Jim Shannon, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for Strangford in Northern Ireland, said yesterday (25 January) in a parliamentary debate in Westminster that Buhari does not want to act in cases of violence against Christians in Nigeria.
The debate was about UK relations with West African countries and Shannon said: “There have been small successes since Muhammadu Buhari became president in 2015, with Boko Haram being pushed back from occupied territories in northern parts, but despite his intention to fight Boko Haram, he has seemed reluctant to respond to continued violence against the Christian population in the middle belt of Nigeria. In October more than 40 people were massacred in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen, for no other reason than that they were Christians. There is something seriously wrong when those things become small print in the papers, or we do not know about them at all. What advice or assistance has the Minister been able to give Nigeria with a view to helping our brethren? If he is not able to outline that in his response, I should be more than happy to have a letter from him to confirm that. It pains me as a Christian to hear that more than 12,000 Christians have been murdered, and more than 2,000 churches destroyed, by Islamic terrorism. It appears that little has been done to influence Nigeria by our Government or international bodies. The question must be asked: what are we doing? Is it enough, and are we doing it in the right way? Is our influence starting to take effect?”
Watch the debate here.
There is a very heated debate in Nigeria on whether the violence by Fulani herdsmen could be classified as religious. The herdsmen tend to be Muslim while their victims in North Central Nigeria, particularly the southern part of Kaduna State, Plateau and Benue States tend to be Christians. What is not in dispute is that the crisis is related to land, with local farmers accusing the herdsmen of destroying their crops with cattle.
Other contributors to the Westminster debate talked about the importance of the Nigerian diaspora in development issues facing the country and what the new Donald Trump administration meant for Africa. It was clear from MPs’ statements that not much is known about Trump’s Africa policies.
Responding to the debate, the junior minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Tobias Ellwood, committed the cardinal blunder of lumping the African continent together when he said: “My honourable Friend underlined the importance of Africa as a nation”.
Ellwood commented on what the UK was doing to support the fight against Boko Haram, but was silent on the issue of Fulani herdsmen.