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HomeOpinionNigeria's Thought Leaders Under Fire For Denying Christian Genocide

Nigeria’s Thought Leaders Under Fire For Denying Christian Genocide

By Mike Odeh James

(Kaduna) Nigerian pastors are throwing shade on generals, decision-makers and even other clergy for losing their spine when it comes to diagnosing the “Christian genocide,” according to thought leaders interviewed by TruthNigeria. The charges are not new:  the Middle Belt Leaders Forum representing four geopolitical zones wrote to President Bola Tinubu at the beginning of the year demanding that he act immediately to stop the violence of Christians in Plateau after the Black Christmas massacres. Tinubu’s lack of action has hardened the anger of human rights experts interviewed by TruthNigeria.

A cross-section of people in the Middle Belt region have accused the military of bias in its handling of security challenges in the nation’s Middle Belt. They claim the military’s approach has been selective, with Christians facing discrimination and neglect. This perception has fueled resentment and mistrust among some outspoken members of the Christian community.

Dede Laugesen, speaking at Faith Clinic Church International in Hyattsville, MD in December 2021: credit: Doug Burton
Dede Laugesen, speaking at Faith Clinic Church International in Hyattsville, MD in December 2021. credit: Doug Burton

“Christian leaders and politicians who are not speaking out about the genocide of their brothers and sisters throughout northern Nigeria and the Christian Middle Belt are part of the problem. They are enabling the continued, rampant slaughter of fellow believers and the occupation of their lands and properties,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of the US-based Save the Persecuted Christians.

“International human rights advocates have been pressing their governments on behalf of Christians in Nigeria, and we have hosted many Christian ministers and officials to share facts on the violence,” Laugesen went on to say. “But we can only do so much. Nothing will change for Nigerians terrorized by jihadists acting with impunity until the Nigerian people unite with one voice to rebuke the religious-based violence at the heart of this genocide. It’s not a consequence of climate change, and it’s not a conflict between herders and farmers. This is genocide pure and simple. All who try to explain it otherwise are culpable,” said Laugesen.

Nigerians Deliberately Allow Genocide: Social Critics

Rev. David Azzaman, Kaduna City pastor.
Rev. David Azzaman, Kaduna City pastor.

The Nigerian military has deliberately refused to curb Fulani militia attacks on Middle Belt states, including Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, and Kogi. Instead, the military refers to these attacks as communal clashes or “farmer/herder clashes,” according to Rev. David Ayuba Azzaman of King Family Worship Ministry and Center International Kaduna.

“What is going on in the Middle Belt is genocide,” Azzaman said. “The Fulanis, many of whom are Muslims and herders, are carrying out a massive extermination of the Tivs, Idomas, Igedes, Katafs, Berom, Ngas, and other groups living in the Middle Belt.

“The Fulanis aim to take over the lands of the indigenous people. These attackers came from the Niger Republic, Cameroon, Mauritania, and Mali.

 In contrast to the Federal Government’s proactive response to banditry in the Northwest or Boko Haram insurgency in the Northwest,  the Federal Government and the Nigerian Military failed to act against the Fulani ethnic militias in the Middle Belt, Rev. Azzaman told TruthNigeria.

“In Plateau State alone, more than 900 people were killed by Fulani ethnic militias in December last year, and the killing continues,” he said. “The military has deployed the Air Force, drones, combat helicopters, and special forces to fight terrorists in Kaduna, Katsina, and Zamfara. They have also used heavy military hardware to crush the Eastern Security Network in the South,” Azzaman said.

“However, in the Middle Belt, the military has not taken similar action against the terrorists, failing to intervene or respond promptly to attacks on Christian villages,” he said.

 The Center for Justice on Religious and Ethnicity in Nigeria (CJREN) also accused the Nigerian military of deliberately allowing Fulani ethnic militias to attack and decimate the population of the Middle Belt, which is 80 percent Christian, according to  Rev. Kallamu Ali Dikwa, the director of the center.  “Some military personnel and politicians still claim that the conflict in the Middle Belt is due to desertification and climate change. However, this is not the case,” Dikwa said.

“We are seeing large numbers of Fulanis, who are not Nigerians but French-speaking, flocking to Nigeria and killing Middle Belters with impunity. Yet the army is not acting against them,” Dikwa added.  After killing the Middle Belters,  the invading Fulanis took over the vacated villages and renamed them,” Dikwa said.

 “Apart from Senator Abba Moro of Benue South Senatorial District and Senator Titus Zam of Benue Northwest Senatorial District, all other senators and members of the House of Representatives at the National Assembly are afraid to speak out against the violence in the Middle Belt,” Dikwa alleged.

Former Deputy Governor of Kaduna Blasts Christian Politicians

Kaduna State’s former Lt. Gov. James Bawa Magaji.  Credit: Mike James.
Kaduna State’s former Lt. Gov. James Bawa Magaji. Credit: Mike James.

James Bawa Magaji, a former Deputy Governor of Kaduna State and a prominent political figure, has criticized Christian politicians and clerics for their silence in the face of the ongoing violence in the Middle Belt. In an exclusive interview with TruthNigeria, Magaji expressed his disappointment and frustration with the silence of Christian leaders, suggesting that they are afraid to speak out because of political consequences.

“A lot of Christian politicians are afraid of speaking out because they may not be elected for a second term,” Magaji told TruthNigeria.

 “They color the truth because they want to be politically correct.”

Magaji noted that in the case of Benue, the Secretary to the Federal Government, George Akume, is a Catholic, as is the Governor of the state, Rev. Father Hyacinth Alia. “Benue is over 80 percent a Christian state with a largely Catholic faith,” he said.

 “These two should not be afraid of speaking out about the ongoing killings in the state. I am not happy with the silence of Christian political and religious leaders. They should speak out against the violence and advocate for their communities,” Magaji said.

On April 13, 2024, Plateau Governor Caleb Mutfwang’s spokesman, Gyang Berede, vowed “to bring to justice the miscreants responsible for attacking communities, reaffirming the administration’s commitment to restoring peace and security.

The governor’s words were too lame, tame, obtuse and ambiguous for the former Kaduna Lt. Governor. “The perpetrators must be named—either Christian or Fulani terrorists. In the Middle Belt, Fulani terrorists are responsible, not faceless ‘miscreants.'”

Magaji continued, “This is genocide, not a farmer-herder clash. Innocent people are being assaulted, killed, and their homes burned; we must be bold to name and shame the attackers.”

Mike Odeh James is a conflict reporter for TruthNigeria.

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