The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said it was inexplicable that the United States Department of State did not redesignate Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”.
The state department rather considers Nigeria as a country with no severe religious freedom violations.
Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has also criticised the US government for unilaterally delisting Nigeria from a list of countries violating religious freedom.
For the US agency, USCIRF Chair, Nadine Maenza said in a statement on Wednesday that, “USCIRF is disappointed that the State Department did not adopt our recommendations in designating the countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom,
“While the State Department took steps forward on some designations, USCIRF is especially displeased with the removal of Nigeria from its CPC designation, where it was rightfully placed last year, as well as the omission of India, Syria, and Vietnam.
“We urge the State Department to reconsider its designations based on facts presented in its own reporting.”
In its reaction, HURIWA, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, said the US government under Joe Biden has demonstrated “a non-challant tendency concerning the massive religion-motivated genocides that are currently going on under the active watch and conspiratorial connivance of the Federal Government of President Buhari who concentrated the powers of internal security to only members of Hausa/Fulani Moslems even when Nigeria is a plural democracy with the multiplicity of Ethnicities and Religious/Belief systems.”
Pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), the countries the State Department designated as CPCs are Burma, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan; all besides Russia previously had been designated.
It has recommended in its 2021 Annual Report that Nigeria alongside Syria and Vietnam be designated as CPCs having recommended 10 in the report.
On the State Department’s pecial watchlist “Special Watch List” (SWL) are countries such as Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
It further recommended that Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan also be placed on the SWL.
It was gathered that the USCIRF recently released a factsheet reiterating its CPC and SWL recommendations, which explains the religious freedom violations in these countries supporting USCIRF’s recommendations.
While USCIRF is concerned about the lack of designations for countries USCIRF recommended, Russia’s designation for the first time as a CPC for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom is welcomed.
Its Vice Chair, Nury Turkel stated that, “USCIRF has proposed this action since 2017. For years, USCIRF has raised the alarm regarding the Russian government’s purge of ‘non-traditional’ religions and religious freedom repression.
“USCIRF also applauds the inclusion of Algeria in the State Department’s SWL designations this year, which USCIRF has recommended since 2020 due to continued enforcement of blasphemy laws and restrictions on houses of worship for minority religious communities.”
USCIRF also welcomed the State Department’s designations of nine Entities of Particular Concern (EPCs), which are non-state actors that engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom pursuant to IRFA.
It, however, recommended the designation of seven of these actors including al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), and the Taliban in its 2021 Annual Report.