Nigeria: An extremely dangerous place to be a Christian

Human rights activists and researchers, in a new report said, that a little over a decade (July 2009 to July 2021), nearly 43,000 Christians have been killed as a direct result of radical Islamic attacks in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRG).

According to the report, the 43,000 Christian deaths occurred following systematic and coordinated attacks majorly targeted at Christians by radical Islamists or Islamic Jihadists and their collaborators in the Nigerian security forces. The Nigerian Jihadists sparsely and collaterally target moderate Muslims as collateral mistakes or punishments of those collaborating with the ‘unbelievers’ or in revenge for state actor attacks against their targets, or  for purpose of enforcement of Islamic Sharia law or code.

Independently speaking, too, the Islamic Jihadists and their ‘esprit de jihad’ in the Nigerian security forces have been responsible for at least 18,500 Christian deaths arising from enforced disappearances, or those abducted and most unlikely to return alive. The 18,500 jihadist captivity slain Christians are out of estimated 26,000 of such deaths since 2009, put by a United Nations Agency in 2019 at 22,500.

Generally speaking, the total number of defenseless Nigerians abducted by the Jihadists since 2009 is put at 36,000, out of which 18,500 are Christians who are most unlikely to return alive. While most of the Muslims abducted by Jihadists in Nigeria are later released unconditionally to their families, most of their Christian counterparts are killed in captivity or forcefully converted to Islam. A typical case in point was the abduction of 276 Chibok Girls by BH on 14-15 April, 2014. Apart from 217 of them belonging to the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), they are still held and have been forcefully converted to Islam and married off by the Jihadists.

The report further refers to atrocities of the Jihadists directed at Christians and their properties including homes, worship and learning centers, ancestral lands, farmlands, forests and bushes include: massacres, killings, mutilations, torture, maiming, abductions, hostage-taking, rape, girl-child defilements, forced marriages, disappearances, extortions, forceful conversions and destruction or burning of homes and sacred worship and learning centers as well as forceful occupation of farmlands, destruction and forceful harvesting of farm crops and other internationally prohibited acts.

During the past twelve years, it was also independently found that no fewer than 30 million Christians especially in Northern Nigeria and their ethno-religion were threatened and ten million of them have been uprooted. Six million forced to flee their homes or geopolitical locations to avoid being hacked to death and over four million displaced and became IDPs; and out of the four million Christian IDPs, over one million are found in Benue State and 1.3m in the ‘BAY’ States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, excluding Taraba.

Tens of thousands of Christians especially the educated and the rich from Northern Nigeria have become ‘urban refugees’, asylum seekers and refugees at international borders and foreign countries, so as to escape being hacked to death or decapitated by the Jihadists.

Indirect deaths arising from the jihadist attacks in the country in the same past twelve years are in hundreds of thousands and Christians are the most affected including being the most brutally targeted and attacked. The ‘indirect’ jihadist fatalities arose from the outlawed military and jihadist groups’ bombings and killings arising from torture and custodial killings and enforced disappearances as well as other deaths arising from starvation, lack of adequate medical facilities and treatments.

In the past twelve years, at least 17,500 churches and 2000 Christian schools, and other learning centers have been attacked by the Jihadists and were destroyed in part or in whole or burned or razed down. In the past seven months of 2021, for instance, the number of churches threatened or attacked and destroyed or burned down has risen to over 300 and from July 2009 to July 2021, no fewer than 17,500 churches and 2000 Christian schools have been affected.

The number of Mosques and Islamic learning centers attacked by the Jihadists is minutely insignificant and acutely disproportionate when compared with the number of churches or Christian schools attacked. While attacks on symbols of worship by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Jihadist Fulani Bandits are 100 percent targeted at churches and Christian schools, those perpetrated by BH, ISWAP, Ansaru and others are mostly directed at churches and Christian schools with insignificant percent directed at Mosques and Islamic learning centers.

According to Ms Anna Mulder of the US based Open Doors, “between July 2009 and Dec 2014, a period of five years, BH killed between 11,000-11,500 Christians in Northern Nigeria, forced 1.6m to flee their homes to avoid being hacked to death by the Jihadists who also burnt or destroyed 13,500 churches and 1,500 Christian schools.”

