Nigeria has six geo-political zones: North-West; North-Central (loosely known as the Middle Belt); North-East; South-West; South-South (also known as the Niger Delta region); South-East. Persecution and discrimination are strongest in the three northern geo-political zones.

Previously, each zone had its own profile of hostilities against Christians (and others). Violence in the North-East was mainly perpetrated by Boko Haram and ISWAP. In the North-West zone there were the armed bandits and in the North-Central (including Kaduna State), there were the Fulani militants. The circles of influence of these different groups have been increasingly overlapping, including their agendas. It has become increasingly difficult to even distinguish which violent group did what, more so, what is the specific identity of a certain group. Much of this has to do with Boko Haram’s leadership which tried to create alliances with different groups in the North, also reaching into the South. (See above: Recent history and Trends analysis.)

The situation of basic rights violations in the 12 Sharia states could be characterized by ‘submission into dhimmitude’ (classical Islamic concept of second-class citizenship) and violence. Although there are differences among the states. The 12 northern Sharia states are: Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. Their Christian population totals 15% (12,321,000 Christians out of a population of 82,271,000). Apart from direct violence, Christian face all sorts of pressure in different areas of life. The various forms of pressure are indicated below in the section Pressure in the 5 spheres of life.

The situation of basic rights violations in the 7 remaining states (Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Plateau, and Taraba) is more or less comparable with the 12 Sharia states. [Please note that FCT (Abuja) is not classified as a state and is thus not included.] Their Christian population totals 51% (15,544,000 Christians out of a population of 30,745,000). The Christians in these states are also confronted with a mixture of violence and ‘dhimmitude’ in the Muslim- majority areas within these states. However, the emphasis is on violence, committed mainly by Fulani militants and armed bandits, although Boko Haram and ISWAP increasingly have their part in it too. It is also important to realize that both Boko Haram, ISWAP and the Fulani militants are frequently joined by fighters from neighboring countries.

A very specific form of violence against Christians are the raids on (often) small Christian communities (or villages) in the rural areas of various states. When a (mainly) Christian community is attacked, some of the residents are killed, others are (seriously) wounded and others are abducted. Often men and boys are killed, with women and girls being abducted. Many flee from their houses and fields. There is constant fear: When night falls, there is always the danger of possible attack, and anxiety about what might happen to oneself and one’s family. If a husband or older sons are killed, the wife/mother and younger children are left behind in a state of great vulnerability. When a wife or daughter is abducted, a man is left tormented by the thoughts of what might be happening to her. (For more information, see below: Violence section.)

The raids on Christian communities, and other forms of violence, lead to large numbers of Christians (and also other Nigerians) being forced to live in formal or informal IDP camps and cause loss of family farmland and property and hence loss of future well-being. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in such circumstances: Children are vulnerable to health issues, and women and girls to abuse and human trafficking. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the Nigerian government does little to assist these IDPs, and is not curbing the situation that has created the crisis.

Violence and land grabbing are not limited to the North alone. On 15 September 2019, the Afenifere Renewal Group (a pan-Yoruba socio-political organization) asked all governors in the South-West to put an end to the rising spate of attacks by Fulani militants in the region, noting that their undue silence would not promote peace and security. On 3 March 2020, five South- West houses of assembly passed bills for the establishment of ‘Amotekun’, a security unit set up to address the security challenges in the region covering the states of Lagos, Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Ogun.

Until recently the south-eastern part of the country was relatively peaceful. That has changed. According to a Global Sentinel report on 28 May 2020, the Nigerian rights group Intersociety claimed (in a special report on issues affecting Igbo people of South-East and South-South zones) that “not less than 350 Igbo communities, villages and other locations are now invaded and permanently occupied by the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and ‘imported’ Shuwa Arabs, also called ‘Cowmen’ in Arabic.” The number was 139 communities in August 2019, and rose to 350 in May 2020. Intersociety states that the alleged occupation “is vicariously, if not directly aided by the Government of Nigeria and its security agencies especially the Army and the Police.” Further research revealed that the invasion and permanente occupation of communities, villages and

locations must be understood here differently than in the northern context. It seems the population was not directly driven away from their villages but in many cases found that their distant forests and farmlands had been taken over by Fulani militants (and Shuwa Arabs). During the WWL 2022 and WWL 2023 reporting periods the situation has not much improved.

