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US places Nigeria on Special Watch List over ‘severe violation of religious freedom’

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THE United States Government says it decided to place Nigeria on its Special Watch List (SWL) over “severe violations of religious freedom,” describing its action as a renewed commitment to promoting the fundamental human rights.

Aside from Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan which had been on the watch list, the US government resolved to add up Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan.

“These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protecting those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief.  We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience,” says Mike Pompeo in a statement released on Friday.

“We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions.”

Citing the Chinese government and its Communist party officials as an instance, where it restricted Visa issuance, the US government emphasised that the action was to discourage governments from tolerating severe violations of human rights.

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In Nigeria, Pompeo labeled Boko Haram as ‘Entities of particular Concern’, apparently the reason the country was listed in the new category.

“Finally, we designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.”

According to the Global Conflict Tracker, an initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations (cfr)  the number of casualties resulting from Boko Haram insurgency is estimated at 37, 500 as of May 2011.

It stressed that not less than 2.5 million persons have also been displaced while nearly 244, 000 have become refugees.

Although the Federal Government of Nigeria claimed to have defeated the insurgents technically, the group still remains a great threat in the northeastern part of the country.

“Our actions have been and will continue to be, consistent with our position on religious freedom.  No country, entity, or individual should be able to persecute people of faith without accountability.  We have acted, and we will continue to do so,” he added.

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