The United States government, for the first time, has included Nigeria on the blacklist for religious freedom violations, giving rise to possible sanctions being placed on the country, if this record is not improved upon.
This disclosure was contained in a statement issued by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on Monday, December 7, 2020, in which some US allies like Nigeria, were designated as countries of concern under the international religious freedom act of 1998.
However, the US Secretary of State did not explain further on the reasons for including Nigeria, which is largely populated by Muslims and Christians.
But US law requires such designations for nations that either engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Mike Pompeo in his statement said, “Today, the US designates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.
“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.’’
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the US State Department, in its report that was published earlier this year, expressed its concern about Nigeria, both at the federal and state levels.
- It pointed to the killing and mass detention of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a Shiite Muslim group that has been in conflict with the government and was proscribed by a law court.
- Nigeria has been widely criticized for its treatment of the movement, including a 2015 clash in which hundreds were alleged to have been massacred and buried by the military.
- The State Department report also highlighted the arrests of Muslims for eating in public in Kano state during Ramadan, when Muslims were supposed to fasting during daylight hours, and the passage of a bill in Kaduna state to regulate religious preaching.
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Today the U.S. designates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 7, 2020