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04/09/2020 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As COVID-19 spreads around the world and its long-term implications are being assessed, another danger has raged for years and continues to impact the people of Nigeria. With the resurgence of Boko Haram and renewed activity from extremist Fulani militants, Nigeria’s Christian communities have reason to fear. Just recently, at least 50 Nigerian Christians were killed by Fulani militants in what has become a regular occurrence. The Christian community, composed largely of farmers, continues to face persecution of the most severe kind that has left many thousands dead over the last decade. 

International Christian Concern continues to monitor the situation in Nigeria and works closely with impacted communities to assist them in the recovery and rebuilding process. ICC also advocates for Nigeria’s Christians in Washington, D.C. to mobilize U.S. government pressure on Nigeria. 

For years, the Nigerian government has refused to take any concrete action to fulfill its constitutional mandate to protect their citizens and enforce the rule of law and little has been done in terms of policy to counter the violence and protect its Christian communities. President Buhari and his administration have made vague statements regarding the ongoing attacks but he has done nothing to provide security during his first and now second term. His inactivity has led to an impression of complicity as he continually turns a blind eye to the growing violence.  

Nigeria’s communal and religious instability leads to significant social fracturing in Africa’s largest democracy. If not mitigated it will grow and weaken the country. Any government that cannot enforce the rule of law, develop its institutions, cultivate societal and cultural harmony, and expand religious liberties to the population is laying the groundwork for major unrest.

The Buhari administration would be wise to tackle the violence directly, neutralize Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa and work to disarm the Fulani militants who are devastating Christian communities and Nigeria as whole. 

What about the United States? The U.S. government would be well served in terms of national security to appoint a special envoy to assess and report on the situation and to help develop a diplomatic pressure strategy to help the United States hold Nigerian leadership accountable. The strategy should encompass a staged process for Nigeria to move itself out of communal violence and develop strong security parameters, new training for the domestic police force and the military, and a robust plan for rooting out corruption and inspiring economic development. The plan needs a robust process for cultivating religious freedom and societal religious harmony.

The road ahead for Nigeria remains difficult, but none of these challenges are insurmountable. In fact, they are all opportunities for the Buhari Administration to finally lead the country out of sectarian and religious violence towards peace and prosperity.

Matias Perttula serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.