Three human rights organisations – Christian Solidarity International (CSI), Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), and the International Organisation for Peacebuilding and Social Justice (PSJ) - have released a new joint report about the situation in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
The report, entitled “Breaking Point in Central Nigeria? Terror and Mass Displacement in the Middle Belt,” was based on a joint visit to Nigeria that took place in late February-early March of this year.
Representatives of the three organisations, including Baroness Caroline Cox, the president of HART, visited Plateau and Kaduna states, where they traveled to four villages that were attacked by Fulani militias between August 2021 and February 2022, and met with survivors of attacks on several other villages.
The report concludes:
Well-armed Fulani militia frequently attack villages in the Middle Belt. … The violence has displaced millions and appears designed to reduce the number of indigenous Christians in the region. Inasmuch as the attacks are intended to destroy ethnoreligious communities, they may rise to the level of ethnic cleansing or even genocide.
Nigerian authorities at both the state and federal levels appear unable or unwilling to prevent the attacks, and instead engage in legal prosecution of journalists and activists who draw attention to the crisis. The international community appears similarly indifferent, providing no meaningful engagement in favour of ending the violence or humanitarian assistance to the millions displaced across central Nigeria.
The report also rejects the common description of the violence as a “herder-farmer conflict.” According to the report, this terminology “implies a level playing field between ‘farmers’ and ‘herders’ in the conflict, whereas the ‘herders’ have a clear advantage in firepower, and the overwhelming majority of verified victims are ‘farmers’,” and “erases memory and ethno-religious difference from the equation.”
Among the Nigerians featured in the report:
Janet, a mother of four from Plateau state, whose husband was killed in a Fulani mililtia attack the day after the joint delegation arrived in Nigeria.
Philip, an eight-year-old boy who Fulani militants hacked in the face with a machete in a 2018 attack.
Lazarus, a pastor who was abducted by a gang of Fulani kidnappers, who showed him the bodies of other abductees they had killed to encourage him to call up a ransom.
Luka Binniyat, the journalist imprisoned for three months earlier this year for his reporting on Fulani militia attacks, whose hometown has now been emptied by an attack that occurred just as he was being released.
The report makes a number of recommendations to the Nigerian government and the international community, including:
5. Nigerian authorities must cease persecuting journalists and whistleblowers who
draw attention to their failures.
6. The US Department of State should reverse its decision to remove Nigeria from its
list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ regarding religious freedom.
8. EU member states and UN aid agencies should allocate more resources to the Middle
Belt, which is suffering a crisis of displacement at least as intense as that in the northeast
10. Signatories to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide must fulfil their obligation to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide
in the context of Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
11. Stakeholders of the International Criminal Court (ICC), including the UK and
Switzerland, should increase financial support to the ICC to ensure a full and
thorough completion of the Nigeria investigation.
14. Local peacebuilding projects in central Nigeria should be supported in their endeavour
to reconcile Muslims and Christians, who might otherwise be caught in a cycle of