Nigeria’s ‚Silent Slaughter‘: EU Urged to Force President Buhari to Stop Killings

Written by | Friday, April 3rd, 2020

With Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 re-election for a second term being marred by “serious shortcomings”, as the EU’s election observer mission concluded, human rights campaigners now insist Brussels to put pressure on Mr. Buhari to finally tackle two decades of terrorist attacks that have killed tens of thousands and seen Nigeria rank third out of 163 countries on the Global Terrorism Index, behind only Iraq and Afghanistan. As the European Commission unveiled its EU-Africa strategy last month, Nigeria, with the biggest economy on the continent, should be a key partner for Brussels. However, while the EU seeks to overhaul its political and trade ties with Africa, terrorism and insecurity that plague Nigeria continue to be a great concern.
Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, which is confined to about 5% of Nigerian territory, has frequently made headlines around the world. Meanwhile, much less known Fulani militants operate across the country, aggravatinga long-running conflict between farmers and nomadic herders over land and water resources. The bloody attacks by the Fulani and Islamic terror groups have been going on for about two decades.The failure by President Buhari and his government to stop the mass killings along with accusations of complicity by the government and military has fuelled the perception that Buhari, who comes from a Fulani family, favours the Fulani tribe, and that he has in turn failed to provide the much-needed security to the Nigerian people. If the current wave of killings by armed herdsmen, said to belong to the Fulani tribe, continues and the killers and their sponsors go unpunished, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said last month it would seek to have President Buhari and his Vice President indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face prosecution for crimes against humanity.
For the European Union, a lot is at stake here. The attacks and killings, which have generated 1.8 million internally displaced people in the country, are also one of the drivers of migration that has brought around 20,000 Nigerians between 2017-2020 through the neighbouring Sahel region and eventually to Europe. Having led recent efforts to get international community backing to stop the decades-long ethnic and religious killing in Nigeria, Dr Richard Ikiebe, co-founder of the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ), says that engaging EU policymakers remains a “work in progress”, but also adds that “now, people are listening to us.” The progress has so far been limited but at least, EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, recently admitted that the “human rights and humanitarian situation in Nigeria has significantly deteriorated”.
The EU is Nigeria’s second-largest donor, behind the US, allocating the country €562 million through the European Development Fund (EDF) during the 2014-2020 budget period.The question now really is what the EU can and is prepared to do with what some of the country‘s activists call Nigeria‘s ‘silent slaughter’. While US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is considering to create a special envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin, Dr Ikiebe says that the EU should use all of its leverage, including the possible suspension of aid, to force the Buhari government to take necessary steps to halt the slaughter.

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