If immediate action is not taken, religious minorities in northern Nigeria will continue to face policies and practices that seek to remove their very presence, while the violence of Boko Haram and Fulani militants will further compound one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. That is the central message that emerges from this comprehensive report by the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, which examines in detail the current state of discrimination and violence along religious fault-lines in Nigeria. Nigeria, the report finds, is on the verge of fracturing along these faults, as ethnic and religious minorities in the north face systematic and systemic discrimination, and terroristic activities by Boko Haram and Fulani militants profoundly and negatively impacts on the lives of Muslims and Christians alike, resulting in over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The report begins by presenting the political, geographical, and social context of the conflict ridden region of northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt region. It provides background to the IDP crisis, a description of Boko Haram and the Fulani militants, and statistics on the numbers of fatalities, abandoned churches, and abductees. The report then goes on to detail: the various ways in which discrimination impacts those in northern Nigeria, including under-development and the targeting of religious minorities; the explosion of violence that accompanied the rise of Boko Haram, and the four-stages of the groups development; and the threat of the Fulani militants, and the accelerating violence in the Middle Belt. Finally, the report presents four case studies from the region, including: Kadarako, Nasarawa State, and Sho, Plateau State, which are both effectively under siege from Fulani militants; Jol, also of Plateau State, which have suffered over $1.9m worth of damage to crops, homes, and churches with no government support; and Agatu, Benue State, where Boko Haram have recently razed ten villages to the ground.
The report has a comprehensive set of recommendations that are highlighted toward the beginning of the document. The recommendations are divided into four groups, each aimed at a different stakeholder: the U.S. government, the United Nations, the Nigerian government, and individuals, churches, and denominations in Nigeria, the U.S., and around the world. Among the recommendations are:
- As one of the most important and influential partners Nigeria has, the U.S. government is urged to: create a special envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region; insist on a comprehensive roadmap to peace, the nature of which is outlined in ten key points that any such roadmap must address; strengthen the USAID offices in order to ensure that the humanitarian crisis is vigorously engaged; support the full and transparent establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board; and use their influence to facilitate action via the UN.
- The UN are advised to organise a visit by the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur of IDPs to Nigeria, with the commissioning of a formal and comprehensive report to the Security Council, and officially categorise the crisis in Nigeria as an L3 humanitarian crisis.
- To the Nigerian government, the report recommends that they: establish a comprehensive roadmap to peace directed by a high ranking member of government, and inclusive of multiple stakeholders at all levels; expand the activities of the National Emergency Management Agency to ensure that all IDPs receive the support they need; create a mechanism that would allow affected families to register the data of their missing; end the two-tiered system of “indigenous” and “settler” rights; enhance the capacity of the Nigerian security forces, including mobile units; and end the culture of impunity by ensuring that all those who participate in violence are held accountable within a system of fair due process.
- There is much that religious institutions and individuals can do to help; institutions, from denomination annual meetings to churches, can issue statements, train and educate leaders, utilise media and networks to raise awareness, and organise increased humanitarian assistance, while individuals can contact denominations, church leaders, and member of congress to stand with Nigeria.