By Anayo Ezugwu
THE United Kingdom parliamentarians have raised alarm over impending genocide against Christian communities in Nigeria. The parliamentarians under the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group, APPG, for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, said its members had been alarmed by the dramatic and escalating inter-communal violence in Nigeria characterised as the farmer-herder conflict.
In its latest report titled ‘Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?’ published on Monday, June 15, APPG said this violence has manifested along religious lines in Nigeria, as the herders are predominantly ethnic Fulani Muslims and the farmers are predominantly Christians. The report noted that the violence has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
APPG a group of over 100 British Parliamentarians from different political parties and from both Houses of Parliament said violence in Nigeria has caused untold human and economic devastation and heightened existing ethno-religious tensions. “There has been significant debate about what factors are driving and exacerbating this crisis. Therefore, the APPG launched a parliamentary inquiry to help develop a nuanced understanding of the drivers of violence and increase parliamentary, public and governmental interest in the issue.
“The APPG inquiry heard testimony from Nigerian and international experts during several oral evidence sessions held in the UK Houses of Parliament between 2018 and 2019. The APPG also held several smaller meetings and received written submissions. Individuals and organizations who gave oral or written evidence include: Mercy Corps, The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Forum on Farmer and Herder Relations in Nigeria, the UK Government, The Nigerian National Christian Elders Forum, Open Doors UK and Ireland, the former Deputy Governor of the Nigerian Central Bank, Search for Common Ground, the Institute for Economics and Peace, CSW, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, the Muslim Public Affairs Centre Nigeria and many others.
“Their evidence was bolstered with data from news articles and reports on the issue by think tanks, academics and non-governmental Organisations, NGOs, as well as information from a UK government-initiated conference on the issue at Wilton Park in February 2020. The APPG then collated and assessed this evidence to try to understand what factors are causing or exacerbating the conflict and to determine what solutions to recommend to the Nigerian Government and the international community,” it said.
According to the report, APPG members do not claim to be experts on Nigeria or to have all the answers to this crisis and they recognise that Nigeria is a vast and exceedingly complex country. They acknowledged that it would be a mistake to artificially simplify the nature of the conflict or the society. “We also recognise that Nigeria is a sovereign and capable state dealing with extraordinary pressures which British parliamentarians can scarcely imagine.
“Thus, the purpose of the APPG inquiry, and this report, is not to lecture or criticize, but to offer our support. We hope that when it comes to such a highly polarising issue, having an impartial view on the conflict, from a group, whose only desire is to see freedom of religion or belief protected, may help to create a shared understanding of the violence and accelerate efforts to reduce it.”
Therefore, APPG in its findings revealed that the escalation of violence is as a result of growing power and influence of Islamist extremism across the Sahel. It stated that multiple groups, such as the Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP, a splinter of Boko Haram and an affiliate of the weakened Daesh caliphate in Iraq and Syria, continue to extend their networks in Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Burkina Faso.
“For centuries, Fulani herders have lived in relative harmony with settled farming communities. These two groups have benefited historically from symbiotic partnerships to keep cropland fertile and cattle well nourished. Disputes would occasionally arise, as herders moved their cattle seasonally onto farmlands in search of water and grazing areas, but leaders would generally resolve them peacefully through established arbitration mechanisms, which compensated losses and shared resources.
“Unfortunately, this relationship has deteriorated rapidly resulting in enormous violence. The exact death toll is unknown. However, thousands of civilians are thought to have been killed in attacks led by Fulani herders and periodic retaliatory violence. Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust report that over 1,000 Christians were killed between January to November 2019 in addition to the estimated 6,000 deaths since 2015.
“Amnesty International estimate that between January 2016 and October 2018 at least 3,641 people may have been killed, 406 injured and 5,000 houses burnt down. Local groups, such as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, report higher figures: between January and June 2018, over 6,000 people were killed by Fulani herders.
“International Crisis Group, ICG, estimate that over 300,000 people have been displaced and that the violence has claimed the lives of six times more people than the conflict with Boko Haram. Its geographical footprint is also larger, with conflict manifesting in more states. According to Search for Common Ground, SfCG, between January 1, 2019 and January 1, 2020, inter-communal violence represented the most severe threat to civilian lives in Nigeria.
“Mercy Corps report that the violence is costing the Nigerian economy £10.5 billion per year. Some of the worst-affected areas include Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Kwara, Borno and Zamfara states. On July 4, 2018, the Nigerian House of Representatives declared killings in predominantly-Christian villages in Plateau State to be genocide and called on the federal government to immediately establish orphanages in areas affected by violence.
“On February 26, 2019, the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice ordered an investigation into mass killings and destruction of properties committed by Fulani herders against the Agatu Community in Benue State in 2016, stating that the government is obliged to protect the human rights of its citizens and to identify and prosecute the perpetrators and redress the victims,” it said.
– Jun. 19, 2020 @ 18:05 GMT |