It could be argued that the whole country is increasingly becoming a hotspot for religious freedom violations, as explained in the various sections of this dossier.

Christian communities and how they are affected

Communities of expatriate Christians: Expatriate Christians in Nigeria are not forced into isolation. This category is therefore not scored separately in WWL analysis.

Historical Christian communities: In Nigeria these include the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant denominations such as Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans. Christians belonging to these churches face violent attacks against their life and property perpetrated by militant groups and discrimination from the local authorities, especially in the three northern zones. The insecurity they face has extended into parts of the southern zones too, although to a lesser extent.

Converts to Christianity: These are mostly converts from Islam to Christianity. Those in northern Nigeria often have to flee their homes and states to escape being killed or harassed. They are often forced to find refuge in ‘safe houses’. This is less likely to occur in the South, although it happens to a limited degree in south-western areas. There is sometimes pressure on converts from Islam to Christianity in other parts of the country too but this is less frequent and with (much) less intensity than elsewhere.

Non-traditional Christian communities: The Evangelical and Pentecostal communities now make up a considerable proportion of the Nigerian Church. As is the case for the Historical Christian communities, in the three northern zones Christians belonging to the Evangelical and Pentecostal communities face discrimination by the local authorities, as well as violent attacks against their life and property by militant groups. The diffculties they face are similar to those faced by the Historical Christian communities. Some of them are very active in evangelism, and go where it is really dangerous to go, which can increase the risk of being attacked. Though to a lesser extent, the insecurity they face has extended into parts of the southern zones too.

How does the persecution situation affect the growth of the Church in Nigeria? According to a Nigerian analyst writing about the WWL 2022 situation: “Ironically, rather than the Church shrinking rapidly, many more people are converting to Christian faith. Many of our participants during this year’s focus group discussions alluded to the fact that they are receiving a constant flow of new believers, they say now the problem is where to keep them and how to care for them; the Church is getting stronger despite persecution.” This trend has reportedly continued into the WWL 2023 reporting period.

External Links – Church information

  • Areas where Christians face most difficulties: Global Sentinel report on 28 May 2020 – permanently-occupied-by-fulani-herdsmen-shuwa-arabs/

WWL 2023: Persecution Dynamics / Nigeria

Reporting period

1 October 2021 – 30 September 2022

Position on the World Watch List

Nigeria: World Watch ListPointsWWL Rank
WWL 2023886
WWL 2022877
WWL 2021859
WWL 20208012
WWL 20198012

Ranks are shown above whenever the country scored 41 points or more in the WWL 2019-2023 reporting periods

The rise of one point is due to pressure rising in the Community and National spheres of life, while the violence score remains at the maximum level. The rise in pressure is only small (both spheres of life 0.3 point). Basically the situation remained largely the same for both pressure and violence. Christians continue to be attacked indiscriminately and brutally in northern Nigeria and the violence and insecurity has also spread to southern Nigeria. Fulani militants and ‘bandits’ have settled in southern forests, making access to farmlands increasingly difficult for Christians farmers.

Persecution engines

Nigeria: Persecution enginesAbbreviationLevel of influence
Islamic oppressionIOVery strong
Religious nationalismRNNot at all
Ethno-religious hostilityERHVery strong
Clan oppressionCOWeak
Christian denominational protectionismCDPNot at all
Communist and post-Communist oppressionCPCONot at all

Nigeria: Persecution enginesAbbreviationLevel of influence
Secular intoleranceSINot at all
Dictatorial paranoiaDPAVery strong
Organized corruption and crimeOCCVery strong

The scale for the level of influence of Persecution engines in society is: Not at all / Very weak / Weak / Medium / Strong / Very strong. For more information see WWL Methodology.

The persecution situation in Nigeria is a blend of 4 very strong Persecution engines:

•        Islamic oppression

  • Ethno-religious hostility

•        Dictatorial paranoia

  • Organized corruption and crime

“In 2001 at an Islamic seminar in Kaduna, Buhari was given an opportunity to choose between Nigeria’s secularism and fundamentalist Islam, this is what he said; ‘I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria’. He then added that ‘God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country’.”

