Calls to end government aid to Nigeria, following the mass killing and persecution of Christians are ‘understandable but misguided’ according to a spokesperson for the charity Open Doors UK & Ireland.
According to Stephen Rand, advisor to the Open Doors Advocacy team,
“If you simply cut all aid to Nigeria, the people who would genuinely suffer would be the poorest families and displaced communities living in camps. And that’s true around the world.
“A simple threat to withdraw aid is unlikely to change anything. Advocating for change is a much more complicated and drawn out process. But the effective and right use of UK Aid is a real issue – and one over which the UK government has control.”
The calls to end overseas aid to Nigeria have followed continued reports of mass killings of Christians by Islamic extremists in Nigeria’s north-eastern belt – with 14 Christians in Kogi state, Nigeria killed in a single attack last week.
An opinion poll by Savanta/Com Res found that 50 per cent of those aware of the situation supported or strongly supported a move to ‘withhold
all foreign aid to Nigeria until the persecution of Christians is ended’, with only 16 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
The findings were reported widely, with an editorial on Conservative Woman website declared ‘Scrap aid to Nigeria until Christians are safe’. According to Open Doors, the number of Christians in Nigeria killed last year is 1,350 – mostly from the Islamist fulani Herdsmen as well as Boko Haram. Many thousands more have been displaced from their homes.
There are no signs that the violence has abated during Covid-19, leading one Nigerian Bishop to declare the current situation a ‘genocide’. Campaigners have claimed that the current Nigerian government has done little to end the violence. A recent report from the UK All-Party.
Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief reported that:
“…there was consensus that the Nigerian government’s response to [the] conflict has been inadequate or ineffective… There is the belief that the lack of political will or capacity to address conflict is one of the main drivers of violence.”
However, Stephen is keen to point out that the same report does not suggest withdrawing UK aid: “Over £2bn in aid was given to Nigeria between
2011 and 2018 – that’s about £800,000 a day. The Covid pandemic will almost certainly mean that will have to be cut drastically next year. So it’s vital
that instead of threatening the Nigerian government, the UK government need to find ways to work with them and spend that money more wisely.”
He stresses the importance of directing aid to Nigeria’s middle belt, which runs between the largely Muslim north of the country and the mostly
Christian south. “That’s where the killings are taking place,” he said.
“We need to protect religious minorities from being subjected to discrimination, persecution and even genocide. And that process has to start with both the UK government and the Nigerian government recognising the very definite religious dimension to this slaughter.”
“As well as the thousands who have been killed, there have been an estimated 300,000 men, women and children displaced from their homes. They need shelter, food, and healthcare urgently. These families also deserve compensation and a chance to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. This is a waste of nobody’s money.”
Open Doors partners are currently taking vital food, aid and financial support to vulnerable Christians in the region who urgently need them – and have already identified more than 9,000 families in Nigeria who do not have a secure source of food.
Ben Cohen – Open Doors