Congratulations on being elected to the [United States Senate/House of Representatives]! We look forward to the contributions you will make in Congress and wish you the best as you begin your first term. We hope this policy paper will be informative to you as you navigate policies and issues your office will take up.
Jubilee Campaign USA is a non-profit organization operating in Fairfax, Virginia, that promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities. We assist individuals and families seeking asylum in the West from religious-based persecution as well as promote the care and well-being of larger groups of refugees fleeing religious and ethnic persecution. Jubilee Campaign also advocates for the release of prisoners of conscience and others denied their basic human rights of religion or belief. Another of our primary goals is to promote and protect vulnerable women and children from bodily harm and exploitation, paying particular attention to the scourge of human trafficking, which we oppose however we can, wherever we find it, in all of its forms. We hope your office will not hesitate to reach out to us if you ever need our assistance.
This policy paper serves to inform you of the current religious persecution issues in Nigeria. Targeted attacks against Christian communities in sharia-governed northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt region date many years before the infamous April 2014 kidnapping of more than 200 mostly Christian schoolgirls, and the attacks continue to occur today. Nigeria has been ranked number 12 on the World Watch List of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians to live. According to the publisher of the rank, Open Doors, up to 11,500 Christians were killed and more than a million Christians faced religiously-motivated pressure between 2006 and 2014. Many lost their homes, and 13,000 churches were abandoned or destroyed. In 2015, violence displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in these regions.
Boko Haram has continued to terrorize the northeast region of Nigeria, and their deadly terrorist activities have attracted international attention. However, less attention has been given to violence that has been rising in the middle-belt region at an alarming rate. The Fulani militia is a group of militants associated with the Fulani ethnic group, who are primarily Muslim herdsmen. Due to a variety of motives including religious and economic factors, this militant group has launched deadly attacks and has grabbed land from farming communities in the middle-belt region, who are primarily Christian. In 2014, they killed 1,229 persons causing them to be ranked as the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world.
Over the past five years, thousands of Nigerian Christians have been killed and at least a million more have been displaced by Boko Haram and Fulani militants. Intervention by the Nigerian government has been slow and disorganized, and attempts to resolve the Fulani conflict have largely overlooked punishment of perpetrators and compensation and protection for victims. For example, an attack occurred on the Christian Godogodo village, Kaduna state on October 15, 2016, in which militants killed 40 villagers and burned their homes and churches. Security forces failed to give an adequate response. Following the attack, an attorney and the president of Southern Kaduna People’s Union stated, “The savagery and barbarity of the attack is beyond belief. Yet, governments at the federal and state levels appear quiet and noncommittal. We have been abandoned, deserted and neglected.”
If terrorism and violence continue in Nigeria, the death toll of innocent civilians will continue to rise, fleeing refugees will burden surrounding African countries as well as Europe, and Nigeria’s religious diversity could be forcibly driven out of the country. With this in mind, we hope that you will use your time in office to positively influence Nigeria. The following are our policy recommendations:
• In Nigeria, police forces are controlled by the federal government. We recommend sponsoring a letter from the US Congress to Nigerian President Buhari addressing the negligence and impunity surrounding these attacks. If you are willing to sponsor such a letter, Jubilee Campaign has text that may be used for this letter.
• Encourage the Nigerian government to adopt policies that acknowledge the presence of militancy and possible radicalization within the Fulani rather than simply referring to the violence as herder-farmer clashes. The sharp rise in attacks in recent years has been uncharacteristic of the historic herder-farmer tension. The nature of the violence must be acknowledged, and the perpetrators must be specifically identified in order to create appropriate strategies to stop them.
• Ensure that the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria as well as U.S. Department of State directed and other U.S. aid programs take into account the rising Fulani militant violence, seek to counter that violence including ending impunity, and provide relief and aid to the victims of this violence.
Thank you for your consideration of these recommendations. We look forward to working with your office on this issue.