From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The United States has placed Nigeria on its religious freedom blacklist.
It did not state why Nigeria was blacklisted but said “no country or entity should be allowed to persecute people with impunity because of their beliefs.”
United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, in a statement released in Washington DC, said religious freedom is an unalienable right and the bedrock upon which free societies are built and flourish.
Pompeo said: “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.’
“We are also placing the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated ‘severe violations of religious freedom.’
“The US is unwavering in its commitment to religious freedom. 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.
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement in Abuja described the allegation as a case of honest disagreement between the two nations on the causes of violence in Nigeria.
“Nigeria does not engage in religious freedom violation, neither does it have a policy of religious persecution. Victims of insecurity and terrorism in the country are adherents of Christianity, Islam and other religions,’’ Mohammed said.
Mohammed added that Nigeria jealously protected religious freedom as enshrined in the country’s constitution and took seriously, any infringements in that regard.
Also reacting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said government would engage the US to express its displeasure and request that Nigeria be removed from the list of countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, in a statement said: “The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to an announcement made by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stating that the Government of the United States of America has designated Nigeria as a ‘country of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998’.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria received the news with surprise, that a secular country under a democratic government would be so designated. Although the Nigerian state is multi-religious and multi-ethnic, the Nigerian constitution expressly states that the Government shall not adopt any religion as State religion,” the minister said.
When contacted, General Secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Joseph Daramola, is convinced the US must have studied the religious situation in Nigeria and other affected countries before arriving at the decision.
“It’s a wakeup call to Nigerian government. US government have their reliable information system superior technology and human capacity that are independent of any interested party across the world. They equally have their measures to determine the level of religious intolerance in Nigeria and any other country of the world.
“Our political leaders have also worsened the matter. They are not sincere with governance system and respect for the people. It’s a known fact that Nigeria has never been this bad in terms of economy, security, human rights and several others. There’s bloodletting everywhere in Nigeria and it seems government has lacked knowledge of what to do about it.”
But Deputy Secretary General, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Prof. Salisu Shehu, said he would not speak on the matter until he gets clearance from the Sultan.
Source: The Sun