UK urged to punish Nigerian officials complicit in slaughter of Christians

UK urged to punish Nigerian officials complicit in slaughter of Christians

Following years of disturbing accounts of Nigerian Christians suffering extreme persecution at the hands of Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and Fulani herdsmen, authors of a newly released reportare urging the U.K. government to sanction individual government officials in the African nation who have permitted the persecution to continue.   

With thousands tortured and more than 30,000 slaughtered, Nigeria is the 12th worst country in the world for persecution of Christians.  

Titled “Integrating Foreign Policy, Development Policy and Human Rights Objectives:  Christian Persecution in Nigeria,” the report published by Competere enjoined the U.K. government to utilize its newly instituted “global human rights sanctions regime” to deter Nigerian officials from turning a blind eye — or worse, colluding in serious human rights violations in their country.  

Despite being “a signatory to a range of human rights conventions, from the UN Convention on Human Rights to the European Convention on Human Rights,” the report chided the U.K. for not having done a good job “of actually protecting people from persecution, violence and even genocide.”

“The shambolic UN Human Rights Council (formerly Commission), made up of, as it often is, by the greatest human rights violators (in recent succession, it has counted Cuba, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among its recent membership) has become a global joke with regard to effectiveness,” declared the Competere report.

“If human rights violators and government officials who turn a blind eye or conspire with them through inaction understand that there are very real repercussions that could lead to a freezing of their UK assets and travels bans,” said Competere, “they will be more likely to cease and desist from such conduct.”

The report then focused on the plight of the Nigerian Christians, who constitute half of the country’s population.  

Competere — a trade law and economic policy consultancy — cited a U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on religious liberty recitation highlighting key points about the persecution of Christians there:

  • On 4th July, 2018, the Nigerian House of Representatives declared the killing of Christian farmers in the middle belt to be genocide, and requested the government to act by establishing orphanages and taking other critical steps. [None of this has been done].
  • Churches have been, and continue to, be burned in Nigeria. Five hundred churches have been destroyed in Benue State alone.  One hundred churches have been burned in Taraki and two hundred abandoned out of fear.  Sixty-five per cent of the Churches in Wakari have been burned.
  • Killings continue. As recently as 20thJanuary 2020, Reverend Lawan Andimi, Chair of the Christian Association of Nigeria, was executed.
  • On the 26th December, to coincide with the Christmas holiday, ISWAP released videos of beheadings of 10 Christian hostages and one Muslim apostate.
  • As recently as 2 April 2020, three hundred Muslim Fulani attacked the village of Hukke, killing seven and setting fire to twenty-three homes.
  • On the 26th February 2019, the ECOWAS court censured the Nigerian government, especially with reference to the killings in Benue state in 2016.  The court found that the government had neglected its primary duty to protect its citizens. Theophilus Danjuma, former Army Chief of Staff and former Defence Minister said that the “Army is not neutral. They collude” in ethnic cleansing.  He urged people to defend themselves and not rely on the Army to protect them. Indeed, there is evidence that the security forces abandon areas just before atrocities are committed.
  • President Buhari obtained 97% of his votes from the Muslim North and only 5% from the Christian south.  Most of his political appointments are Northern Muslims.  The APPG agreed that this was a violation of section 14(3) of the Nigerian constitution, that there should not be a preponderance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups.
  • The Buhari government’s response to the killings has been to deny, ignore and deflect. The government’s chief legal and judicial officer – Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami – has taken no steps to investigate or prosecute perpetrators or to protect the Christian communities at risk. The wilful blindness of the administration is seen by many in Nigeria and internationally as complicity with, and enabling of, the killings.

The Competere report came just two days after the U.K. had announced its first round of sanctions under its new global human rights regime targeting more than four dozen  individuals and organizations “involved in some of the most notorious human rights violations and abuses in recent years.” 

Shanker Singham, CEO of Competere, told the Catholic News Agency (CNA): “Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced that the U.K. will no longer be a safe haven for those who engage in gross human rights violations. This is to be welcomed.”

“The U.K. now has the tools to deal with human rights violations such as those being perpetrated in Nigeria against Christians in the Middle Belt. It is crucial that the full force of U.K. sanctions is brought against Nigerian officials who are guilty of collusion in these heinous acts.”

The Competere report concluded:

The protection of one’s own life is the most basic human right. Without it, no right has any meaning.  It is the quintessential job of government to, at the very least, protect the lives of their citizens. When a government wilfully colludes in actions that lead to gross human rights violations such as are occurring in Nigeria on a daily basis, that government must be held to account. This requires the full suite of tools available for the more developed, advanced economies. It is crucial that development and foreign trade, commercial and economic policies are joined up on this, and the UK’s recent foreign policy moves are a step towards this.

The UK’s enhancement of its criminal law to allow promoters of persecution to have their assets frozen and to stop them from enjoying the hospitality of the donor countries themselves is a welcome development. Now the UK must prove that in the protection of human rights, it has the moral high ground.