Journalist’s Arrest Highlights Christian Persecution in Nigeria

Luka Binniyat
Luka Binniyat/Facebook

The imprisonment of a Nigerian journalist for reporting on attacks on Christians in highlights religious tensions in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, the Barnabas Fund reported Monday.

Officials of Kaduna State arrested Epoch Times journalist Luka Binniyat November 4 and charged him with transmitting electronic information known “to be false” under the nation’s Cybercrimes Act.

The charge is a federal offence carrying a penalty of three years in prison and Binniyat has not been offered bail and must be tried in a higher court.

A local source told the Barnabas Fund that Binniyat’s arrest “is aimed at silencing any dissenting voice and intimidating both Luka and the southern Kaduna communities.”

As Breitbart News reported, last July unidentified gunmen kidnapped some 140 Christian students from the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State.

At the time, protesters denounced the failure of civil authorities to protect their children from the bandits and Muslim Fulani raiders who have been carrying out the kidnappings with impunity.

“This government has abandoned the people of Kaduna,” said Mustapha Kumbe, the father of one of the kidnapped students. “We will continue to protest until our children come back.”

“Today is a day of mourning, as we grieve over what is the most serious attack and greatest tragedy to impact the Baptist community in Nigeria,” said Elijah Brown, CEO of the Baptist World Alliance. “I echo the words of a Baptist leader from Kaduna, ‘Our church is in serious pain.’”

Complaints of government inaction in the face of ongoing attacks on Christians in Kaduna State have been voiced for years.

In 2020, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) appealed to President Donald Trump and Pope Francis to intercede with their government to stop the “genocidal killings of Christians.”

Spokesmen for the group said they had made the appeal following a string of well-coordinated attacks on Christians by armed Islamists in Kaduna state.

“Since Nigerian State and the Kaduna state government are not treating these threats as a national emergency we have decided to let the world know the true state of things and we are happy that some organizations have made similar findings,” said a statement jointly signed by the HURIWA National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf.

“On the last count virtually all major Christian denominations in Kaduna State have witnessed dozens of attacks just as dozens of pastors have died in the cause of these targeted armed invasions and kidnapping,” the statement read. “We are not accusing the Kaduna state government of involvements but we are worried about the conspiratorial silence to these series of attacks.”

The rights group also expressed its deep concern that Christians are not represented in Kaduna state government, since the governor, deputy governor, and State House of Assembly speaker are all Muslims, despite constitutional provisions that members from different ethno-religious communities be represented in strategic posts.

The group insisted that this state of affairs is no accident, but rather “the Kaduna state government and the office of the Nigerian President are deeply entrenched in the selective appointments of mostly Moslems as holders of virtually all strategic positions.”

The effect of this is to consign “millions of Christians to the inglorious position of second-class citizens,” the statement said, making them “cannon fodder for the spiraling armed attacks by armed Islamists masquerading as herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits.”

“This is the fuel that has ignited widespread mistreatment of Christians,” the group asserts. “The incessant attacks by armed Islamists targeting only pastors; Christian schools and clerics of Christian denomination have become a national emergency.”

For his part, Binniyat has repeatedly challenged the Kaduna State government on the issue of security as well as the targeted killing of Christians in southern Kaduna.

Binniyat’s arrest was tied directly to a story he wrote on October 29 titled: “In Nigeria, Police Decry Massacres as ‘Wicked’ But Make No Arrests.” In his piece, Binniyat cited Senator Danjuma Laah, who criticized Kaduna’s Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan for concealing facts concerning a “genocide against Christians in the southern Kaduna State.”

Binniyat has “written a lot about the plight of the people under the persistent attacks by Islamist Fulani militia groups, and has challenged the narratives of the Kaduna State government on the issues of security and the killings in southern Kaduna,” the Barnabas Fund reported, citing their local source.

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