(Source: Dr. Funom Makama, 2020. A compilation of Online Publications and Press Releases as Proofs of the Killings of Christians in Nigeria, p. 5.)

The guiding principle behind this potentially explosive blend of Persecution engines seems to be Islamization at all costs. It is difficult to know if there is such a thing as a policy (or set of policies) designed for it, or that it is more how things are going. The above quote from the outgoing President Buhari suggests it is not so much about policies but more about ‘agitation’, in other words, about creating or allowing for chaos or impunity to prevail.

In the northern states, Sharia law keeps Christians in a position of being second-class citizens. If Sharia becomes the norm for the whole country, this second-class citizenship might be the future for all Christians in Nigeria, as well as for Ethno-religionists.

In Nigeria, the Islamization process is being pushed by three main ethnic groups acting together: Fulani, Hausa and Kanuri. Although some of their group members have converted to Christianity, they are strongly attached to a political Islamic agenda. Those effectively in political control of Nigeria today are from these three ethnic groups. This creates the risk of ethnic conflict. A Nigerian analyst thinks that other ethnic groups (outside this coalition) are watching carefully. If the Fulani, Hausa and Kanuri go too far, it might just lead to war. He has expressed his fear that the country might move in this direction if things continue as they are, since many are feeling excluded.

Important to note that there is increasing tension between the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups. Anecdotal evidente speaks of hostilities of Fulanis against Hausas, in particular in the northwestern States Sokoto and Zamfara. According to a Nigerian analyst, “Hausas and Fulanis feuds are growing by the day; it may likely snowball into full blown war in the near future due

to the gradual understanding of age long domination by Fulanis on Hausas.”

In northern Nigeria violence committed in the name of Islam by Boko Haram and ISWAP against civilians, and especially against Christians, is rampant. The same applies for violence committed by Fulani militants and so-called armed bandits. As explained above (see above:Trends analysis), the circles of influence of these different groups are now increasingly overlapping, including their agendas, and this is threatening not only for the northern states but also the southern states. Clear examples of land-grabbing and related violence by Fulani militants, can already be seen in many southern states (see above: Recent history).

Until recently, the Islamic expansionist agenda was mainly driven at state level. However, under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, Christians increasingly felt that this process was being enabled at national level (at the level of the federal government). This was particularly evident in the government’s policy of key nominations (see above: Political and legal landscape) and in the way a climate of impunity is allowed which mainly benefits the activities of the various violent Islamic groups, as well as other criminal groups. For further details, see above: Security situation, which also indicates how systemic corruption contributes to the increasing Islamization of Nigeria.

As suggested in the section above entitled Trends analysis, if the current developments in Nigeria are extrapolated into the future, there will be so much ‘agitation’ (to use Buhari’s term from 2001) and chaos, that it will no longer be possible to distinguish good actors from bad. Ultimately, such chaos could give rise to a new Nigeria that is governed by Sharia, born out of violence, discrimination and intolerance against Christians and others who are not following the same Islamist agenda.

Drivers of persecution

Nigeria: Drivers of persecution  IO  RN  ERH  CO  CDP  CPCO  SI  DPA  OCC
  Government officialsVery strong   Strong  –   Very strongVery strong
  Ethnic group leadersVery strong Very strong  Weak     Strong  Strong
Non-Christian religious leadersVery strong   Strong  –     Medium  Medium
Religious leaders of other churches  –   –  –     –  –
Violent religious groupsVery strong Very strong  –     StrongVery strong

Nigeria: Drivers of persecution  IO  RN  ERH  CO  CDP  CPCO  SI  DPA  OCC
Ideological pressure groupsVery strong   Strong  –     Strong  Strong
Citizens (people from the broader society), including mobs  Strong   Weak  Weak     –  –
One’s own (extended) family  Strong   Weak  Weak     –  –
Political partiesStrong    StrongStrong
Revolutionaries or paramilitary groups  Medium   Medium  –     Medium  Medium
Organized crime cartels or networks  Strong   –  –     Strong  Strong
Multilateral organizations (e.g. UN, OIC etc.) and embassies    Strong     –    –       –    –

The scale for the level of influence of Drivers of persecution in society is: Not at all / Very weak / Weak / Medium / Strong / Very strong. Please note that “-” denotes “not at all”. For more information see WWL Methodology.