It has been found that between Jan 2015 and July 2021, a period of six years and seven months, at least 4000 more churches and 500 Christian schools have been attacked and destroyed or burnt in part or in whole by the Jihadists. While BH attacks on churches and Christian schools, from 2009 to 2014 were majorly launched and carried out in Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, FCT, Taraba, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi; the recent attacks especially by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen have been targeted on Christian areas in Plateau, Benue, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa, Niger and Kastina States.

Further, no fewer than 500 Christian communities have uprooted and seized or taken over, renamed and Islamized by the Jihadists since 2009. BH, ISWAP and Ansaru and Jihadist Fulani Bandits have forced Christians out of their ancestral homes and communities in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Taraba, Kastina, Sokoto and Niger States, Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen have sacked hundreds of Christian communities in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Benue, Taraba and Adamawa States.

Over 100 communities have been affected in Southern Kaduna alone and in Benue, Plateau and Taraba States, Christian homes and churches have been destroyed or burnt beyond recognition and their communities and Christian sacred worship centers sacked and replaced with Mosques and Muslim settlements. In all these, Borno, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Southern Kaduna and Benue States are the worst hit.

For instance, indigenous Christians used to be dominant in Southern Borno, Southern Kebbi, Northern Adamawa, and parts of Gpmbe, 40% in Kaduna and over 80% in Southern part of the State, 80% in Plateau, over 90% in Benue and 60% in Taraba. They are found in their large numbers in five Local Government Areas of Niger State including Shiroro, Munya and Rafi. But since 2009, these Christians and their settlements are facing threats of annihilation in the hands of the Jihadists.

Over 80% of fertile farmlands and cultivated farmlands ancestrally owned by indigenous Christians across the country have also been brutally threatened or attacked or occupied, leading to country-wide chronic food shortages and galloping increases in their prices. In the ancestral Igbo Lands of Benue, Kogi, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia States, Intersociety’s recent research had found that no fewer than 700 forests, bushes and farmlands have been threatened, or attacked, or occupied by the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen since 2016.

Out of the estimated total ‘direct deaths’ of over 72,000 defenseless Nigerian citizens in the hands of Islamic Jihadists and their ‘esprit de jihad’ in the country’s security forces since 2009, 43,000 Christians have died involving: BH, ISWAP and Ansaru 18,000-18,500 Christian deaths, Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen 18,500-19,000 Christian deaths and others 5,500-6000 Christian deaths including security forces 2000-2,500 Christian deaths and Jihadist Fulani Bandits (formed in Zamfara State in 2011) 3,500 Christian deaths.

In other words, from July 2009 to Dec 2014, BH killed 11,500 Christians and from Jan 2015 to July 2021, the Jihadist Terror Group, joined by ISWAP and Ansaru killed additional 7000 Christians. Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen, on their part, killed 6500 Christians including 1,229 in 2014 and 1,300 in 2015, from Jan 2010 to June 2015, a period of five and half years; and from June 2015 to July 2021, a period of six years, the Government protected jihadist cattle herders had attacked and massacred 12,5000 Christians.

Further breakdown, going by the previous reports, others indicated that Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen attacked and killed 650 Christians June-Dec 2015; 1,700 Christians in 2016; 2000 Christians in 2017; 2,400 Christians in 2018; about 1200 Christians in 2019; more than 2,400-2500, out of 3,530 total Christian deaths in 2020; and 2100 Christians from Jan to July 2021-totaling 12,500 Christians killed by Jihadist fulani herdsmen alone since June 2015 since the inception of the present central government.

The above statistical breakdown and analysis indicated that Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen killings doubled from Jan 2010 to June 2015, a period of five and half years with 6,500 Christian deaths; to 12,500 Christian deaths from June 2015 to July 2021, a period of six years. Boko Haram Jihadists, on their part, killed more Christians (11,500 Christian deaths) from July 2009 to June 2015, a period of six years, than they (including ISWAP, Ansaru and others) have killed (7,000 Christians) from July 2015 to July 2021, a period of six years.

About the Group: The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law is a leading research and investigative rights group since 2008 and has monitored, investigated, documented and exposed religious persecution and other forms of religious violence by state and non-state actors across Nigeria and beyond since 2010.

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.