For the second time in a row, the United States has designated Nigeria amongst Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) guilty of “egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Nigeria was added to the CPC after an indictment by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in 2019.
“Religious freedom conditions in Nigeria trended negatively in 2018. The Nigerian government at the national and state levels continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief,” the 2018 report from the commission, released in 2019, read.
The report added that “religious sectarian violence increased during the year, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity.”
Another case cited was the violation of rights of Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), whose leader Sheikh Ibrahim El Zaky Zaky is still in detention despite a court ordering his release.
As a result of the commission’s report, the U. S government re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 while Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan were added to this list,”
The country also 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.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the U.S. Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, on Monday, Nigeria has been re-designated as CPC for the second time.
“Religious freedom is an unalienable right, and the bedrock upon which free societies are built and flourish. Today, the United States – a nation founded by those fleeing religious persecution, as the recent Commission on Unalienable Rights report noted – once again took action to defend those who simply want to exercise this essential freedom.”
“The United States is designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom,” the statement read.
Mr Pompeo stated that the U.S. has not renewed the prior Entity of Particular Concern designations for al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan, due to the total loss of territory formerly controlled by these terrorist organizations.
“While these two groups no longer meet the statutory criteria for designation, we will not rest until we have fully eliminated the threat of religious freedom abuses by any violent extremist and terrorist groups,” he said.
On the achievements recorded, he announced that Sudan and Uzbekistan have been removed from the Special Watch List based on significant progress undertaken by their respective governments over the past year.
He cited courageous reforms of their laws and practices as models for other nations to follow.
“And yet our work is far from complete. The United States will continue to work tirelessly to end religiously motivated abuses and persecution around the world, and to help ensure that each person, everywhere, at all times, has the right to live according to the dictates of conscience.”
As of the time of this report, the Nigerian government has not reacted to the latest stance of the U.S. government.