Rights Groups Call For Nigeria To Be Blacklisted On Religious Grounds

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Women in solidarity with victims of the Christmas Eve attacks in Jos, Plateau State.

United States – Mediaage NG News – Human rights groups, including religious organisations have called on the government of the United States to blacklist Nigeria as a country of concern for religious freedom. This follows the brutal killings of nearly 200 persons on Christmas Eve in northcentral Nigeria.

The petitioners, some 20 organizations — including Advancing American Freedom, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Hudson Institute — signed a notice this week asking U.S authorities to include Nigeria on the list.

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However, critics say previous blacklisting by the U.S did not solve tensions between Muslim and Christian communities in th West African nation.

The latest push to designate Africa’s largest country over religious freedom violations comes after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans this month to designate other countries, including Iran and Russia, for alleged violations.

Armed gangs in large numbers attacked residents of Barkin Ladi and Bokkos districts in Plateau state, killing and burning down houses.

Authorities say 195 people were killed and hundreds more were injured from the attacks. Thousands of persons were also displaced.

The petitioners also cited a report by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law that revealed that more than 52,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria’s north in the last 14 years.

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Lakin Akintola is a Director at the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).

“We don’t consider anything the United States does these days as important. The U.S. has disappointed the world. Whether the U.S. wants to designate Nigeria as a terrorist country or a fundamentalist one or a non-democratic one, we don’t care”, said Akintola.

In 2019, the U.S. placed Nigeria in its watchlist for religious freedom violations and the following year designated the country over religious killings in the north.

In theory, the designation could have economic implications for the country, including loan denials, and higher barriers to exports and trade.

But Luminous Jaamike, a spokesperson of the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), said the Plateau attacks were not necessarily religious in nature.

“The Plateau crisis is a cocktail of ethnic, religious and socioeconomic factors. There are hostilities between the Christian and Muslim communities in Plateau.

“[But] the kinds of attacks and abductions we are seeing this time around does not seem to have much of that religious colouration.

“The colouration of these attacks seems to have become something more of … there’s a [general] problem in this country”, Jaamike said.

Going further, he said what is more important is for Nigerian authorities to prioritize security of all citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

“Let security be improved, let the citizens feel secured, irrespective of their backgrounds, religious affiliations, locations.

“The issue is not whether Nigeria is on the list or not, it has to do with improving security and ensuring good governance”, he added.

According to Pew Research, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa — more than 80 million.

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