An Anglican archbishop is warning Nigeria's Christians face escalating attacks by Islamist militants in the lead-up to next year's general election.
Ben Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, is calling on the Nigerian government to provide security for Christian farmers in the north, who are being killed and driven from their homes by heavily armed Fulani herdsmen.
The archbishop has also criticised inaccurate reporting for paralysing the will to intervene to prevent the Fulani attacks.
Kwashi is a partner of UK-based Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world. On a speaking tour with Release, the archbishop has called for the Nigerian government to intervene to protect Christians. The archbishop has himself survived three assassination attempts.
The UN has described the humanitarian crisis in north-eastern Nigeria as 'one of the most severe in the world'. More than 7 million people are now in need of relief aid in the worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, and the conflict has spilt over into the wider Lake Chad region.
Many of those attacks are being carried out by nomadic Fulani herdsmen, armed with assault rifles. Reports reaching Release International estimate that militants killed 6,000 people in the first six months of 2018 and drove almost 50,000 from their homes. These attacks are growing.
'It's a situation of fear,' Kwashi said. 'Most Christians fear the attacks will get worse in the coming general elections next year [February 16]. Many, many Christians, especially in the north, are afraid they might get wiped out.
'The Federal government of Nigeria has allowed its own citizens to be decimated by Fulani terrorists without any protection. These killers have targeted the Christian settlements in the north-east and central regions of Nigeria. The people they are killing are unarmed Christians and subsistence farmers, literally the poorest of the poor.'
Kwashi has criticised inaccurate reporting suggesting the conflict is a tit-for-tat clash between two warring parties – Christian and Muslim. The aggressors, he argues, are the heavily armed Fulani herdsmen, who are driving Christians from the north.
'This narrative has provided excuses as to why this evil has continued for so long. It gives the excuse for Western governments to do nothing, and for Nigeria's government to provide only token help, without actually providing security for its people. It is an unjust government that will allow the poor to be decimated in this way.
'I want the Nigerian government to rise up to the truth, to provide security for these poor Christians and protect them. I'm calling on the Nigerian government to rise up to its responsibilities and to do so justly.'
The Archbishop also called for prayer for the Christians of Nigeria: 'It is only through prayer that these people can be kept alive.'
'These are the key questions,' said Release chief executive Paul Robinson. 'Just who is arming and training these Fulani militants? And whose agenda does this killing of mainly Christian communities serve?
'It all points to a strategy to drive out Christians from the north. The government of Nigeria must act now to protect its vulnerable Christian communities.'