Letter to Secretary of State Blinken Regarding the Deteriorating Situation in Nigeria, March 19, 2021
March 19, 2021
The Honorable Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
United States State Department
2100 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken:
As Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace I write to express my deep concern for the deteriorating situation in Nigeria and to support the recent statement issued by the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) the Most Reverend Augustine Obiora Akubeze. I attach this statement for your reference.
Archbishop Akubeze points out that throughout its post-colonial history, Nigeria has been a resilient country even to the point of overcoming a brutal civil war and decades of autocratic rule. In many ways Nigeria’s diversity and size has been a blessing in that conflict and violence in one area of the country did not spread to other regions, until recently. Despite this, for the last ten years, the CBCN has raised the alarm in response to the rise of Boko Haram, growing ethnic tensions, and the constant violence between herders and farmers. In every statement they have called on the government and all men and women of good will to stop the violence, reimpose the rule of law, address the root causes of violence such as government inaction, corruption and the reign of impunity that has existed for years.
Archbishop Akubeze’s latest message signals a turning point. He tells us that the country is falling apart, on the brink of collapse and its very survival is at stake. The fundamental cause of this state of urgency is clear, “those who have assumed the duty and authority to secure the nation are either unable – or worse still, unwilling – to take up the responsibilities of their office.”
The rise in the number of self-defense groups and non-state actors threaten security and indicate how little confidence people have in their government to protect the common good. Their demands are shifting from practical reforms such as greater autonomy to calls for secession. The CBCN calls on President Buhari, “…to govern the nation; not according to ethnic and religious biases but along the lines of objective and positive principles of fairness, equity and, above all, justice.”
For the last ten years the United States has recognized the importance of addressing state fragility and the need to prevent the rise of destructive conflict. Congress passed the Elie Wiesel Atrocities Prevention Act and the Global Fragility act. Past Administrations have begun to develop and implement the strategies to stop violent conflict and resolve the issues that cause it.
During this same period conflict in Nigeria has risen in intensity and has spread to more and more states in the country. The CBCN calls on the Nigerian Government to muster the political will to conduct wide ranging judicial and administrative reforms to rebuild confidence in government. They also call for broad based dialogue between government and the people and between peoples of different ethnicities and religions to change the narrative from one of ethnic and communal violence to dialogue and collaboration between ethnicities and religious leaders.
I urge you to heed this call and to work with the CBCN, other faith communities and civil society to build a strong constituency for reform, dialogue and efforts to stop the violence and promote local peacebuilding efforts. I would like to thank you for the recent USAID allocation of $104 million for humanitarian relief to those affected by the conflict and for the $505 million in FY 2020-21.
On March 12, 2020 I wrote your predecessor with a similar plea and proposed strategic recommendations for action (letter attached). It is tragic that those recommendations are still relevant and more urgent today. It is time for all to intensify our efforts to address the fragile situation in Nigeria before it becomes a failed state.
Please do not hesitate to contact our Committee staff and Church leaders in Nigeria to explore ways we can work together to meet Archbishop Akubeze’s goals.
Most Reverend David J. Malloy
Bishop of Rockford
Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace