Despite being resource-rich and having the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria has more people living in poverty than any other country on earth. To Nigeria’s shame, more than 102 million Nigerians live in poverty, which is more than twice the number in India (50.7 million) despite India’s population (1.380 billion) being seven times greater than Nigeria’s population (196 million). The problem is corruption. In 2019, Transparency International ranked Nigeria at 146 of 180, confirming it as one of the most corrupt nations on earth.
The issue imperilling Nigerian Christians is that massive corruption at the highest levels of Government and Defence is prolonging the conflict with Boko Haram. Government and military elites are exploiting the conflict as a means of enriching themselves, while depriving rank and file soldiers of basic resources, including food and ammunition! Investigations into the Armsgate scandal revealed massive fraud in military procurement, whereby government funds have been secured on the basis of fake contracts for resources which were never delivered – ‘everything from food and ammunition to firearms, helicopters and Alpha jets, totalling as much as R259 billion ($15 billion). [See Religious Liberty Monitoring, ‘Nigeria’s Fraudulent Election: Will Things Fall Apart?’ — May 28 2019].
Corruption explains why Nigerian soldiers are deployed into conflict zones with insufficient rations and malfunctioning weapons, and why those who survive return defeated and demoralised. Corruption explains why insecurity has escalated to crisis levels and why Boko Haram and its offshoots have not been defeated but instead have grown stronger. Corruption explains why a catastrophic Christian crisis involving ethnic cleansing and genocide persists throughout Nigeria’s North and Middle Belt, bringing untold suffering to multitudes.
On July 29 Borno state governor Babagana Zulum set out in a heavily-armed convoy towards the town of Baga, in the Lake Chad basin region of Borno’s far north-east. The plan was to visit a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Baga and distribute food relief there. But the governor’s convoy was attacked on the edge of the town and whilst Governor Zulum escaped unharmed, casualties were reported from among his entourage. Confusion reigned as to who was responsible. The governor’s first reaction was to query why Baga was not secure when 1181 Nigerian soldiers are stationed in the army garrison only 5km down the road. A day later, the governor publicly accused the Nigerian military of attacking his convoy. ‘As far as I am concerned,’ he said, ‘there was no Boko Haram yesterday. It was a serious shooting by the Nigerian armed forces while “residing” in Baga.’ An Army spokesman subsequently informed the media that footage of the incident showed that the convoy was attacked by Boko Haram.
This incident reveals a lot about the Nigerian crisis. Why would Governor Zulum think soldiers would attack his convoy? Though the army denies it, it has been accused of using Baga to control the enormously lucrative fish business along the Lake Chad area. Why would soldiers want to control the fish industry? Hungry, demoralised, under-resourced, ill-equipped and over-stretched, these soldiers might feel that dealing in fish is a better option than facing Boko Haram on empty stomachs and with empty guns. Governor Zulum also questioned why the Nigerian army is preventing thousands of displaced people from returning home to their fields whilst soldiers are instead cultivating the land.
On July 26, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant general Yusuf Buratai, visited wounded soldiers hospitalised in Kaduna. ‘I am equally happy,’ he told them, ‘that we are living in peace and Nigeria is now safer than (sic) we had five years ago’. On the contrary, as the Council for Foreign Relations’ Security Tracker makes clear, the last two years (July 2018 to July 2020) have been deadlier for security service personnel than any other period in the ten-year conflict. Betrayed and abandoned, Nigerian soldiers and the civilians they seek to protect are dying due to corruption.
On June 15, Lance-Corporal Idakpini Martins – 8 Division, Sokoto – published a video on his social media account in which he castigates Lt Gen. Buratai for ‘failing to provide adequate resources to soldiers combating Boko Haram’. The video went viral and on June 20, LCpl Martins was arrested in Abuja and then held incommunicado for over a month. Concerned that his client may have been tortured or even killed, Tope Akinyode, LCpl Martins’ lawyer, secured a court order from the Federal High Court granting him access to his client. The military, however, has continued to deny Mr Akinyode access to LCpl Martins, who has also been denied access to his family. On August 15 ,Mr Akinyode confirmed that LCpl Martins had been ‘brutalised’ and secretly transferred to Sokoto, in Nigeria’s extreme north-west (where the offence took place), where he will be appointed a military attorney and court-martialled.
On August 10, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, publicly accused Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai of “sponsoring Boko Haram” and of being an “accessory to genocide”. On August 12, Dr Mailafia was arrested in Abuja by the Department of State Services (DSS – security services), only to be released after a national outcry. The stakes are high! With much to lose, corrupt officials have an interest in silence. That silence, however, must be shattered for the sake of our existentially imperilled Christian brothers and sisters who are facing genocidal violence in Nigeria’s North and Middle Belt.
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL:
- protect and sustain the imperilled Church in Nigeria’s North and Middle Belt; may He sanctify the believers and redeem all their suffering as He works out his purposes for the benefit of the Church in answer to the prayers of many.
- intervene in Nigeria to overturn every evil plot; may genocidal violence be replaced with a yearning for peace; may greed and impunity be replaced with repentance and justice; may indifference be replaced with passionate solidarity and brotherly love and may the advancing evil be replaced with an advance of the Gospel.
- We pray especially for a movement of God’s Holy Spirit among the region’s Hausa and Fulani Muslims. May it be said of them: ‘They who used to persecute us are now preaching the faith they once tried to destroy’ (as was said of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:24). And many will glorify God because of them.