On Dec. 21, President Trump sanctioned 52 human rights archvillains under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (GMHRAA). It empowers the president to deny visas and freeze the assets of foreign officials complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights to retaliate against persons for seeking to expose government lawlessness or to exercise internationally recognized freedoms, including freedoms of religion, expression, association, and assembly and the rights to a fair trial and democratic elections.
Mr. Trump erred in refraining from sanctioning the archvillain of human rights archvillains: Nigeria’s President and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari.
Among other things, he has turned Nigeria into a Gethsemane or Golgotha for 50 million Biafran Christians. They are more endangered in Mr. Buhari’s Nigeria than in any other country in the world.
Mr. Trump affirmed earlier to Christian Broadcasting Network anchor David Brody that helping Christians abroad was a “priority.” Last May 11, speaking at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, Vice President Mike Pence singled out Nigeria as a nation where Christians “confront intimidation, forced conversion, abuse, assault, and worse” for practicing their religion.
Mr. Buhari has welcomed sharia law in twelve northern Nigerian states. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Christian leaders in the northern states continued to report to USCIRF that state governments discriminate against Christians by denying applications to build or repair places of worship, access to education, representation in government bodies, and employment. They also reported that Christian girls are abducted by Muslim men to be brides.”
The USIRF recommended that Nigeria be listed as a Country of Particular Concern; and, that President Trump invoke the GMHRAA to sanction Nigerian officials complicit in violations of religious freedom.
Mr. Buhari balked at the request of the Christian Association of Nigeria to withdraw Nigeria from the Organization of Islamic Countries, which makes Christians second-class citizens.
In addition to persecuting Christians, Mr. Buhari is complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture, and gross violations of the right of peaceful assembly and protest. Biafrans have been Mr. Buhari’s prime victims, especially members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). It employs Mahatma Gandhi-like peaceful methods in support of restructuring Nigeria to remedy the longstanding persecution of Biafrans because of their religion and ethnicity from the Muslim Hausa-Fulani controlled central government. (In 1960, Great Britain handed the reigns of power in Nigeria to its toadies and denied Biafrans a self-determination vote required by decolonization mandates of the United Nations.)
According to the State Department’s Human Rights Report, since January 2016, in response to peaceful restructuring agitation by pro-Biafra campaigners, Nigerian security forces arbitrarily arrested and killed at least 100 members and supporters of IPOB. Some arrestees were subjected to enforced disappearance.
On Feb. 9, soldiers and police officers shot at about 200 IPOB members who had gathered for a prayer meeting at the National High School in Aba, in Abia state. Video footage showed soldiers shooting at peaceful and unarmed IPOB members; at least 17 people were killed and scores injured.
On May 29 and 30, at least 60 people were killed in a joint security operation carried out by the army, police, Department of State Security (DSS) and navy. Pro-Biafra campaigners had gathered to celebrate Biafra Remembrance Day in Onitsha. No investigation into these killings had been initiated by the end of the year.
Without due process, Mr. Buhari ordered the dissolution and punishment of IPOB as a terrorist organization, a ludicrous characterization disputed by the United States. Mr. Buhari disappeared IPOB’s de facto leader Namdi Kanu after the Nigerian Army attacked his home with live bullets and lethal weapons. In sum, Mr. Buhari is blocking all avenues of peaceful redress for Biafrans.
The Trump administration has vocally condemned gross human rights violations in Burma, North Korea, and Iran. Under the GMHRAA, it has listed Maung Maung Soe of the Burmese Army’s Western Command under the for military operations in Rakhine State responsible for widespread human rights abuse against Rohinga civilians; and, former President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia for employing a terror and assassination squad to cow or kill his political opponents. Mr. Buhari’s human rights crimes against Christians, Biafrans and Namdi Kanu are indistinguishable.
But instead of listing Mr. Buhari for sanctions, President Trump has sold him $600 million in high-technology attack planes and equipment ostensibly to use against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in West Africa and Boko Haram. Depend upon it. Those weapons will be diverted in whole or in part to terrorize Biafran Christians and IPOB.
• Aloy Ejimakor is counsel to the Indigenous People of Biafra.