The United States Congress is making fresh moves to return Nigeria to its annual list of countries “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
To this end, a bill seeking to re-designate Nigeria as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) on issues of religious freedom has been presented before the United States Congress, citing the ruling All Progressives Congress’ decision to field two Muslim candidates for the February 25 presidential poll.
The bill which particularly criticizes the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket and other “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom in Nigeria,” is sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey who tabled the resolution on Tuesday at the U.S. Congress.
The proposed bill mandates the State Department to re-designate Nigeria as a ‘‘Country of Particular Concern’’ (CPC).
Persecondnews recalls that in 2020, the Department of State designated Nigeria a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
According to the bill, the House “finds the Department of State’s decision to delist Nigeria ‘‘inexplicable’’, and a result of ‘‘turning a blind eye’’ to that country’s ‘‘particularly severe religious freedom violations.”
The proposal which is getting bipartisan support, frowned at the Nigerian government’s increasing violation of the rights of Christians across the country, citing APC’s adoption of a same faith ticket as a glaring show of the party’s insensitivity to the feelings of other religious groups in the country.
“President Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress, in a departure from customary practice, nominated two Muslims to its 2023 Presidential ticket, selecting as vice presidential candidate Kashim Shettima, whose past tenure as governor of Borno State was criticized for failing to adequately address jihadi violence perpetrated by Boko Haram,” the House noted.
The new resolution mandates when passed into Law will mandate “the US Secretary of State to among other things, return Nigeria to its annual list of countries “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”
The resolution comes as Secretary Antony Blinken omitted Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) in the State Department’s 2021 and 2022 International Religious Freedom Reports.
The House, by the bill, also urged the US authorities to take more proactive steps in accurately assessing and taking appropriate decisions regarding the situation in Nigeria and other parts of the Lake Chad region.
It stated that “in order to ensure that the Secretary of State receives more complete and accurate reporting and analysis, the President should promptly appoint a person of recognized distinction in the fields of religious freedom and human rights as ‘‘Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region’’ with the rank of Ambassador, who reports directly to the Secretary of State and coordinates United States Government efforts to monitor and combat atrocities there.”
It further decried development in Nigeria’s Middle Belt where “non-state armed groups also conducted attacks on houses of worship, religious ceremonies, and religious leaders, with Christian communities and their churches hit particularly hard’’ and that ‘‘the Nigerian government has often failed to respond sufficiently to violence against religious leaders and congregations.”