Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said this week that U.S. President Donald Trump confronted him in 2018 about the mass killings of Christians in Nigeria.
President Trump hosted Buhari at the White House in April 2018, where they discussed fighting Islamic terrorism in Nigeria and expanding trade between the two nations. Buhari discussed the 2018 meeting on Monday at a press conference held at his presidential palace in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Nigerian newspaper This Day reported on Tuesday.
“I was in his office, only myself and himself. Only God is my witness,” Buhari said. “He looked at me in the face. He said ‘Why are you killing Christians?'”
Buhari did not elaborate on his answer.
The alleged question referred to the worsening plight of Nigeria’s Christians, who have been increasingly attacked and killed by Muslim terrorists under Buhari’s tenure as president.
Nigeria has the largest Muslim population in West Africa. The country’s north is majority-Muslim and home to Borno State, the stronghold of Islamic terror group Boko Haram. For several years, Boko Haram has waged a jihadist campaign in Nigeria’s northeast, which has spread to neighboring countries in the Lake Chad region, such as Cameroon. In recent months, the terrorist group has taken advantage of lockdowns and restrictions on people’s movement during the coronavirus pandemic to launch a resurgent campaign in northeastern Nigeria.
The campaign has targeted Christians, in particular, Breitbart News reported on Wednesday. The U.S.-based Catholic news outlet Crux said on August 22 that Nigeria was fast becoming the “biggest killing ground of Christians in the world” due to a recent spike in attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani militants, a mainly Muslim ethnic group of cattle herders. Crux cited recent reports by International Christian Concern, which estimates that “between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians have been killed by radical Islamists” in Nigeria over the past decade.
Nigerian President Buhari publicly condemns both Boko Haram and Fulani attacks on Christians. However, Buhari – himself an ethnic Fulani and a Muslim – has received criticism both within Nigeria and abroad for his failure to meaningfully curtail the attacks. Nigerian activist Hamsatu Allamin spoke to National Geographic in March, shortly before the six-year anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of mostly Christian schoolgirls in Chibok in April 2014. She told the magazine that she suspects Nigeria’s leaders may have a financial incentive to turn a blind eye to the attacks.
“Boko Haram is a complete moneymaking venture for our leaders, the army, and the kidnappers,” she said, referring to the billions of dollars Nigeria has received from foreign governments and humanitarian aid groups to combat Boko Haram and assist rescue efforts to locate its captives.
In 2014, a British Air Force mission allegedly located the Chibok schoolgirls in the Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s known hideout in Borno State. The British Air Force offered to rescue the schoolgirls, but the Nigerian government declined the offer, according to the British prime minister at the time, David Cameron, who wrote about the incident in a 2019 memoir. Nigeria’s president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, reportedly lost a subsequent reelection in large part because of his poor handling of the situation.