Nigerian government denies Christians are being targeted

(Photo: Unsplash/Joshua Oluwagbemiga)

The Nigerian government has dismissed claims that Christians in the country are being disproportionately affected by violent attacks.

Nigeria's Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, alleged in an interview that international concerns about the plight of Christians are based on misunderstandings.

"It is not true that Nigeria persecutes anybody on account of his or her faith," he said, according to US-based International Christian Concern (ICC).

He claimed that the violence in the country was the result of "criminality" and that "the criminals really do not make the distinction of any religion".

He suggested that Muslims were equally caught up in the spiralling insecurity and that as far as he knew, only the terrorist group, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), is targeting Christians.

"If statistics is to be taken [sic], I can say confidently that as many Muslims as Christians have been victims of these criminals," Mohammed said.

ICC said his statement was "concerning" and "ignores the continuous attacks on Christians by Fulani militants" and Boko Haram, the group that ISWAP split off from.

Fulani militants were recently named by ICC as the "Persecutor of the Year" because of violent attacks on Nigerian Christians.

"Furthermore, Christians face a significantly higher amount of attacks and persecution than Muslims, which ICC has recognized," the religious freedom group said.

"Please pray for an end to the continued persecution of Nigerian Christians and the recognition by the Nigerian government of the threats to Christianity in Nigeria," it added.