1. US State Department declines calls to add Nigeria to the list of countries violating religious freedom

 

A group of American lawmakers tabled a resolution to urge their country’s State Department to add Nigeria to its annual list of countries which violate religious freedom, or the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list. The tabled resolution also calls for the appointment of a special envoy, to monitor and combat possible human rights violations on the ground. The resolution was brought by New Jersey Rep Chris Smith, and con-sponsored by Arkansas Rep French Hill, and Texas rep Henry Cuellar. “Last year alone, 5014 Christians were killed in Nigeriaaccounting for nearly 90% of Christian deaths worldwide as well [as] 90% of Christian kidnappings across the globe. The Biden administration must act immediately and re-designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern to mitigate this alarming and growing threat to religious liberty,” says rep Smith. This request comes after Nigeria was removed from the CPC list in 2021 and kept off it for 2022. Rep Hill wondered why this happened: “In 2020, Nigeria was a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Despite little having changed in Nigeria’s treatment of religious freedom since then, the Biden administration continues to leave Nigeria off the CPC list for political gain. This resolution sends an important message to the Biden administration and the Government of Nigeria that the U.S. Congress sees what is happening there and will continue to speak out against the ongoing violence and the government’s inadequate response.” Rep Smith added, “The Biden administration’s totally unjustified decision to retreat from the noble and necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution puts even more people in jeopardy.” Sean Nelson of Alliance Defending Freedom International adds that the CPC list is “the most powerful tool the U.S. government has to influence the religious freedom situation in other countries.” Rep Hill announced these plans at a meeting last week Tuesday with advocates for Nigerian religious freedom, held at Belmont House, a catholic community centre on Capitol Hill. Bishop Jude Arogundare, bishop of Ondo, participated in the meeting via video link and called the persecution of Christians in Nigeria a “crime against humanity”. The diocese of Ondo suffered the horrific terrorist attack last year on Pentecost, a t which 50 Mass goers were killed during the attack, with victims aged between 2 and 85. Just last month in January, Fr Isaac Achi was immolated in his rectory by intruders. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253517/republican-and-democrat-leaders-urge-biden-to-add-nigeriato-list-of-countries-violating-religious-freedom After this meeting, the State Department responded on 8 February that they would not be putting Nigeria on the list. The department, headed by Anthony Blinken, put out a statement stating that “after careful review, the Secretary has assessed that Nigeria does not meet the legal threshold for designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. The United States takes all incidents of violence seriously and raises them regularly in our conversations with Nigerian officials.” with regards to the recent killing of Fr. Achi, the statement continues, “We are saddened and appalled. We do not know the motives of those responsible, but we condemn their heedless violence. We urge the Nigerian authorities to quickly bring them to justice. We continue to have concerns about the religious freedom situation in Nigeria, which is well documented in the annual IRF (International Religious Freedom) Report. We will continue to press the government to address these.” https://www.aciafrica.org/news/7639/after-carefulreview-nigeria-to-remain-off-religious-freedom-watch-list-us-department

 


 

2. UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of genocide raises concern about attacks by Armed Forces

 

The increase in violence against civilians, through airstrikes by the military, hate speech, attacks on communities, and other incidents, are all indications of increased risk of massive atrocities being committed in Nigeria. In late January, a military bomb blast killed about 40 innocent civilians, at the border of Nasarawa and Benue states in the north central region. This area has in the past also suffered from prolonged violence between Fulani herdsmen and the local population, who are struggling over the grazing lands and resources in the area. this has then made the violence take on an ethnic dimension, as well as a religious dimension, since majority of the Fulani are Muslim and majority of the local populations are Christians. This fault line is also seen in the split between the north of the country, that is majority Muslim, and the south of the country, which is majority Christian. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, has spoken out about these incidents, saying, “I am particularly concerned about the situation in the north-west and north central regions of Nigeria, where the air attacks resulting in casualties from the Fulani community took place. These dynamics of targeting communities along identity lines, if unaddressed, risk further fueling inter-communal tensions, recruitment by armed groups and retaliatory attacks, with obvious impact on civilians. in this extreme volatile environment, it is important that the general elections scheduled to be held on 25 February 2023 do not trigger violence and even atrocity crimes.” these tensions and attacks are made worse by the fact that Nigeria is poised for general elections in 2023, which appear to be very contentious. More than 93.5 million Nigerian citizens are registered to cast their ballots on 25 February. https://www.cajnewsafrica.com/2023/02/06/high-risks-of-atrocity-crimes-in-nigeria/

