JOS—Global rights activists have called for the prosecution of Nigeria's former President Muhammadu Buhari for his alleged role in allowing religious massacres to occur throughout his eight-year leadership of Africa's most populous nation.
Buhari stepped down as president on May 29, after being in office since 2015.
Activists speaking to The Epoch Times say his alleged complicity in the face of widespread religious massacres amounts to war crimes for which he should be prosecuted.
“In spite of Buhari’s promises not to govern in favor of Islamic supremacy and to defend Christians from persecution at the onset of his term, increases in violence and a lack of Government intervention followed,” said Greg Young, an American pastor who has visited Nigeria and maintained close relations there for more than two decades.
“The [recent] massacre at the Christian college [in Kaduna], the kidnapping of the 144 [Yobe school] girls—and of Leah Sharibu and her continued captivity—the murder of [Sokoto Christian student] Deborah Emmanuel, the relocation of ISIS to Nigeria … these are all attributable to Buhari and his support of Islamic supremacy,” said Young in text messages to The Epoch Times.
“As to [President Joe] Biden and this administration, one needs look no further than their response in India where 269 Christian churches are burned and their response is to call for protection of Muslims.
"This translates to their absolute silence to this Nigerian government’s genocidal behavior and enslaving of Christians and their support of an election that reeks of corruption.
"Since 2015, Nigeria has become a bastion for terrorists and Islamic jihadists. And the leader has been Buhari from the presidential palace,” wrote Young.
Both local and international observers have ruled the elections, declared in favor of the candidate of Buhari’s political party, were marred by violence and irregularities. Two leading opposition candidates in the elections are currently challenging the results in court.
In the first quarter of 2023 alone, Islamic extremists killed more than 1,080 Christians according to the international crime-tracking non-profit known as intersociety.
At least 5100 were killed last year, says Intersociety in a report mailed to The Epoch Times.
The attacks—blamed on terrorists who identify as members of Buhari’s Fulani ethnicity—started on May 16 with the killing of 50 villagers in a town called Funzai and spread to several surrounding villages, according to town leaders speaking to The Epoch Times.
This happened in the weeks leading up to the inauguration of the state’s new governor-elect who is a Christian from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
Governor Caleb Mutfwang, who was inaugurated at the same time as Tinubu on May 29, hails from Mangu. Lawmakers speaking to The Epoch Times have alleged the killings were intended to intimidate his supporters and increase ethnic displacements before the inauguration.
The Fulani, a large ethnic group in West Africa has been accused of thousands of genocidal massacres and village takeovers in Nigeria.
“They want to grab more lands and force more demographic replacements before Buhari, who is their grand patron, leaves office,” said Solomon Maren, a member of the Nigerian National Assembly.
During one of the attacks on May 16, The Epoch Times team came under heavy gunfire from an estimated 500 Fulani-speaking terrorists in a town called Kyampus.
The entire 250 to 300 brick houses in the village were engulfed in flames when the team arrived at 12:05 p.m. accompanied by 100 soldiers and policemen.
At the time, six victims of the terrorists lay dead in different parts of the town.
Only 10 local youths who had tried unsuccessfully to defend the area with their hunting rifles and homemade single-shot guns emerged from the surrounding mountains.
At 12:15 p.m., while The Epoch Times team was capturing photographs of the smoldering village, the terrorists—who had retreated to the western edge of town and hidden behind the trees—unleashed automatic gunfire and advanced to retake control of the town.
Despite a fierce resistance from the military and police, who arrived in 15 pickup trucks, the black tunic-clad terrorists, shouting "Allahu Akbar” [God is great], pressed on with the attack.
No terrorist was killed in the firefight which lasted until about 1 o'clock when the military retreated after running low on ammunition, according to their commanders.
Two military trucks were attacked by the terrorists who later encamped in a valley one mile northwest of the town where they were joined by reinforcements on motorcycles.
By the sunset of that day, 85 victims of the terrorists were buried, according to the leader of a local development association, Joseph Gwankat.
“We buried 85 people on the first day of the attacks,” said Gwankat at a news conference in Jos on May 19. “And after we left, some others were still buried, raising the death toll to 125.”
Until he left office, Buhari did not condemn the attacks despite two large protests by youths in Jos who accused him of complicity. Hours to the end of his term on May 28, Buhari claimed his “battle to ensure that all Nigerians live in a safe and secure environment has achieved considerable results.”
Rights activists have refuted the claims.
“I have visited Nigeria many times and personally witnessed much of the horrific suffering inflicted on civilians by the violence which continues to this day—and is perhaps escalating,” wrote Baroness Caroline Cox, a member of the UK House of Lords.
“Several villages have been attacked and nearly 200 people killed in March and April alone in Benue state and Southern Kaduna,” wrote Cox in an email to The Epoch Times.
“Perpetrators of these attacks are rarely, if ever, brought to justice by Nigerian authorities,” Cox wrote, calling for global interventions.
Robert Reilly, a U.S. veteran and former diplomat, said the Nigerian authorities under Buhari were complicit and he called for global actions on the attacks which, according to him, are “often excused—including by the U.S. State Department—as a dispute between herders and farmers.”
“Vladimir Putin's "special operation" against Ukraine has been vigorously denounced in the West. It's time for equally vigorous denunciations of the "special operation" against Nigerian Christians,” wrote Reilly in an email to The Epoch Times.
Reilly currently serves as director of the Westminster Institute in the United States.
The attacks in Nigeria are ethnic and religious cleansing on a large scale, says Andrew Boyd, the Spokesman for Release International, a UK-based charity that works on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide.
“It comes as no surprise that protesters have taken to the streets to make their voices heard regarding the growing escalation of violence and the lack of protection offered by the Nigerian military and the authorities,” wrote Boyd to The Epoch Times in an email.