By Fionn Shiner

Systematic violence against Nigerian Christians by Fulani herdsmen constitutes genocide, according to a leading Catholic bishop who stressed that Muslims are also falling foul of the violence.

Following the execution of five aid workers by Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he believed the recent violence was genocidal in nature.

When asked whether he agreed that that Fulani killings of Christians can be categorized as genocide according to international law, he said: “I believe so”.

He added that Muslims were also victims of the violence: “[T]hese killings are not to be narrowed down to Christians because they have been far worse in the predominantly Muslim north in such states as Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara.”

ISWAP recently released a video of the five aid workers being executed, three of whom were reportedly Christian, as a warning to “all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity.”

Nigeria human rights organization Intersociety found that since June 2015, up to 12,000 Christians have been killed with 350 deaths in the first two months of 2020.

Bishop Kukah said “there is no dispute at all” that Nigeria is a largely failed state.

He 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 said “the evidence is there for all to see” that Nigeria is an epicenter of terrorism in the region.

Bishop Kukah suggested the government is complicit in the violence.

He said: “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.

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

He added: “The inefficiency of the military has made the terrorists bolder and there are also issues of the complicity of the various levels of the military.”

Bishop Kukah criticized Western powers that have not done more to help Nigeria.

He said: “We hear promises from the United States and Europe and they all come to nothing.”

Bishop Kukah’s remarks echoed the findings of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief’s report called “Nigeria – Unfolding Genocide?’ released in June.

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