Drivers of the blend of Islamic oppression, Ethno-religious hostility, Dictatorial paranoia, Organized corruption and crime

  • Government officials (Very strong to Strong): Islamic expansion in Nigeria has increased under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. It seems that the president is using his position to appoint Muslims to key positions in the country, and to allow a culture of impunity that makes it possible for violations against Christians to go largely unnoticed. (This is an example of ‘persecution eclipse’ – see: WWL Discussion of key themes, October 2022, p.13.) The governments (and non-state actors) of the 12 Sharia states were already on the same track, but they may thus feel encouraged to further Islamize their states instead of guaranteeing the elementary rights of their Christian citizens (freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of expression). Governments (and non-state actors) in other states might also feel encouraged, or sometimes forced, to promote (further) Islamization of their states, even in the South: In particular, by not being able to protect their citizens against violence from Islamic militants, given that the security apparatus is not under their command. Some state governments are trying to protect their whole citizenry, but with limited resources.
  • Ethnic group leaders (Very strong [to Weak]): Ethnic group leaders as drivers of persecution and discrimination have two dimensions: One is whether (and how) they persecute group members who convert to Christianity from the generally held religion (i.e. from African Traditional Religion/ATR or Islam). The other is whether (and how) they commit acts of persecution and discrimination between ethnic groups with different religions. In the past, when ATR was dominant, rights violations of Christian converts by

adherents of ATR was common, but violations in this context have gradually reduced and come now primarily from the Muslim Hausa-Fulani group (together with the Kanuris). Unlike the south of Nigeria which has ethnic tribal chiefs, most northern tribes have religious rulers or emirs instead. Many of them subscribe to the agenda of furthering the Islamization of their ethnic groups and beyond.

  • Non-Christian religious leaders (Very Strong [to Medium]): Many Muslim religious leaders have been sources of basic rights violations against Christians at the level of religious ideology, intolerant messaging and incitement.
  • Violent religious groups (Very strong to Strong): There are various violent groups but in the context of WWL analysis the most prominent ones are Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani militants and armed bandits (see above: Security situation).
  • Ideological pressure groups (Very strong to Strong): The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) deserves a special mention here: Not all Fulani herdsmen are violent militants and some even feel victimized because they are Fulani although they have not been involved in violent attacks. However, the activities of MACBAN have become highly politicized in recent times because of links to powerful patrons, including the outgoing President of Nigeria and the Sultan of Sokoto. MACBAN gives protection to Fulani militants and justification for their aggression. The outgoing President of Nigeria and the Sultan of Sokoto have continually shown tacit support for the expansionist agenda of the Fulani militants. MACBAN claims to be a socio-cultural group, representing the interest of cattle rearers all over Nigeria, but essentially, they are very focused on ethnicity in their composition and outlook. It is important to note that many of the Fulani herdsmen are mere fronts for influential people who actually own the cattle. There are also many Fulani Christians and non-Fulanis who own plenty of cows in Nigeria today. MACBAN does not treat them as bona fide members. MACBAN seeks to defend the course which Fulani Muslims are taking, including justifying their violence against farmers. Fulani settlers are diverse. They are not all linked to Fulani herdsmen beyond sharing ethnic and religious identity. Many Fulani settlers who are Muslim are known to work with their Hausa Muslim counterparts to suppress Christians politically, socially and economically within their domains.
  • Citizens (people from broader society), including mobs (Strong [to Weak]): Apart from the hostility from state and organized non-state actors, another source of persecution and intolerance is the ‘street violence’ where Muslims in the local community riot and attack Christians for flimsy reasons or false accusations of blasphemy in northern Nigeria. This occurs mostly in the context of the Persecution engine Islamic oppression. A Muslim southerner who grew up in the North recently said that northern Muslims would borrow money from her and promise to repay her during the next riot. This anecdotal evidence shows that these attacks are not always spontaneous but sometimes premeditated as a means of looting the ‘infidels’. Christians have been losing property, churches and lives in the recurring violence for decades.
  • One’s own (extended) family (Strong [to Weak]): In the context of conversion from Islam to Christianity, one’s own family (or extended family) is the primary threat. They are often the first to know, and depending on their standing in the community, may be the first to want to protect their family honor. This is especially the case in the northern states (including the Muslim majority part of the north-central zone) where Islam has become an

all-embracing attribute of identity, or where the Islamic religious identity has become politicized (not only because of what is happening in those states themselves but also fueled by developments at national level under Buhari’s presidency.)