 


 

3. 12 Christians killed in attack in Benue State

 

Last Saturday, gunmen attacked two villages in Benue state and killed 12 people. The gunmen attacked the villages of Ichembe and Mbaigbe, in Kwande County, and wounded dozens of locals also, as well as destroying houses, crops and farms. This is relayed by Michael Aondohemba, the general coordinator of the Turan People’s Assembly (TUPA). “Before these attackers unleased their fangs of terror on our hitherto peaceful communities, we has raised early warning alarms on the influx of thousands of herdsmen into the banks areas of River Benue where our communities are located. we has called on security agencies to intervene but no help came, thereby leaving our helpless, poor and innocent people vulnerable.” local resident Joseph Asawa confirmed that the 12 people killed were all Christians. “The 12 Christians were gruesomely massacred by suspected herdsmen. Many other Christians were displaced from the two communities, and they’re currently taking refuge at Jato-Aka town.” Aondohemba says the pattern of violence shows that the assailants aren’t done, and will most likely return. “We are thoroughly pained that these suspected herdsmen have continued to terrorize our communities despite the alarm raised by Christians in the area. we view the renewed onslaught against our communities as a scheme aimed at decimating us and gradually entrenching anarchy in our communities.” he also identified five of the killed as Tersugh Iorliam, Tersoo Samu, Ngolo Ndera, Ternenge Asaku, and Ujoli Penda, with “seven other Christians killed have had their corpses evacuated to the mortuary in a hospital in the area.” Bob Tyough, a member of Nigeria’s National Assembly, said that Christian communities are being destroyed in their entireties by armed herdsmen and other terrorists, all while the government is incapable of arresting the damage. “Human life is sacred, and only God who is the supreme creator has the right to freely take what He gives. It is my belief that those who attack the innocents have no single atom of piety in their heart and therefore should not expect mercy from the supreme creator. I empathize with families of the Christian victims over the death of their loved ones and want them to take solace in the fact that the fallen ones have only gone to rest with their creator and at the appointed time will surely rise with Jesus Christ on the judgement day.” in 2023, Nigeria led the world in the numbers of people of the Christian faith who were killed for their faith, as well as the number of people who, because of their faith, were sexually assaulted, harassed, physically and mentally abused, and even forcibly married. It also had the second-highest number of church attacks and internally displaced people. It is also is now the sixth most difficult place to be a Christian, jumping from seventh place the year before. In its report, the World Watch List says “militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery. this year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation…Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christian’s rights are carried out with impunity.” the United Kingdom’s All-Party parliamentary group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG), noted in a report that, while Fulani Muslims number in the millions, and are largely not holders of extremist views, and are found across Nigeria and the Sahel, some do in fact adhere to strict and radical Islamist understandings and ideology. “They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity.” Local Christian leaders believe that the onslaught they are facing from the Fulani’s are inspired by the Fulani’s desire to forcefully impose Islam on the people, and to take over their lands, as a result of the creeping desertification they are contending with, in an effort to find grazing lands for their cattle. https://www.christianpost.com/news/twelve-christians-killed-by-radical-fulaniherdsmen-in-nigeria.html 4. Authorities destroy IDP camp outside Abuja

IDPs living in Durumi camp, Abuja, had their temporary housing destroyed by authorities. At least 80 people, of a group of 130, who arrived at the camp in December 2022, had their shelters destroyed without warning by local authorities. The destruction happened during Harmattan season, when outside temperatures drop to very low levels. The camp dwellers had mostly fled from north east Nigeria, running away from Islamic violence wreaked by book Haram and other radical Islamic groups. The authorities say the camp was destroyed because of the criminal elements there, and that the community was not hosting ‘any meaningful or serious activities.’ however, the residents sat they were not given any prior warning, and that they were targeted. ‘We were not notified before the bulldozers came to pull down the shelter, and no official has spoken to us about plans to relocate us to other places.” https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/latestnews/nigeria-idps-demolished/

 


 

5. Labour Party candidate’s hometown in Imo State attacked

 

