News

November 18, 2021

Nigeria must be redesignated on religious violators’ list — US agency

Buhari-Biden

President Buhari, Joe Biden / Photo: Twitter

By Arogbonlo Israel

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF, says it finds it unexplainable that the US Department of State did not redesignate Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) and treated it as a country with no severe religious freedom violations.

Recall the US had in 2020 placed Nigeria and six other countries on its special watch list of states that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom.

But in a statement signed by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, Nigeria was, however, missing from the list of countries designated in the 2021 list for religious violations, a development that stirred reactions on public space.

Reacting, the US agency in a statement published on its official website (uscirf.gov) on Wednesday, faulted the removal of Nigeria from the CPC list.

According to USCIRF, the US State Department treated Nigeria as a country with no severe religious freedom violations, a development the agency kicked against.

“USCIRF is disappointed that the State Department did not adopt our recommendations in designating the countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom.

“While the State Department took steps forward on some designations, USCIRF is especially displeased with the removal of Nigeria from its CPC designation, where it was rightfully placed last year, as well as the omission of India, Syria, and Vietnam. We urge the State Department to reconsider its designations based on facts presented in its own reporting,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza.

“Pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), the countries the State Department designated as CPCs are Burma, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, all besides Russia previously had been designated. USCIRF recommended CPC designation for all 10 in its 2021 Annual Report and also recommended that India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam be designated as CPCs.

“The State Department placed on its “Special Watch List” (SWL) Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua. USCIRF recommended in its 2021 Annual Report that Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan also be placed on the SWL. USCIRF recently released a factsheet reiterating its CPC and SWL recommendations, which explains the religious freedom violations in these countries supporting USCIRF’s recommendations.

“While USCIRF is concerned about the lack of designations for countries USCIRF recommended, Russia’s designation for the first time as a CPC for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom is welcomed. USCIRF has proposed this action since 2017,” Maenza added.

“For years, USCIRF has raised the alarm regarding the Russian government’s purge of ‘non-traditional’ religions and religious freedom repression,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Nury Turkel.

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“USCIRF also applauds the inclusion of Algeria in the State Department’s SWL designations this year, which USCIRF has recommended since 2020 due to continued enforcement of blasphemy laws and restrictions on houses of worship for minority religious communities.

“USCIRF also welcomed the State Department’s designations of nine Entities of Particular Concern (EPCs), which are non-state actors that engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom pursuant to IRFA.

“USCIRF recommended the designation of seven of these actors including al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), and the Taliban in its 2021 Annual Report.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government has commended the United States Government for removing Nigeria from its list of countries that trample religious freedom.

This was contained in a statement released on Thursday by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.

The minister said the removal of Nigeria from the list of religious freedom violators was long overdue, saying that the West African country does not engage in any religious freedom violation.

Vanguard News Nigeria