YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Amid mounting concern over what some observers describe as an anti-Christian “genocide” in Nigeria, a Catholic-inspired human rights group has accused the country’s security forces of being more concerned with protecting cows than Christians and other non-Muslims.
In a Jan. 18 report titled “Rivers of Blood and Tears Flowing Ceaselessly in Nigeria,” the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, known as “Intersociety,” also accused security forces in Africa’s most populous nation of engaging in disappearances and extra-judicial killings.
A principal cause of sectarian violence in Nigeria has been tension between largely Muslim herdsmen from the Fulani ethnic group, and sedentary farmers who tend to be mostly Christian. A series of attacks by Fulani gunmen on Christian targets over the Christmas holidays, for example, left an estimated 300 people dead.
According to the Intersociety report, whenever there’s a perceived threat to cows owned by Fulani herdsmen, Nigerian security forces swing into action with a coded operation known as “cow humanization.”
The rapid military response results in “arrests, abductions, disappearances and ‘neutralization’” against the killers or attackers, according to the report, but a similarly aggressive response doesn’t occur when Fulani herdsmen and bandits, often dressed in black and shouting jihadist slogans, attack Christians and non-Muslims.
The report charges that since 2015, there has been a conscious effort supported by the Nigerian government to promote the Islamization of the security forces, with the result that the forces have become “radicalized, biased and bastardized.”
The director of Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi, told Crux that the administration of former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari “radicalized the security forces, gave them marching orders to protect the Fulani herdsmen and aided their invasion of southern farmlands, forests and bushes.”
Emeka charged that the security forces are “grossly and incurably biased and partisan,” describing them as “an emerging Islamist Gendarme.”
The Intersociety director said the protection of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle, and the concurrent indifference to the killing of Christians, was part of a broad Islamization agenda that started in 2009 when Boko Haram insurgents began launching attacks in Nigeria.
Since then, at least 18,500 Christian Churches have been affected, Emeka said, and it’s an agenda that has spanned other African nations.
“The Buhari government funded the escalation of Fulani terrorism across Africa,” he said, citing consequences of the policy in the Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other nations.
“They want to make Africa the capital of Islamic jihadists, with Nigeria as the epicenter,” Emeka told Crux.
The report called for a restructuring of the country’s military.
“The security forces must be urgently restructured and their personnel and bosses comprehensively retrained and de-radicalized,” it said.
“The ‘Fulanization’ factor in the security forces must be frontally addressed, including weeding out all the reportedly clandestinely conscripted ethno-religious killer elements during the disastrous years of the government of retired Major General Muhammad Buhari,” the report said.
“The Nigerian state must drop and discard the infamous ‘State Jihadism Project’ and take the country back to its supposedly secular status,” it said.
Among other points, the report expressed concern that over 85 percent of Nigerian military members allegedly lack training in information and communication technology security measures.
In general, according to the report, security forces in Nigeria are “inches away from being converted to full blown ‘Tribo-Islamic Gendarmes,’” making a comprehensive reorganization of the country’s security apparatus imperative.
During the period Aug. 30, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2023, according to the report, the Nigerian security forces “carried out 28 major ‘Conduct-Atrocity Operations’ calamitously leading to the direct or indirect death outside the law of over 100,000 unarmed and defenseless citizens of Nigeria, during which tens of thousands were gravely tortured and secretly held without fair and evidence-based trial and several thousands of others permanently disappeared during custodial abductions and incarcerations,” the report states.
The report asserts that the “indirect deaths” included people who died from “torture and gunshot injuries or those abducted and disappeared; and hunger, starvations and deprivations visited upon their dependents occasioned by their absence.”
Tellingly, according to the report, people from predominantly Christian and non-Muslim regions of Nigeria accounted for roughly 70 percent of the direct murders, torture, kidnapping and disappearances documented in the report, meaning more than two-thirds.
Roughly half the victims, according to the report, were either Christians or practitioners of traditional African religions, mostly members of the Igbo ethnic group. These individuals, the report claimed, were either killed “under false labelling and class criminalization; or abducted from their homes or job places, or on their way to home or work or social outings, and tortured or starved to death; or permanently disappeared or secretly held outside the provisions of the written laws without a fair and evidence-based trial.”
The remaining thirty percent of the victims, according to the study, were Muslim victims “killed or maimed during the crude counterinsurgency operations in Muslim parts of the North-East States of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, and Adamawa.”