Violence against Christians in Nigeria 'warrants a state of emergency'

The situation in Kaduna "warrants a state of emergency", CSW has said.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has called on the Nigerian government "to do far more to counter the alarming surge in violence" by Islamist terrorists against Christians in the north-central state of Kaduna.

CSW has just issued a report detailing a string of terror attacks in March. The report has been sent by Roman Catholic peer Lord Alton to the UK Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion, Fiona Bruce MP, and Africa Minister Vicky Ford for consideration.

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said the situation in Kaduna "warrants a state of emergency".

"To all intents and purposes Kaduna state is under a comprehensive siege by a significant number of armed non-state actors who appear to be coordinating their activities, heightening the vulnerability of civilians. Residents cannot travel safely by road, air or train, and are not even safe in their own homes.

"The significant rise in abductions for ransom are particularly worrying, as they indicate an effort to raise funds illicitly for unknown malign purposes. The situation in Kaduna warrants a state of emergency," he said.

Thomas called on both state and federal authorities "to do far more to counter the alarming surge in violence, and to prioritise the protection of vulnerable communities".

"This inaction cannot continue, and the international community in particular must increase efforts to hold the Nigerian government to account for its failure to protect citizens, as well offering Nigeria every possible assistance to combat the terrorist threats," he said. 

The CSW report told how on the evening of March 31 terrorists killed two people and abducted around 20 people during armed attacks in the Chikun area of Kaduna State.

This followed "a particularly alarming development" on March 28 when "at least eight people were killed and an unknown number were abducted" after armed assailants stopped an inbound train on the outskirts of the state capital of Kaduna by detonating explosives on the tracks.

"The attackers reportedly fired indiscriminately, and 25 passengers are receiving treatment in various hospitals. Survivors state their assailants focused on abducting passengers in first and business class, killing any who resisted and carrying the others away in vehicles. Some of the families of abductees are now reportedly receiving calls for ransom payments," the report said.

CSW quoted a Nigerian government gazette published in January 2022 which changed the designation of "non-state actors operating in northwest Nigeria" from "armed bandits" to "terrorists". CSW said there is "now evidence of links between terrorist factions and the diverse militia operating in these areas".

The Christian charity cited reports in 2021 of fighters from the Islamist terror group "Boko Haram and their bomb makers having relocated to forests in southern Kaduna".

In other attacks, terrorists on March 27 murdered a retired Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) pastor, Rev Yohanna Musa, and two other ECWA members in the Giwa area of Kaduna State. They burnt homes, cars and grain storages in the attack.

On March 23, terrorists killed over 100 people, burned homes and looted food stores in attacks on "several communities in Giwa" lasting for almost eight hours.

CSW told how flights are being disrupted from Kaduna International Airport after an attack on March 26 by militia men riding "dozens of motorcycles" in which a Nigerian airspace management worker was killed.

"Those needing to travel to the capital, Abuja, are now obliged to risk the Abuja-Kaduna highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the country where kidnappers ambush vehicles regularly," it said. 

Lord Alton has also sent Fiona Bruce and Vicky Ford a report on the worsening security situation for Christians in northern Nigeria by Lela Gilbert, a religious freedom expert at the Hudson Institute.

Writing in the American Christian magazine, Providence, Gilbert warns that the violence against Christians is worsening by the day with no end in sight.

"In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with few consequences," she wrote. 

"While all citizens of northern Nigeria are subject to threats and violence, Christians are often specifically targeted because of their faith—ISWAP and Boko Haram want to eliminate the Christian presence in Nigeria, and Muslim Fulani militants attack Christian villages specifically."