February 3, 2023

US lawmakers ask Biden to re-designate Nigeria as religious freedom violator

United States lawmakers have asked President Joe Biden to re-designate Nigeria as a country of particular concern, CPC, for violations of religious freedom.

Nigeria was first designated as a CPC in December 2020 by the US department of state due to frequent religious conflicts and attacks on Christians by the Boko Haram sect.

But the country was taken off the list in November 2021, a move that angered many human rights organisations.

On Tuesday, lawmakers brought up a resolution urging the state department to put Nigeria back on the annual CPC list.

Chris Smith, the New Jersey representative, in a statement, said Christians bore the brunt of religious persecution in the country.

He said the Biden administration’s decision to exclude Nigeria from the list was an “unjustified decision”, adding that the re-inclusion was a “necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution”.

Smith said:  “Last year alone, 5,014 Christians were killed in Nigeria, accounting for nearly 90% of Christian deaths worldwide as well [as] 90% of Christian kidnappings across the globe.

“The Biden administration must act immediately and redesignate Nigeria as a country of particular concern to mitigate this alarming and growing threat to religious liberty.”

On his part, French Hill, the Arkansas representative, described Biden’s removal of Nigeria from the list as a “political move”.

“In 2020, Nigeria was a country of particular concern (CPC). Despite little having changed in Nigeria’s treatment of religious freedom since then, the Biden Administration continues to leave Nigeria off the CPC list for political gain.

“This resolution sends an important message to the Biden administration and the government of Nigeria that the US Congress sees what is happening there and will continue to speak out against the ongoing violence and the government’s inadequate response,” he said.

According to the Pew Research Center, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa.

Recall that at least 39 Catholic priests were killed by gunmen and 30 others abducted in 2022.

The north-central was the worst hit with 12 killings while the north-west recorded nine deaths. The south-east and south-south recorded five deaths each while the northeast and north-west had four deaths each.