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Concerns raised in the UK’s House of Lords about Nigeria’s “Fulani militia”

9 May 2019

A debate was held in the House of Lords in the UK today titled “Nigeria: Fulani” and it kicked off with Baroness Cox questioning the government about “their assessment of recent developments in Nigeria, with particular reference to attacks by Fulani militia.”

Responding on behalf of the UK government, Lord Ahmad, the Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimed: “We remain deeply concerned by the escalation in intercommunal violence across Nigeria, which has a devastating impact on lives and communities and is a barrier to Nigeria’s development. While religion is a factor, the root causes remain complex and include access to resources, population growth and displacement due to climate change and desertification. We are working closely with international partners and the Nigerian Government to develop measures to address the causes of the conflict, including the national livestock transformation plan.”

Baroness Cox has a keen interest in Nigeria

Cox replied asking the minister: “Is he aware that since the Fulani insurgency began, thousands of Christians have been killed in the Middle Belt region? That includes about 300 killed in Kaduna between February and April this year. Also, on 14 April, Fulani militia invaded Nasarawa, killing 17 people, including a 100 year-old man, and a girl whom they raped to death, and on Good Friday, another dozen were killed in Benue.

“Given that the Government’s interim independent review into the global persecution of Christians has found that religious hatred plays a key part in these killings, does the Minister agree that while other factors may be involved, the asymmetry and huge scale of attacks by well-armed Fulani upon the predominantly Christian communities has a significant ideological base that must be acknowledged if the issues and the suffering are to be addressed appropriately—such as the Nigerian Government’s responsibly to ensure that it will be safe for thousands of displaced Christians to return to their homes?”

The minister agreed saying: “The example of Nigeria is a very stark one. The noble Baroness knows Nigeria well. This was a focus area for my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s [Jeremy Hunt] recent visit, and I assure the noble Baroness that any of the organisations that seek to represent or hijack a religion are doing so erroneously. It is important for all communities, all faiths, to stand against them. I am of course referring to Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa.”

One contributor, Lord Chidgey asked what progress the Nigerian government was making in dealing with the violence from the “Fulani militia”: “….in answering the question that I put to the Minister last December, he said that the development of policies and plans with European partners to address the escalation of violence and deaths in Nigeria was “work in progress”, and that the Nigerian Government were planning to introduce a Bill to address the events that have occurred between the Fulani and the farmers. Can he confirm what progress has been made in developing these policies and plans with our European partners since then, and advise how much, if any, of the £150 million of new British aid announced by the Foreign Secretary will be allocated to these projects?”

The minister replied: “Progress is being made; obviously, the election in Nigeria may have caused certain things to come to a halt but there has been a renewed focus. I have already referred to the vice-president’s initiative. On the Bill that the noble Lord refers to, we are providing direct assistance to the communities affected. Consideration is currently being given to that very bill, which will look at, for example, grazing reserves, routes and cattle ranches, to ensure that we can address the issue of land in Nigeria.”

Very few well-meaning Nigerians share Ahmad’s optimism that grazing reserves and routes would reduce the violence. Many question why public funds – for establishing reserves and ranches – should be supporting what is essentially private business.

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