We are Nigerians and Nigerian Americans who came together to educate Americans about the plight of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who have been taken captive. We aim to build an activist human rights movement to enlist America and its power to free the slaves:
Pastor Ayo Adedoyin
Dr. Oluwasayo Ajiboye
President, Mission Africa International
Co-Founder, International Committee on Nigeria
CEO and President, Stefanos Foundation
The Venerable Dr. Samuel Orimogunje and Deborah Orimogunje
Archdeacon for Long Island in the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word
Dr. Gloria Puldu
President, LEAH Foundation
Suleman A. D. Sukukum
For decades, extremist Muslims have insisted on the implementation of Shari‘ah and have defied the Nigerian legal system to prove their point. This has given grounds for forced conversions and abductions; more recently, the situation has progressed to kidnapping for ransom on a large scale where people are taken captive and treated as slaves.
Nigeria’s population is evenly distributed between a Muslim-majority North, Christian-majority South, and a mixture of ethnic Christians, Muslims, and animists in the Middle Belt areas. Unlike in the U.S., where diverse peoples are treated equally regardless of religion, Nigerian Christians, as well as the animist minority, neither enjoy equal rights nor are blessed with channels by which grievances can be effectively redressed. The current government, dominated by the Fulani Muslims, has acted as though it does not care about protecting the tens of millions of Nigerians who are Christians. It is now enacting laws and policies, both federally and on a State level, further subjugating and limiting the rights of Christians and other non-Muslim ethnic groups.
Since the rise of the terrorist organization Boko Haram, Christians, largely school children, but often girls, are kidnapped and forced into slavery. The girls are distributed among the terrorists to be “married” as concubines, and the boys are beaten and brainwashed into becoming child soldiers.
There is a rising sense of impunity with which non-Muslims may be attacked and persecuted, which the government enables by refraining from using its military power to stop the violence. It has treated other groups perceived as Christian, like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the anti-Special Armed Robbery Squad (End SARS) protesters, with similar contempt. Those who harm, persecute, and enslave non-Muslims are not arrested, rather they are rewarded as “repentant terrorists” or “repentant Boko Haram” fighters, and are then integrated into society and even the Nigerian army. Once in the army, they continue to act for Boko Haram’s interests, thereby holding the whole system to ransom and thwarting legitimate efforts to fight the terrorists and rescue non-Muslim slaves.
The reality of Boko Haram jihad slavery in Nigeria first came to Western attention with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “#BringBackOurGirls” hashtag in the wake of the abduction of 276 Christian girls from the town of Chibok on April 14, 2014.
Today, however, many of those girls remain as slaves, and the world has largely forgotten. Even with more slaves having been taken since then, girls like Leah Sharibu, who remains a slave to this day for her refusal to renounce her faith in Christ. Journalistic and political pressure on the Nigerian government to crack down on this outrage and free these slaves has been unimpressive at best. We also are greatly disappointed in the human rights community for failing to bring adequate attention and publicity to this issue, precisely we suspect, because it is politically incorrect.
The U.S. State Department’s 2019 human rights report on Nigeria does not give an official figure for the number of people enslaved by jihadists, but says that it could be in the thousands. One is too many, and that is the reason for this Committee’s formation.
This is why we have published this open letter to Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN, District 5). As the only native African serving in the U.S. Congress, we Nigerians ask her to lend her immense political and moral power to helping free our people. Some of these slaves are Muslims, and Representative Omar has the opportunity to make a stand for peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria by denouncing this violence, and the use of slavery as a weapon of jihad.
We fervently hope that her good will, and the good will of the American people, can help bring a peaceful end to the crisis in Nigeria, and to the existence of what the abolitionist David Livingstone called the “open sore of the world” on African soil today.
The Ad Hoc Committee for Free the Slaves of Nigeria