The Nigerian government has rejected the country’s listing by the United States amongst Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) guilty of “egregious violations of religious freedom.”
The U.S. had earlier added Nigeria to the CPC after an indictment by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in 2019.
It cited the violation of rights of Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), whose leader Sheikh Ibrahim El Zaky Zaky is still in detention despite a court ordering his release as one of the cases it considered.
It also cited the attack on christians and muslims based on their religious identities.
Nigeria was again re-designated as CPC for the second time on Monday according to a statement issued by the U.S. Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo.
“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,” the statement read.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, described the listing as a case of honest disagreement between the two nations on the causes of violence in Nigeria.
”Nigeria does not engage in religious freedom violation, neither does it have a policy of religious persecution. Victims of insecurity and terrorism in the country are adherents of Christianity, Islam and other religions,” the minister said.
He said Nigeria jealously protects religious freedom as enshrined in the country’s constitution and takes seriously any infringements in this regard.