The media often portrays northern Nigeria as a predominantly Muslim area. However, Christians constitute at least 30 percent of the country’s northern population, with some pockets containing significantly higher percentages.
For the past 15-20 years, these Christian communities have faced increased discrimination, such as:
- Limited education opportunities and mistreatment in schools
- Limited vocational opportunities
- Termination from government and public school positions
- Higher prices charged for goods in the local markets
- General abuse and mistreatment while on public streets
- Restricted development of rural areas where they are the predominant group (such as fewer water boreholes, fewer medical facilities, etc.)
- Denial of health care
- Limited voting power or fraudulent elections
- Inability to buy land for church construction
- Confiscation of property and eviction from their homes
According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index:
- More than half (51 percent) of all global deaths attributed to a terrorist group were committed by either Boko Haram or the Islamic State.
- Nigeria has experienced the largest increase in terrorist deaths (more than 300 percent) from 2014-2015, with 7,512 fatalities in 2015.
- Nine of the top 20 most fatal terrorist attacks in 2014 occurred in Nigeria.
- The deadliest terrorist organizations in the world according to number killed:
- Boko Haram (northeastern Nigeria),
- Islamic State (Iraq/Syria),
- Al-Shabab (Somalia) and
- Fulani militants (central Nigeria).
Between 2000-2014 in Nigeria:
- 11,500 Christians were killed in religious related violence,
- 13,000 churches were abandoned, closed or destroyed
- 3 million Christians became refugees or internally displaced
Boko Haram – Violence Continues
This is most prevalent in northeastern Nigeria and in particular among the Kanuri tribe. This is the group that has formally pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. They are now often calling themselves, not Boko Haram, but the Islamic State of West Africa. In recent years, Wahhabism preaching has become more prominent in northeastern Nigeria and it is clear that many within Boko Haram are not content with just structural discrimination against other faiths. They want to completely purify the land of any faith except for their version of Islam.
This has led to an increase in the number of attacks against Muslims. Boko Haram is now targeting Muslims who do not hold to their interpretation or application of the faith.
Fulani Militants – Accelerating Violence
In 2013, Fulani militants killed 63; in 2014, they killed 1,229, a shocking increase of 1,850 percent. In one year the Fulani militants went from being unlisted on the Global Terrorism Index to becoming the fourth most deadly group in the world.
The Fulani, also called the Fulbe or Peul, is the world’s largest pastoral nomadic group and is found in nineteen different countries, predominantly in West Africa. There are more than 30 million Fulani there, with the largest groupings in Nigeria (18 million), Guinea (5 million), Cameroon (2 million), Mali (1 million), Niger (1 million) and Senegal (1 million). For centuries, Fulani herdsman have grazed cattle over a wide range of territory. As the environmental conditions of the Sahel have deteriorated, Fulani herdsmen have been forced to migrate in search of grazing pastures. Ninety-eight percent of all Fulani are Muslim.
Tensions and conflict have long existed between Muslim, pastoralist Fulani and the predominantly agrarian, Christian communities throughout Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Flare-ups have occurred due to grazing patterns that impinge on farming land, cattle rustling, and the intermingling of cultures, peoples and communities. However, to a large extent there has been relative peace and stability for generations, until very recently.
Since 2014, Fulani militants – a small portion of Fulani – have accelerated conflict at an alarming rate, attacking predominantly Christian Local Government Areas with sophisticated weapons in an environment of impunity.
They are assaulting communities with supply helicopters, raids launched from boats, machine guns mounted on vehicles, AK47s, scorched earth policies and sustained offensives. Examples of this expanded attack include Kadarako in Nasarawa State where one village elder implored, “We need your assistance to safeguard our integrity;” Sho in Plateau State where villagers have been reduced to eating grass; Jol in Plateau State where attacks in 2015 caused $1.9 million USD in damage; and Agatu in Benue State where an assault launched from boats moving upriver left as many as 500 dead in February 2016.
In the past 16 months, there have been 55 Fulani attacks in 14 different states resulting in 1,011 deaths. Even though the data for 2016 only includes four months, there has already been a 190% increase in numbers killed from 2015 to 2016. Benue State has been the most impacted, with 26 distinct attacks leaving 738 dead. It seems that the Fulani militants have primarily targeted Local Government Areas that are principally, though not singularly, Christian.
For more information about the Fulani, read our “Fractured and Forgotten” report Executive Summary.
Northern Nigeria is experiencing a deepening humanitarian crisis. Boko Haram attacks have displaced hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to flee their homes. These people are dispersed throughout Nigeria and in neighboring countries, where they face serious problems accessing food, water, shelter, and other basic rights. The majority of those who have fled are not in refugee or Internally Displaced Camps (IDP), but rather living with family or in temporary makeshift areas. There is some evidence that food prices have reached famine levels.
The United Nations estimates that there are a quarter million (223,000) severely malnourished children who could die immediately from starvation. A lack of security hampers efforts to reach the North with humanitarian assistance.Issues