On Saturday, gunmen attacked the hometown of Imo State House of Assembly Labour Party Candidate, Nnaemeka Obiaraeri. This happened in Amagu Ihube, in the Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo state. Obiaraeri’s house and cars, as well as those of his father and uncle, were burnt by gunmen, who attacked the community in the early hours of Saturday morning. In a statement, Ihube blamed the attack on the failure of the All-progressives Congress government in the state to address the “terrible state of insecurity in Nigeria. Unknown gunmen (surely known to their sponsors), went to my hometown in Amagu Ihube to burn down my house and burn to ashes my operational factory vehicles parked there. They also destroyed my father’s house and that of my uncle…my aged mum and siblings are in trauma!! Three Hilux trucks loaded with bandits and killers, went on a spree, burning house and maiming people without anyone stopping them. I don’t know who I offended and why anyone will target me for destruction, I have not eaten anyone’s yam or fish. This is another evidence of the failure of the APC governments in Imo State and Aso Rock, to live up to their oath of office of protecting lives and property of law-abiding Nigerians. this again reinforces our call on Nigerians to pick their PVCs and help vote in Peter Obi and Datti Baba Ahmed of the Labour Party as the next President and vice president of Nigeria.” the police spokesperson, Henry Okoye, confirmed the incident, saying, “Yes, it’s true and we have set up robust patrols around that axis to fish out those that are involved in that attack.” https://punchng.com/gunmen-attack-imo-lp-candidates-hometown-raze-houses/

 


 

6. Anambra gunmen kill teenager, burn 1,240 INEC materials

 

Assailants have attacked the office of

the Independent National Electoral

Commission at Ojoto, in the Idemili

South Local Government Area of

Anambra State. The hoodlums also

attacked the Nnobi Police Station and a

residential building at the station. The

gunmen invaded both facilities around

1.45am on Wednesday in four

unmarked Sienna vehicles. They were

reportedly armed with petrol bombs

and other explosives. Sources said the

hoodlums burnt the INEC’s office before proceeding to the police station, where they killed the teenage boy and

injured another girl. They were said to have been repelled by security operatives before they could carry out further

attacks on the police facility.

Confirming the incident, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said security had

been reinforced in the area. Ikenga stated that the command made heavy deployment of security personnel around

the state to forestall attacks on other places. He said, “The Anambra State Police Command today, February 1, 2023,

reinforced security deployment in the state following an attack on the INEC office in Idemili South, Ojoto, and Nnobi

Police Station. The attackers came in their numbers by 1.45am today, February 1, 2023, in four unmarked Siena

vehicles, armed with IEDs, petrol bombs and other explosives. They invaded the INEC office, the police station and a

residential building in the station. “Unfortunately, one boy aged 16 years, a relative of a serving policeman in the

station, was murdered by the armed men, while the other, a female aged 15 years old, sustained a gunshot injury. She

has been taken to a hospital where she is receiving treatment. The situation is being monitored and further details

shall be communicated, please.”

Reacting to the attack, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC,

Festus Okoye, said no fewer than 1,240 non-sensitive materials were burnt by the hoodlums. INEC had recorded over

50 attacks on its facilities across 15 states in the last four years, as this is the third attack in Anambra State. The

commission, in a statement by Okoye, revealed that its building was damaged and non-sensitive materials recently

delivered in readiness for the 2023 general elections were destroyed. However, INEC said the Permanent Voter Cards

kept in the fireproof cabinet were not affected and assured that elections would still hold in the LGA. The statement

read in part, “The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Anambra State, Dr Queen Agwu, reported that our office in

Idemili South Local Government Area was attacked and set ablaze by unknown gunmen. The incident occurred in the

early hours of today, Wednesday, February 1, 2023. “The building was substantially damaged. All furniture and other

items were destroyed, including non-sensitive materials recently delivered in readiness for the 2023 General Elections.

Among the items lost to the inferno were 729 ballot boxes, 243 voting cubicles, 256 election bags, 11 megaphones, one electric power generator and large quantities of indelible ink and liquid gum. “However, uncollected Permanent

Voter Cards kept in the fireproof cabinet were not affected by the inferno. Similarly, no sensitive materials have been

delivered to the LGA office. “The destruction appears to have been coordinated as the Nnobi Police Station in the LGA

was similarly attacked.” https://punchng.com/anambra-gunmen-kill-teenager-burn-1240-inec-m

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