Nigeria, the hitherto giant of Africa under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, is now a country of particular concern for America. Washington has compounded the wobbling country’s many economic, political, and social woes by blacklisting it.
Buhari’s Nigeria and nine others have been placed by America as Countries of Particular Concern, under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 as amended for engaging in or tolerating
“systematic, ongoing, egregious violation of religious freedom”, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said in a statement on Monday.
A report last December by the United Kingdom-based Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, said more than 1,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2019. The organisation further reported that at that point
6,000 Nigerians had been killed and 12,000 displaced since 2015.
As was reported by this newspaper, Institute for Security Studies said insecurity still remains one of Nigeria’s biggest challenges. Across the country that is still battling with its problematic national question, millions of Christians are living in fear because of the growing attacks by armed men or cattle herders from the Fulani ethnic group.
Abductions and killings by the cattle herders are frequent and random in the country that holds the title of the world’s poverty capital, and Christian ethnic groups are the main victims. The herders are Muslims who make regular journeys with their cattle to pastures down south—an area mostly dominated by Christians.
Members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) have since 2015 suffered violent crackdowns by the security forces. On December 12, 2015, an alleged disproportionate force was used against the group’s street procession in Zaria, Kaduna State in North-West Nigeria.
In an ensuing three-day violent crackdown, 347 members of the group were allegedly killed, and hundreds more arrested, including the group’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El Zakzaky, and his wife, Ibraheemat.
In a statement dated December 7, 2020, designating Nigeria as a country of concern, Pompeo said “religious freedom is an inalienable 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.”
“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.” Additionally, we are
designating al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.
“We have 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.
“There are also positive developments to share. I am pleased to announce that Sudan and Uzbekistan have been removed from the Special Watch List based on significant, concrete progress undertaken by their respective governments over the past year. Their courageous reforms of their laws and practices stand 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.”