Bandaging and building the persecuted Church since 1995

No Protest Allowed: A Profile of Nigeria’s Governor El-Rufai and How He Punishes Dissent in Kaduna State

It was within a few minutes of sunset—slated for 6:14 that day—on Christmas Eve 2016 when Fulani militants stormed the village of Goska in central Nigeria’s Kaduna State. The assault didn’t last long, but before disappearing into the dim brush surrounding Goska, the Fulani militant attackers managed to burn eighty houses and wound dozens of villagers. Fourteen villagers died, including women and children.

The attack attracted international attention because it happened while Goska was rendered helpless by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who, just five days prior, had begun a complete lockdown on residents of the Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA) where Goska is located.

The lockdown, ostensibly designed to prevent attacks by banning all movement, was enacted in response to protests of the El-Rufai administration’s lackluster response to violence in Jema’a. The month leading up to the attack saw 102 people killed, 215 injured, and an estimated 50,000 houses burned across twenty-five Christian farming communities in Jema’a, a jurisdiction smaller than the city of Houston. However, El-Rufai’s administration only enforced the Goska lockdown against villagers, who reported that members of nomadic Fulani groups moved about freely in the days leading up to the attack.

Despite international condemnation of the lockdown in Jema’a, El-Rufai has imposed at least six lockdowns since the 2016 attack. In a pattern now all too familiar, villagers protest the lack of security provided by the El-Rufai administration and El-Rufai responds to protesting communities by locking them down. These lockdown orders make it impossible for villagers to organize early warning systems, making militant attacks even more deadly as villagers no longer have the warning they need to flee into the bush.

Though there is no direct evidence to prove that El-Rufai ordered these attacks, his continued imperiling of protesting villages—even in the face of the hundreds of deaths his lockdowns have produced over the years—violates international human rights law. ICC has engaged with the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury to suggest a visa ban and sanctions on El-Rufai for his continued lockdowns on Christian communities in Kaduna.

Three groups are primarily responsible for the violence in Nigeria: Islamic State, Boko Haram, and Fulani militants. The Nigerian government’s response to Islamic State and Boko Haram has proved ineffective, but its response to the issue of Fulani militancy has been outright negligent. This report looks at just one aspect of this negligent response, in Kaduna under El-Rufai, but the problem extends across the country.

In this report, ICC aims to highlight two issues: first, El-Rufai’s continued abuse of Christian communities under his jurisdiction and, second, the extravagant lifestyle enjoyed by him and his family. Together these factors make El-Rufai an ideal candidate to be sanctioned by the U.S. government and other governments around the world.

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