The United States government has placed Nigeria on the special watch list of states that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom.
This was made known to the public by the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo in a statement in Washington on Friday.
This followed the release of the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, which recommended Nigeria’s designation as a country of particular concern.
The report noted that the Federal and State governments in Nigeria have continued to suppress “the freedom to manifest religion or belief” and they tolerate discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
The report cited the continued detention of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat as well as their followers by the Department of State Services (DSS) and the police against the rule of law.
It said, “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 federal government continued to detain the leader of the IMN, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, along with his wife and hundreds of other members, and state governments continued to ban the group’s activities.”
The report added, “The Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable.
The commission stated, “Based on these violations, in 2018 USCIRF again finds that Nigeria should be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act, as it has found since 2009.
“This is the first time that the US Department of State is designating Nigeria as a CPC.”