  • Political parties (Strong): The two main political parties in Nigeria are divided along religious lines. These religious divisions are based not so much on ideology as on religious sentiment. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is perceived to be sympathetic towards Christians. The All Progressive Congress (APC) on the other hand is seen by the Nigerian public to be pro-Islam. Nigeria’s current ruling party (APC) is actually an alliance between Muslims in the North and the South, which was reflected in the 2023 election where Bola Tinubu (former Governor of Lagos) was chosen by the APC as a Southern Muslim candidate with Kashim Shettima as his running mate, a Northern Muslim (former Governor of Borno state) – a so-called ‘Muslim-Muslim ticket’ (RLPB 678, 1 February 2023). This is also reflected in the APC’s whole approach towards governance and policies that are inherently pro-Islam and anti-Christian.
  • Organized crime cartels or networks (Strong): Drivers of the Persecution engine Organized corruption and crime can be government officials at different levels, together with other leading people from different sectors of society. This is explained in more detail in the section above: Security situation. Another category are criminal groups, which, in the context of Nigeria, often partly overlap with religious-ideological groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani militants and some armed bandit groups. They are not always directly responsible for committing violence against Christians because of their faith; their responsibility is also indirect where, for instance, they contribute to an escalation of ‘agitation’ or chaos that leads to ‘persecution eclipse’, thus adding to the push for further Islamization of the country.
  • Multilateral organizations (e.g. UN, OIC etc.) and embassies (Strong): Though covertly and more softly, many embassies are involved in deeply rooted discrimination against Christians in Nigeria. The Government is aware of this but is avoiding the issue because these embassies are promoting Islam: Significant levels of funding and aid come from Arab countries which act as channels for empowering the Muslim population. This includes the building of mostly Islamic schools and hospitals with limited access for Christians. Rural Christians are particularly in need of healthcare, especially in northern Nigeria. The authorities make use of the aid and facilities supplied to entice Christians to leave their faith in order to gain access.

The Persecution pattern

The WWL 2023 persecution pattern for Nigeria shows:

  • The average pressure on Christians in Nigeria is extremely high at a level of 14.3 points, 0.1 point more than in WWL 2022.
  • All spheres of life scored 13.8 points or more out of the maximum of 16.7, thus all recording extreme levels of pressure.
  • The score for violence is the maximum possible (16.7 points). Over the last years (WWL 2015 – WWL 2023), Nigeria’s violence score has repeatedly reached the maximum level, only dipping in WWL 2017 and WWL 2018 to scores of 16.1 and 16.5 points respectively.

Pressure in the 5 spheres of life

In each of the five spheres of life discussed below, four questions have been selected from the WWL 2023 questionnaire for brief commentary and explanation. The selection usually (but not always) reflects the highest scoring elements. In some cases, an additional paragraph per sphere is included to give further information deemed important. (To see how individual questions are scored on a scale of 0-4 points, please see the “WWL Scoring example” in the WWL Methodology, available at:, password: freedom).

Pressure in Block 1 / Private sphere

Block 1.5: It has been risky for Christians to display Christian images or symbols. (3.50 points)

In the three northern zones any open identification of being a Christian is dangerous for Muslim converts. For other Christians, it is also dangerous during attacks and sometimes in IDP situations. Christians are easily detected by their Christian names. One’s ID is regularly the passport to life or death at road blocks set up by violent Islamic groups (including armed bandits). This is not limited to the North but could even happen in some parts in the South.

Block 1.8: It has been risky for Christians to speak about their faith with those other than immediate family (extended family, others). (3.50 points)

In the three northern zones it is a serious risk for Christians from an Islamic background to share their faith with their Muslim family, because it reveals their new religious status. This is less likely to occur in the South, although it can happen there too. In addition, public exposure can be a risk for other Christians during attacks and sometimes in IDP situations.

