Dominant persecution engines and drivers

Nigeria: Main Persecution enginesMain drivers
        Islamic oppressionGovernment officials, Ethnic group leaders, Non-Christian religious leaders, Violent religious groups, Ideological pressure groups, Citizens (people from the broader society), including mobs, One’s own (extended) family, Political parties, Organized crime cartels or networks, Multilateral organizations (e.g. UN, OIC etc.) and embassies, Revolutionaries or paramilitary groups
    Ethno-religious hostilityEthnic group leaders, Violent religious groups, Ideological pressure groups, Non-Christian religious leaders, Government officials, Revolutionaries or paramilitary groups
      Dictatorial paranoiaGovernment officials, Ethnic group leaders, Organized crime cartels or networks, Violent religious groups, Ideological pressure groups, Political parties, Revolutionaries or paramilitary groups, Non-Christian religious leaders
    Organized corruption and crimeViolent religious groups, Government officials, Ethnic group leaders, Organized crime cartels or networks, Ideological pressure groups, Political parties, Revolutionaries or paramilitary groups, Non-Christian religious leaders

Engines and Drivers are listed in order of strength. Only Very strong / Strong / Medium are shown here.

Brief description of the persecution situation

In terms of Persecution engines, Christians suffer from a suffocating combination of Islamic oppression, Ethno-religious hostility, Dictatorial paranoia and Organized corruption and crime.

Nigeria has a history of enforced Islamization. Before the arrival of the British colonial administration in Nigeria, Usman Dan Fodio, a Fulani radical Islamic scholar began an Islamic jihad in Gobir in 1804, and by 1808 had established the Sokoto Caliphate. He had vowed to enforce Islam through the power of the sword from the Sahara Desert in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. This enforced Islamization gained momentum with the declaration of Sharia states in northern Nigeria (starting in 1999). Since then it has gradually developed all over the country, by violent and non-violent means.

During the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari (2015 – 2023), Islamist violence increased. In addition to what already was happening, the government has failed to prevent the increase of brutal acts of violence of which many Nigerians are victims, but most particularly Christians – with impunity. Most of this violence is in the North, in the form of attacks by Boko Haram, Boko Haram split-off Islamic State in West Africa Province – ISWAP, Fulani militants and armed ‘bandits’, but it has also spread to the South. Such violence often causes loss of life, physical injury, rape and other forms of sexual harassment, as well as loss of property and destruction of


farmlands; abductions for ransom have increased considerably over recent years. As a result of the violence, Christians are being dispossessed of their land and means of livelihood. Many live as IDPs or refugees.

Christians in northern Nigeria, especially in the Sharia states, face discrimination as second-class citizens. Christians with a Muslim background also face rejection from their own families, pressure to give up Christianity, and often physical violence.

Further, since 2015, President Buhari‚Äôs federal government has appointed mostly northern Muslims to certain critical offices, including security agencies like the army, air force, police, immigration service, the Department of State Services (DSS), customs, Civil Defence Corps, prison service etc. The same applies increasingly for the judiciary in Nigeria, and for key economic sectors. A Nigerian analyst refers to this as “ethno-religious incursion of the establishment”. The challenge in all this is increasing and systematic denial of religious freedom violations against Christians by the government.

The Islamic expansionist agenda is occurring against the background of climatic changes, environmental degradation and population growth, pushing the mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen with their cattle southwards to the North-Central and to the southern zones. The stress this is causing on herder-farmer relationships – a classical theme in the history of mankind – is manipulated by political and religious leadership to further the agenda of Islamization. Especially now that Christian youth have begun to defend themselves increasingly against the violent attacks by Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen and armed ‘bandits’, the narrative becomes confusing, and the risk of persecution eclipse arises (WWR, WWL – Discussion of key themes, October 2022, p.13). Persecution eclipse is further increased by classifying what is happening in the country as ‘sectarian violence’, ‘communal clashes’ or ‘civil unrest’, as well as by the increasing use of the term ‘bandits’ or ‘criminals’ for the jihad-inspired perpetrators.