US places Nigeria on watch list for “Violating religious freedom”

By Isa Amodu

The United State has announced that it has placed Nigeria on a Special Watch List for tolerating “severe violations of religious freedom.”

Alos added to the list are Cuba and Nicaragua.

“No country, entity, or individual will be able to persecute people of faith with impunity,” United States’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo said. “These religious freedom designations show that when faith is attacked, we will act.”

However there is no official response from the Nigerian government yet.

The West African country may be designated Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 if religious persecutions continue, the State Department said.

Although the State Department said in a statement that Nigeria is on the SWL list, a report published by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom showed the country is already classified as a CPC.

USCIRF said “continued systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief” in Nigeria should have earned the country a place on the official CPC list since 2009.

The US accused the Nigerian government of tolerating violence and discrimination based on religion or belief, and suppression of the freedom to manifest religion or belief.

It said religious sectarian violence increased in 2018, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity.

“The Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” USCIRF said.

Legacy of intolerance
It is not the only the American government that has accused Nigeria of systemic religious intolerance and persecution.

Recalled that, IMN leader, Ibrahim El Zakzaky has been in detention since 2015 after Nigeria’s military troops descended on his group for allegation of road blockage during a religious procession in Zaria.

Amnesty said about 350 members of the group were killed in the violence and were buried in mass graves. But the official figure admitted by the Kaduna state government was 347 while the IMN said at least a thousand of its followers were massacred by the Nigerian army.