shares only 22% or 192,000km2; out of which the Southeast is allocated with the least or 29,525km2. The Nigerian Army has recently announced the floating of “Nigerian Army (Cattle) Ranching Limited” to be established throughout the country’s Army and military formations.
Apart from deceitfully christening the massacre of Christians as “herders-farmers clash”, the Nigerian Government also censors the media and some researchers, compelling them to describe the killings as “killings by unknown gunmen” or arising from “herders-farmers clash”. “Visa weavers” were also announced recently by the Nigerian Government, allowing illegal aliens including violent African nationals to enter the country and live anywhere particularly in the Southern part. There has been steady influx of largely uneducated and religiously radicalized Northern Muslim youths into various communities and cities in the Southeast and the South-south. As at Dec 2019, forests and bushes of over 139 Igbo communities, towns and outlets had been forcefully penetrated and occupied by violent Fulani Herdsmen. Some rural communities in Igbo Delta, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi have already become a ‘no-go area”.
Strong accusations are also rife against the Buhari/Osinbajo Government concerning the open conspiracy of the security forces in the massacre of Christians across Nigeria. The other day, the Governor of Delta State, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa strongly and openly accused soldiers of ‘accompanying the Herdsmen to massacre 14 rural Christians in Ughelli North LGA of the State”. The killings took place on 16th Feb 2020. Several other instances abound pointing strong accusing fingers at Army or Police aiding the massacre of defenseless Christians or refusing to come to their rescue when they are under attack, only to emerge hours after such killings to arrest, detain and torture the same victim populations. Instances, such as the above, are too numerous to mention.
Short statistics concerning 11,500-12,000 Christian deaths in 57 months
Credible statistics since June 2015 or between June 2015 and February 2020 have shown that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christians were hacked to death by Boko Haram, Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram’s ‘bandits/highway kidnappers’; out of which Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for 7,400 deaths, Boko Haram 4000 and ‘Bandits/Highway Kidnappers’ 150-200. The Nigerian military and police also accounted for 1,050 Christian deaths in the past 57 months. These included the killing of 480 Judeo-Christian Igbo citizens, 236 Christian IDPs, over 50 Adamawa rural Christians, estimated 70 Northeast Christian children and some 120 Christian detainees who Amnesty Int’l said were among the 240 detainees starved to death at the Giwa Military Barracks in Borno State in 2016, etc.
In the area of Jihadist Herdsmen killings, the breakdown further indicates that about 525 Christian deaths were recorded between June and December 2015, 1,300 between Jan and December 2016, 1,700 between Jan and Dec 2017 and 2,400 between Jan and Dec 2018. In 2019, Jihadist Herdsmen killed between 1000 and 1200 Christians leading to total Christian deaths by Fulani Jihadists since June 2015 to about 7,400. Also, between June 2015 and December 2018, Boko Haram/IWSAP terror group was responsible for about 2,800 Christian deaths. This is out of the estimated 5000 killed. Between Jan and December 2019, the Sect killed close to 1000 citizens who were mostly Christians. The “Highway Bandits/Kidnappers” have also been responsible for about 150-200 Christian deaths in the past 57 months.
Researched & Compiled By:
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies
Lawyer Obianuju Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law
Lawyer Ndidiamaka Bernard, Head, Int’l Justice & Human Rights
Lawyer Chidimma Udegbunam, Head, Campaign & Publicity
Lawyer Chinwe Umeche, Head, Democracy & Good Governance