Block 1.1: Conversion has been opposed, forbidden, or punishable, including conversion from one type of Christianity to another. (3.25 points)

Converts to Christianity from Islam in the three northern zones often have to flee their homes and states to escape being killed or harassed. They usually find refuge in ‘safe houses’. This is less likely to occur in the South, although it can happen in some areas in the South-West. There is also sometimes pressure on converts from Islam to Christianity in other parts of the country, but this is less frequent and with (much) less intensity.

Block 1.10: Christians have been isolated from other family members or other like-minded Christians (e.g. house arrest). (3.25 points)

Recent converts often face immense hostility from their Muslim families and may face forced isolation and starvation if they refuse to recant. Indeed, it is believed that many have died secretly under house-arrest.

Block 1: Additional information

Private life is under serious pressure for converts from Islam to Christianity. They often have to hide their conversion for fear of discovery, or flee to prevent their new faith being discovered. The increasing Islamization in the country has not improved this situation in the WWL 2023 reporting period. But there is more to consider: Even non-converts can be in danger for the simple fact of being recognized as Christians, for instance at roadblocks, at school or in their villages. Many Christians in the North live in IDP situations where they sometimes also have to keep a low profile. This is especially true for Christian girls and women. All this makes it difficult to simply be a Christian – not only in the North, but also to a lesser degree in the South.

Pressure in Block 2 / Family sphere

Block 2.10: Christian spouses and/or children of Christians have been subject to separation for prolonged periods of time by circumstances relating to persecution. (4.00 points)

Most of this happens in the North, although increasingly also in the South. The violence committed by violent Islamic militants has caused many Christians to be separated from their loved ones. Many have been forced to leave their families either in an IDP camp or other safe location, and then to go to other places to find jobs to support their families. Or they remain in the more dangerous regions for the same reason. Parents and children are also separated from each other through abduction: Leah Sharibu is an example, representing many others (Christianity Today, 20 December 2020). This also happens in a non-militant Islamic context in the North, particularly the abduction, forced conversion and forced marriage of Christian girls. There are even cases of Christian girls who have been abducted from the South and married off in the North.

Block 2.9: Children of Christians have been harassed or discriminated against because of their

parents’ faith. (3.50 points)

Most of this happens in the North, although increasingly also in the South (see above: Areas where Christians face most difficulties). In public schools, offices, hospitals etc. there is pervasive discrimination of Christians even just from having biblical or English names. The children of Christians are often more susceptible to such discrimination than adults. That also applies for various forms of violence: There are times where children are killed or maimed, abducted or sexually assaulted because of the Christian faith of their parents (see below: Gender-specific religious persecution).

Block 2.7: Parents have been hindered in raising their children according to their Christian beliefs. (3.25 points)

Most of this happens in the North, although increasingly also in the South. For converts it is very difficult due to the fear of discovery in their families and beyond. Added to that, if the conversion of a parent from Islam to Christianity is discovered, often their children are taken away from them, or they have to flee and lose contact with their children. Also, when Christian women are widowed, Muslim relatives sometimes take the children to make sure they grow up as Muslims. This might happen even after widowed mothers had raised them as Christians for years. Sometimes parents have to hide the Christian identity of their children to avoid persecution. Many parents have to raise their children in IDP situations, which also makes it difficult for Christian parents to train their children in Christian faith and values.

Block 2.8: Christian children have been pressured into attending anti-Christian or majority religion teaching at any level of education. (3.25 points)

In almost all Sharia states, the school subject “Christian Religious Knowledge” has been banned from public schools, and children of Christians are forced to attend Islamic Education classes. Children of Christians are sometimes even forced to participate in Muslim prayers during school hours. In most Northern universities, those who study law are forced to study Sharia law as a compulsory subject. Christian students are compelled to learn how to recite Muslims prayers. For children of converts from Islam to Christianity the situation is even harder, because they do not want to draw unnecessary attention to their parents’ conversion.

