World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC Executive Committee / Edinburgh, September 2010 / Statement on the situation in Nigeria

Statement on the situation in Nigeria

Statement on the situation in Nigeria of the Executive Committee of the Word Council of Churches

17 September 2010

WCC Executive Committee

         14-17 September 2010

Edinburgh, Scotland

1. Nigeria – the most populous country in Africa, a global oil producer, a leader in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and a major peacekeeping contributing country – has been wracked by a series of crises. The country has been characterized as deeply divided in which major political issues are violently contested along the lines of the complex ethnic, religious and regional divisions. Although the nation has annual oil revenues in the billions of dollars the majority of Nigerians live on what amounts to less than a dollar a day.

2. While democracy permits greater freedom of religious expression in Nigeria in the post-military regime, frictions between ethnic groups have been increasing in several parts of the country. The ethnic conflicts and disputes over land and resources often crystallize as religious conflicts. During the past few years thousands of people have been killed in ethnic clashes and communal violence. Behind these conflicts lie the economic and political interests of the elite in each state.

3. Many Nigerians consider that the real reason for the violence is not ethnic or religious difference but the greed for land, control of resources and political clout. Poverty, joblessness and corrupt politics drive religious extremists from both sides to commit horrendous atrocities. Politicization of religion and the rise of religious fundamentalism are increasing trends in many parts of the country.

4. The Plateau State in northern Nigeria is often affected with horrendous inter-ethnic clashes. Earlier in 2010 more than 500 people were killed in communal violence near the city of Jos. What began as a competition between Muslim cattle herders from the north and Christian farmers from the south was portrayed as a religious conflict. Although religion plays a major role in the context, the fact remains that the real reason for the conflict is between settled, indigenous farmers and nomadic herdsmen who belong to different religious groups.

5. Meanwhile the competition for oil wealth has been fuelling violence between different ethnic groups further south in the Niger Delta. The situation has intensified militarization in the entire region. It is commonly perceived that the militia groups and gangs have sufficient firepower seriously to challenge the authority of Nigeria’s military and police forces. The plight of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta is another major problem, which has yet to be resolved.

6. The World Council of Churches (WCC), the ecumenical movement and wider international community have been highlighting the ethnic and environmental rights of the Ogoni people at various international fora.

7. The absence of law enforcement mechanisms and increase in criminal activities and social disintegration are major concerns to Nigerians. Human rights groups and civil society organizations have pointed out serious violations of human rights, especially extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other unlawful killings in several parts of the country. In any context where human rights and human dignity have been systematically abused, victims and witnesses deserve to be protected and any evidence gathered needs to be preserved. However, experiences in Nigeria have proved that victims of crimes and human rights violations are fearful of seeking justice because of growing impunity from prosecution enjoyed by those perpetuating crimes. It is imperative, therefore, to determine whether crimes have been committed which fall within the purview of the International Criminal Court (ICC), especially since Nigeria is party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

8. The World Council of Churches and its member churches in Nigeria have been concerned about the deteriorating situation there. On several occasions recently, WCC General Secretaries have expressed their concern to the authorities in Nigeria and also expressed pastoral solidarity to churches in the country. In May 2010 the WCC organized a Living Letter Team visit to Nigeria in collaboration with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN). The team visited the conflict-affected areas in the Plateau State and the capital of the country, met with various church and ecumenical leaders in the country and also with the victims of human rights violations in Jos. Nigeria requires honest and capable leadership and good governance to reduce the level of unemployment, poverty, oppression, domination and marginalization and to raise the standard of living for all Nigerians.

While the WCC continues to be concerned about the situation in Nigeria, the executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Musselburgh/Edinburgh, Scotland, 14-17 September 2010:

A. Calls on all ethnic and religious groups to support and encourage peace and reconciliation, communal and religious harmony, at all levels in Nigerian society;

B. Expresses its grave concern concerning extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other killings in Nigeria;

C. Urges the government of Nigeria to act promptly to investigate, prosecute and take action against those responsible for the crimes;

D. Urges the federal and state governments to take adequate measures to ensure the rule of law and to reassure the victims on all sides, in order to rebuild the confidence of the communities that government cares about their well being;

E. Requests member churches, ecumenical agencies and councils of churches to keep the situation in Nigeria under close review and to advocate with their respective governments and regional and international governmental bodies to help the Nigerian government make qualitative differences in improving the human rights situation, good governance and democratic principles;

F. Encourages the churches in Nigeria in their witness for human rights, justice and peace in Nigeria through interfaith efforts to promote peace, reconciliation and overcoming of violence;

G. Assures the churches in Nigeria of the fervent prayers and support of the WCC as they continue to bear witness and assume the burden of costly discipleship.

Approved by consensus by the WCC Executive Committee, 17 September, 2010, Musselburgh/Edinburgh, Scotland.