THE United States has again named Nigeria as one of the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) under its International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 guilty of tolerating religious persecution.
Michael Pompeo, the US Secretary of States announced this in a statement on Monday.
Other countries named are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan
“Today the U.S. designates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations,” he said.
The statement added that the US is unwavering in its commitment to religious freedom and will always act when religious freedom is attacked.
“No country or entity should be allowed to persecute people with impunity because of their beliefs. These annual designations show that when religious freedom is attacked, we will act.”
In December 2019, Nigeria was added alongside Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Nicaragua and Sudan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” by the US following a report by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
According to the report, religious freedom conditions in Nigeria trended negatively in 2018. It accused the Nigerian government at the national and state levels of
continuing to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis
of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief.
It noted that religious sectarian violence increased during the year, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity accusing the Nigerian federal government of failing to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable.
The report USCIRF that Boko-Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-West Africa (ISIS-WA) continued to perpetrate attacks against civilians and the military throughout the year, despite Nigerian government’s claims of progress in defeating them.
In addition, members of the military and the civilian joint task force in Borno were accused of human rights violations against civilians displaced by conflict.
It also cited how the Nigerian military and government continued to violate the religious freedom and human rights of the Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) with IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim ElZakzaky remaining in detention, along with his wife against court judgement granting them bail.