By: Natalia Brusco/ GICJ

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation of approximately 195 million. Around 50% identify as Muslim and 48.1% identify as Christian. Both of these two world religions have an effect on political and social identity. In some places in Nigeria, the two religions cohabitate nicely. However, other places are plagued with events and headlines reading “‘Corpses were scattered’: Gunmen kill dozens in Nigeria massacre” and “Nigeria is a killing field of defenseless Christians”. This needs to end. The government of Nigeria needs to ensure religious freedom by implementing more solutions to protect all citizens as everyone should feel safe to practice the religion of their choice.

This report will discuss domestic terrorism in Nigeria. It will draw specific attention to defenseless civilians being murdered at an alarming rate as well as violence committed by those who allegedly believe Islamic teaching is against anything that resembles the Western world.

In 2016, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, said those who are victims of Boko Haram’s violence have experienced “unspeakable suffering.” Further, the UN reported in January 2020 “Northern Nigeria has been in the grip of a Boko Haram insurgency for about a decade, which has led to widespread displacement.” The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has also made a statement condemning Boko Haram attacks stating that “The continuing violence by Boko Haram is an affront to international law, to humanity and to religious faith.” Many feel their life, liberty, and security are at risk due to their religion. A rise in domestic terrorist attacks by several different groups, including Boko Haram, has increased tension, fear, and danger. Consequently, many are choosing to flee.

This is not a new phenomenon. Reports in regards to religious attacks date back to the 1980s. Terrorism in the name of religion has always been a concern for Nigeria; however, since 2018, religious divides and violence have increased in central and northeastern Nigeria.

A major factor as to why religious violence is escalating is because of the failure of the government to intervene. In a religiously pluralistic state like Nigeria, inter-religious dialogue is needed. With Nigeria being the largest country in Africa and practically the only country in the world where both Islam and Christianity are not minority religions, Nigeria could become an example of a pluralistic nation in which most Muslims and Christians collaborate and see one another as equal.

As there is evidence that this is a genocide, signatories involved in the Genocide Convention of 1948 are “committed to ‘undertake to prevent’ genocide”. More action needs to be taken immediately due to the gravity of this situation. Insecurity is rampant across the country with Boko Haram attacking in the northeast and violence between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and Christian farmers in the Middle Belt. With villages destroyed, schoolchildren kidnapped, and thousands killed or fleeing the country, accountability and transparency are vital if the Nigerian government wants to instill a sense of security for their civilians. Further, the Nigerian government needs to be held more accountable for their actions against NGOs and how they respond to Boko Haram and militant Fulani herdsmen attacks.

Boko Haram (ISWAP) and militant Fulani herdsmen have been killing defenseless civilians.  Geneva International Centre for Centre condemns the actions of these two organizations as innocent deaths due to one’s religious identity will not be tolerated. The Nigerian government needs to stop these terrorist organizations from committing more attacks and they need to build peace between Christians and Muslims in order to hold responsible the violations that can be accounted for, building security for the entire nation. Additionally, the government needs to ensure programs and policies that already exist are being implemented properly and used effectively. Nigeria is experiencing its first stabs at maintaining a democracy since its independence and the international community must help sustain this democracy and promote peace in these ever-evolving religious attacks.

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