Religious freedom is under attack by the government in Nigeria

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Last Thursday, a free-lance journalist working for The Epoch Times was jailed in Nigeria. The incident likely escaped your attention. But it is an alarming development in a country torn by Islamic terrorists and a government that seems powerless to stop them.

Though Luka Binniyat has yet to be charged, allegations of “injurious falsehood and incitement” will likely become official this week. Binniyat has been one of the leading journalists in the terrorist-torn country reporting on the failure of the Nigerian government to charge those responsible for kidnappings, murder, and rape of Christian minorities in the African nation.

Binniyat told fellow free-lancer Reuben Buhari of his believe about what charges would be filed when Buhari was allowed to visit him Saturday. The arrest came on the heels of Binniyat’s latest article to appear in the Times, “Police called massacres ‘wicked’ but make no arrests.”

The latest violence by terrorists in Nigeria against Christians was the kidnapping of the entire Emmanuel Baptist Church congregation on Sunday in the southern province of Kaduna in the city of Kakau Kaji. That followed exactly one week after another Baptist church congregation, also was kidnapped from their sanctuary on October 31. According to a report from Open Doors, a group of “armed bandits” ― actually terrorists ― stormed that church during a communications outage, which prevented church members from calling for help. Two congregants were killed in the incident.

Prior to that attack, a bloody massacre of 38 unarmed men and women on Sunday evening September 26 in the village of Madamai, in Kaura County, Kaduna State. Eyewitnesses told The Epoch Times that approximately 300 men who were wearing masks and dark clothing attacked Madamai.

The Fulani, a predominantly Muslim tribe, have been involved in a series of attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria stretching over several years.

Local lawmakers who spoke exclusively to The Epoch Times say they are outraged by the government’s refusal to enforce the law and even more because the authorities distort the nature of the most recent attacks. The Nigerian government never identifies the ethnicity of bandit gangs marauding through Nigeria’s Middle Belt, yet the mission of these gangs is similar to that of the Islamic State insurgency known as Boko Haram, namely, to remove or destroy Christian residents.

Media outside Nigeria are being complicit with the nation’s government by faithfully following the official narrative. France24 did a story following the second kidnapping and massacre in late October.

“Criminal gangs known locally as bandits have terrorized northwest and central Nigeria for years, but they have become more brazen in recent months and the military has renewed operations in the region.” After the attacks in Kaduna, there were no reports of theft of vehicles or livestock by the so-called bandits, even those were reported by local citizens and legislators.

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The boldness of the terrorists is an alarming development in the ongoing war between the likes of Boko Haram, Fulani Muslim terrorists, and other groups. Perhaps more alarming is the willingness of the Nigerian government to jail a working journalist for reporting the truth to the outside world.

“Its an outrage against justice that Nigeria’s authorities let violent Fulani extremists, who destroy village after village, go scot-free without investigation, prosecution or punishment,” said Nina Shea, the Hudson Institute’s Director for Religious Freedom told The Epoch Times. “while being quick to fill the jails with the brave journalists reporting on these massacres of innocent civilians.”

Those familiar with the events in Nigeria hold the recent kidnappings and massacres as evidence there is a kind of ethnic-religious genocide being carried out by the Islamist terror organizations in the country. The story becomes muddied when considering Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari is himself the son of a Fulani terrorist leader. Shea called on the president to immediately ensure the safety and release of Binniyat without charges being filed. The journalist was to appear in court today, though charges were not expected to be filed before the hearing.

Binniyat’s story in The Epoch Times was published on October 29. In it, Kaduna Provincial police spokesman Muhammed Jaliga was interviewed about previous atrocities committed against Christians and their churches in southern Nigeria.

“I have not been briefed about an arrest so far for the sad violence in Madamai last month,” in which 27 Christians were attacked and killed during a home prayer meeting, Jaliga said.  “If there was any arrest, it would have been well-celebrated by us, and we would parade the suspects for the public to see so they can know we cannot tolerate such wickedness in Kaduna state.”

