900 civilians died in Nigeria's Imo state in just 29 months; most were Christians, human rights group say

Friday, Jun. 02, 2023
By OSV News

A leading Nigerian human rights organization has published a report with sobering statistics on summary executions, maiming, forced disappearances and illegal detentions in Imo state of southeast Nigeria.

Presenting the report during a press conference May 21, Emeka Umeagbalasi, a Catholic human rights activist and chairman of the Intersociety organization, said that in just 29 months, from January 2021 to May 2023, “security forces and allied militias killed 900 unarmed citizens, wounded 700, arrested 3,500, extorted 1,400, disappeared 300.”

In addition, the report said 1,200 civilian houses were burned down, displacing 30,000 owners and their families and forcing 500,000 citizens to flee.

According to the report, non-state actors, such as Fulani jihadists and other militias, were responsible for most of the deaths – 700 – and for an additional 900 kidnappings that occurred during the same time period.

Most of those killed in Imo state and elsewhere in southeast Nigeria might have been targeted because of their Christian faith, the report’s authors stressed.

Umeagbalasi said that people are slain based on their ethnicity and religion, and he criticized the Nigerian police for rarely looking into the crimes.

“We are not against the police and security agencies performing their jobs,” Umeagbalasi told journalists, “but they have to do that within the confines of the law.”

“You don’t leave the fighting parties” and “turn a blind eye” on civilians, he said.

The organization confirmed at the press conference that houses of worship had been pillaged in Imo state, with 200 synagogues and 300 temples of traditional beliefs being burned down or destroyed – on the mere suspicion that they serve as support centers for local separatist movements.

“There is no evidence whatsoever to this claim,” said Umeagbalasi, who is originally from the Archdiocese of Onitsha.

“You cannot kill every Muslim in the north and tag them Boko Haram. You cannot go to a mosque and burn down the mosque and say it’s a training ground for Boko Haram,” Umeagbalasi said, referring to a terrorist group targeting Christians, but stressing that Christians never take that kind of vindictive approach.

On April 10, a previous report by Intersociety revealed that over 50,000 Christians had been killed in Nigeria since the 2009 Islamic uprising in Africa’s most populous nation. The government of President Muhhamadu Buhari has maintained silence in the face of the killings since it took power in 2015, according to Catholic groups.

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