It is Genocide Indeed, Nigerian Bishop Says of Increased Killings

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese, Nigeria.
Credit: Public Domain

A Catholic Bishop in Nigeria’s Diocese of Sokoto has likened the increased killings of Nigerian Christians by Fulani herdsmen who also target Muslims in the west African country to genocide, a statement that concurs with a recently published report in the United Kingdom (UK) that suggests unfolding genocide in Nigeria.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Matthew Kukah who was asked whether he agreed that the Fulani killings of Christians can be categorized as genocide according to international law said, “I believe so.”

The Catholic aid organization engaged the Prelate on the execution of five aid workers by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) towards the end of July.

A media report indicated that the humanitarian workers of Action Against Hunger (ACF) were taken hostage by the armed group in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, on June 8 before a video of their execution surfaced nearly two months later.

Bishop Kukah told ACN that Christians were not the main target of the insurgent group members that were also killing Muslims. Additionally, the militants were in the predominantly Muslim north in states such as Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara.

In the interview shared by ACN on Friday, August 7, Bishop Kukah said that it was no longer a secret that Nigeria was “a largely failed state.”

“There is no dispute at all, that Nigeria is a largely failed state,” the Nigerian Bishop said, and added, “It has been an old secret. It has failed its people but the oil companies are still making a kill on the carcass.”

He also told ACN that Nigeria was an epicenter of terrorism in the region, saying, “The evidence is there for all to see.”

“There are multiple levels of funding and, with time, terrorism has been able to fund itself by criminality, violence, kidnappings and it is feared that government may be funding these groups inadvertently largely because they have penetrated the security agencies,” Bishop Kukah said.

He added, “Governments have also paid huge sums of money for ransom and also ostensibly placate the terrorists, rescue kidnapped citizens, and so on.”

The Local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese further said that the inefficiency of the military in Nigeria had made the terrorists bolder and that there were also issues of complicity at various levels of the military.

Bishop Kukah criticized Western powers that have not lived up to their “promises” to help Nigeria saying, “We hear promises from the United States and Europe and they all come to nothing.”

His remarks echoed the findings of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion and Belief dubbed, “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?” which was released in June.

The report warns of the risk of an unfolding genocide and calls for UK aid to be linked to efforts to protect Nigerian villagers from attacks by Islamist extremists.

The report argues that in killing and driving out Christian villagers, the Fulani militants, wittingly or unwittingly, are serving the same agenda as Boko Haram. The stated aim of the terrorist group Boko Haram is to turn Nigeria into an Islamist state. Its spokesman has declared: ‘This war is against Christians.’

Bishop Kukah’s sentiments also come days after members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) issued a statement, calling on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens following a series of killings of innocent people in the country.

“We condemn the carnage on human life especially the recent killings of 76 people in Sabon Birni Local Government of Sokoto State; RuwanTofa Dansadua district in Zamfara State; Zangon Kataf Local Government Area in Kaduna State; Bethel Baptist Church Aguda-Dauruwan Kogi State and the attack on the convoy of the Borno State Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum at Baga,” the religious leaders said in their August 4 statement that was seen by ACI Africa.

The Council members also urged all levels of the Nigerian Government to “double up their efforts of securing the lives and property of the citizens.”


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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