However, Binniyat’s story also noted that Jaliga used the term “clash” to describe the very one-sided attacks on unarmed Christian men, women, and children in the attack at Madamai. Thus far, Binniyat reported, there have been no arrests, the prosecutor’s office is not pressing for reports on the slayings and no one has provided any briefings nor explanations for what happened.

“It is shocking that since Madamai was attacked on September 27 this year and 38 unarmed victims were massacred, no one has been arrested. And now this one has occurred, instead of going after the killers, Kaduna state government seems to have dismissed this one as a ‘clash’ in which all the victims are Christian farmers,” Jonathan Asake, a former Federal parliamentarian, and now President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) said.

Although two persons were being questioned over the Madamai killings, no arrests or prosecutions are underway, according to a report on France24.com.

Kaduna State Governor Nazir el-Rufai for years has fielded accusations of ignoring the armed Fulani who stand accused of killing hundreds of native Christian farmers and taking over their villages in Southern Kaduna since he was elected governor in 2015. Like Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari, el-Rufai hails from the Fulani tribe which numbers approximately 6 million strong among the total population of 212 million Nigerians.

During his tenure, the government has not arrested a single Fulani leader. On the other hand, it has arrested, jailed, and prosecuted several traditional leaders and Christian clergymen from Southern Kaduna, among them. When Binniyat reported several such arrests in 2017, the charges against him were initiated.

Binniyat is no stranger to jail cells The  Nigerian government has considered him a thorn in their side for several years. In 2017, he was jailed on several trumped-up charges, including “breach of the peace” for his reporting on Nigerian terrorist organizations. He was one of the first to report the government-terror network connection ― facts that most Western media still have not reported.

“Charging a journalist with ‘breach of the peace’ for simply reporting the truth is unacceptable,” said Angela Quinal, Program Coordinator for Committee to Protect Journalists (CPI) in Africa told America’s Conservative Voice Monday. She said Binniyat had simply shown up for a hearing on the three-year-old charges against him Thursday when the police arrested him yet again.

Binniyat is not the only international journalist who has gotten cross-ways with the Nigerian government. Several others, labeled “critics of the government,” have also been charged with incitement for their reporting. Two internet journalists, Steven Kefas and George Makeri, file their stories from undisclosed locations in the middle provinces of Nigeria in order to avoid arrest.

Kefas spent five months in a Nigerian prison, being released in 2020 suffering from several tropical diseases, including malaria. Journalist Jones Abiri was held for two years in secret underground prisons. He told America’s Conservative Voice he was not at liberty to discuss his incarceration nor the charges against him, as his prosecution is ongoing.

The late Obadiah Mailafia, a Nigerian government official who died in a Jos, Nigeria hospital this year after hiding underground for three years, publishing opinion pieces on any website that would give him space, was arrested in 2020 and spent several weeks in prison before being allowed to leave jail on his own recognizance in order to be treated for cancer.

One of his opinion pieces caught the eye of Fox News journalist Lara Logan, who picked up the Nigerian ethnic cleansing story for a documentary series that streamed on Fox Nation in October.

In all, more than 43,000 Christians have been slaughtered since 2015 by radical Islamist mercenaries in the Middle Belt provinces, or by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The first Western journalist to report that information was Logan. The ethnic cleansing occurring in Nigeria, however, has received scant attention from other media outlets in Europe or the U.S.

“Broadly speaking,” said Jonathan Rozen, CPI-Africa’s senior program researcher, “freedom of the press is under threat in Nigeria when journalists fear they will be arrested and detained for their work. Lara Logan’s docuseries probably got the attention of Nigerian authorities and that’s why Binniyat is in jail again.”

Mike Nichols is an advocate of the counterrevolution with a four-step plan to defeat Fascism: We organize, we stand, we resist, we fight.. He has a regular blog at America’s Conservative Voice on Substack and a Facebook presence at Americas Conservative Voice-Facebook.


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