Pressure in Block 3 / Community sphere

Block 3.3: Christians have been under threat of abduction and/or forced marriage. (3.75 points)

Abduction and/or forced marriage mostly occurs in the North, although increasingly also in the South. Christian girls and women are the most affected (see below – Violence section – for understanding the enormous fear and uncertainty this brings.) Female converts are especially vulnerable to abduction and forced marriage. Christian men are often abducted for ransom. Church leaders are increasingly specifically targeted. The children of pastors are also targeted to spite their fathers and aggravate the Christian community. An additional motivation for the abduction of Christians girls and forced marriage could be the desire to depopulate Christianity and populate Islam. Even married Christian women are sometimes targets. Cases of abduction for forced marriage are sometimes carried out with the active connivance of ruling emirs.

Block 3.7: Christians have been pressured by their community to renounce their faith. (3.75 points)

According to a Nigerian analyst: “Islam within northern Nigeria uses everything possible to pressure Christians into leaving the Christian faith, be it money, land-grabbing, forceful abduction or denial of rights. Many minority Christian groups have been denied access to basic social amenities in an attempt to force them to accept Islam. Because of high levels of poverty, money is also being used to entice Christian youth to leave the Christian faith. Many young girls and women have been put under immense pressure to denounce Christianity to join Islam because of false promises of comfort and luxury. It’s a constant battle for Christians. They make you suffer, then offer solutions with the condition of accepting Islam for you to get the help.” Apart from what is happening in northern Nigeria, there also is pressure in southern Nigeria: Another Nigerian analyst added that pressure on Christians to renounce their faith “is very common in the government ministries, companies and other social places”.

Block 3.4: Christians been hindered in sharing community resources because of their faith (e.g. clean drinking water). (3.50 points)

Most of this happens in the North, although increasingly also in the South. It has two dimensions: One is about Christians living in the same locality as Muslims and not being allowed access to the water well or local dispensary, because the Christians are deemed ‘impure’. Another is about the local or state authorities. Social amenities from the government do not reach Christian communities as they ought to. Often they just receive a token amount. With respect to the provision of infrastructural development, more is invested in Muslim-dominated areas than in

Christian-dominated ones in states where Christians and Muslims are almost an equal 50-50 percentage. Some Christian communities in rural areas have been completely denied water and have to trek for hours to fetch water. Even in cities, the Christian quarters are sometimes denied amenities such as sanitation services. Furthermore, there are many Christian IDPs in the northern zones. However, Nigerian relief agencies tend to be biased when it comes to the distribution of relief ítems: Christians are often left out and relief agencies in Nigeria agencies are known not to respond swiftly when emergencies involve large numbers of Christians. Even when humanitarian aid is brought, it is often grossly inadequate (WWR, Nigeria: Assessment of Christian situation in 4 north-eastern states (June 2017), published May 2018).

Block 3.9: Christians have faced disadvantages in their education at any level for faith-related reasons (e.g. restrictions of access to education). (3.50 points)

Most of this happens in the North. Christians are often discriminated against in their educational pursuits. Particularly Christian or tribal names can make it increasingly difficult to access education. Christian or ethnic minorities in predominantly Muslim areas are often denied admission to schools and where they are admitted, they are often not given their chosen courses. At university and college, those with Christian names are frequently automatically excluded from getting admission to study courses in medicine, for example. Christians have had to change their names to Muslim names to be admitted. Results and certificates can be withheld for years to frustrate Christians. Some young Christians who cannot get admission into universities and who cannot get jobs, feel forced to leave the country in search of better opportunities.

Pressure in Block 4 / National sphere

Block 4.14: Those who caused harm to Christians have deliberately been left unpunished. (4.00 points)

The issue of impunity is of paramount importance in Nigeria. The perpetrators of attacks against Christians are usually never arrested. A Nigerian analyst affirmed that this is one of the reasons why attacks on Christians and their property keep increasing in number. When attackers are arrested, they are often quickly released; this is common where violence has been carried out by Fulani militants or armed ‘bandits’ in the context of Islamic militancy.

