Even as the federal government of Nigeria is yet to respond to the United States Decision in the placement of Nigeria on a special watch list (SWL) of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “Severe violations of religious freedom, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) says decision remains a welcome development, whilst tasking the federal government to address concerns that led to the decision.
The president of the Association, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle while addressing journalists said the untold hardship Christians are going through in the country, especially in states such as Kaduna Benue, plateau, Adamawa and Taraba justifies the decision of the US government, as Christians living in those states were being slaughtered like rams by the Boko Haram terrorists, and killer herdsmen while the security agencies appear powerless and the government lacks the political will to deal with the criminals.
He said: “In Southern Kaduna, for months, Christians were being killed in their communities, their property was burnt and their lands were confiscated, but till today, those who were responsible for that carnage and genocide are yet to be brought to book. Some suspects paraded by the Police were later set free. A Christian traditional ruler was killed while returning from Kaduna State and his subjects, who were protesting against the evil deed were reportedly punished severely by security agencies.”
According to him: “The same narrative occurred in Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba states, where criminal herdsmen invaded predominantly Christian communities killing, maiming and burning their property and confiscating them. Till today, those who were responsible are still at large as if they were spirits. To compound the problem, some of their victims are being arrested and detained by the Police for weeks. In Benue State, there were cases of mass burial as if the affected communities were at war.”
Ayokunle said that another thing that could be responsible for the US’ government’s action is the lopsided appointments in the polity, which makes it look as if the government is against Christians.
He added that in previous meetings between CAN and President Muhammadu Buhari, “the association made it abundantly clear to him that the lopsided appointments of his government in favour of a religion and a section of the country was unacceptable. Although he promised to look into the observation with a view to addressing it, what we are seeing and hearing about the government is the continuation of the lopsided appointments.”
The CAN President observed that there are enough evidence to prove that the subtle Islamisation agenda and nepotism are real, adding that 98 per cent of the security chiefs belong to same faith, and come from one part of the country, while all the key appointments that are being made since the second term of the President began follow the same blueprint. “These are facts and they are violations of some portions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). These include, but not limited to Sections 10, 13 (3-4), 15 (2) (d) and (4). It is widely believed that no country survived two civil wars. Our leaders should be mindful of the complexities of the people they are leading.
“As if those discriminatory policies are not enough, the Chief Justice of Nigeria few days ago called for the amendment to the Constitution with a view to adding more Sharia contents. Since the Chief Justice has not denied the story and the government has failed to call him to order, it is crystal clear that the US government has more facts than the government thinks. We call on the government not to be insensitive to the new development but instead to address all the factors that are responsible,” the CAN president said.
Nigeria’s inclusion in the list of countries that violate religious freedom was announced by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
“On December 18, 2019, the Department of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, (and) egregious violations of religious freedom.
“The Department renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list,” Pompeo said.
According to Mr Pompeo, the U.S. also designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.
The 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which recommended Nigeria’s designation as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), noted that religious freedom trended negatively in 2018.
“Religious freedom conditions in Nigeria trended negatively in 2018. The Nigerian government at the national and state levels continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief.”
The report added that “religious sectarian violence increased during the year, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity.”
Another case cited is the violation of rights of Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
“The Nigerian military and government continued to violate the religious freedom and human rights of the Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Al Zak Zaky remained in detention.