Block 4.13: Christians have been accused of blasphemy or insulting the majority religion, either by state authorities or by pressure groups. (3.75 points)

As explained by a Nigerian analyst: “Christians have to be very careful in discussions with Muslims as their words can easily be used against them. Christians have been killed when they were accused of speaking ill of Muhammad or Islam. Many opinions spoken by Christians are deliberately misconstrued and regarded as blasphemous. In several instances mobs have killed Christians for simply preaching in public or expressing opinions on issues.” A case in point was the killing of Christian student Deborah Samuel in Sokoto in May 2022 (WWR, 27 May 2022). For converts from Islam to Christianity the threat is even bigger.

Block 4.1: The Constitution (or comparable national or state law) limits freedom of religion as formulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (3.50 points)

The Nigerian Constitution provides for freedom of religion. Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution prohibits the adoption of a state religion. Section 15 provides that discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association ties shall be prohibited. However, the adoption of the Sharia legal system by the northern states places Sharia law above of the Constitution and its operation negatively impacts Christians. This question has been scored for the Sharia states only, although the mere existence of the issue has meaning for the way the whole nation is governed.

Block 4.15: Christians accused in court have been deprived of equal treatment. (3.50 points)

Most of this happens in the North, where the local courts are frequently misused as channels for oppressing Christians. There is gross inequality in the administration of justice, since the majority of judges are Muslim in a radicalizing Islamic environment. Should there be an issue between a Christian and a Muslim, the Muslim knows he will most often be favored. Christians have served prison sentences for crimes which a Muslim would not even be charged for in the first place. At times Christians even face charges in Sharia courts which have no jurisdiction over them. Their evidence is worth half of that of a Muslim.

Pressure in Block 5 / Church sphere

Block 5.20: It has been risky for churches or Christian organizations to speak out against instigators of persecution. (4.00 points)

In a climate of ‘agitation’, chaos, impunity and increasing Islamization, speaking out against the persecution of Christians is not a safe thing to do – particularly in the areas where outright violence is rife. The space to advocate for justice naturally depends on the advocates’ standing in the community. People with a high public profile have more opportunity than those who are less well-known in the most affected areas. But even for them, such advocacy is not without danger. Several well-known Christians were called for interrogation by the security services after having negatively commented on the situation of insecurity in the country and the weak performance of the federal government in relation thereto.

Block 5.11: Pastors or other Christian leaders (or their family members) have been special targets of harassment for faith-related reasons. (3.75 points)

Most of this happens in the North, although increasingly also in the South (see above: Areas where Christians face most difficulties). In 2019, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) released statistics of church leaders attacked, abducted or killed (many of whom had been speaking out about the persecution situation). This trend has continued into the WWL 2022 and WWL 2023 reporting periods with pastors and their family members being regularly targeted (Vanguard, 19 June 2022 and Leadership NG, June 2022). Some have even been killed after a ransom was collected.

Harassment has, however, often taken on lighter forms than those leading to abduction or death. Nevertheless, they have still been very disturbing for the pastors and their families, as well as for their church communities.

Block 5.1: Church activities have been monitored, hindered, disturbed, or obstructed. (3.50 points)

Most of this happens in the North, although increasingly also in the South (see above: Areas where Christians face most difficulties). The activities of churches have been disrupted by constant attacks on Christian communities and by the destruction of church-buildings and executions or abductions of pastors and Christians in general. Such actions might have a long- term impact – many Christians do not dare to attend church services anymore and church activities are often cancelled due to the high level of insecurity. Sometimes the security men deployed by the authorities to protect Christian worshippers cannot be trusted and may act as informers or not give any protection. The activities of churches are also monitored, obstructed or hindered in less intrusive ways from time to time.

Block 5.3: Christian communities have been hindered in building or renovating church buildings or in claiming historical religious premises and places of worship which had been taken from them earlier. (3.50 points)

In several of the northern states, Christians are denied access to land for building churches. According to Nigerian analysts, any building and/or renovation of churches is greatly hindered in all the Sharia states in Nigeria. Even when official permission is given for churches to be built, the physical design and structure of the building is determined by the authorities. The goal is to keep churches hidden. Non-state actors are also a severe problem, for instance: Communities in Daura (Katsina state) recently demolished some churches in their locality, vowing not to allow the presence of any church building in the area. Thus, violence (mostly through non-state actors) adds to this already precarious situation for churches and public Christian