US places Nigeria govt on watchlist for religious persecution
By Emmanuel Ogebe
After years of advocacy, the United States Government has today placed Nigeria on the Watchlist of Persecuting countries which is the last stop before full designation as a Country of Particular Concern.
Today’s action by US Secretary of State Pompeo moves the needle forward for the recognition of Nigeria as a major global center of religious persecution about 20 years since the reporting and ranking mechanism was put into place by the Clinton administration.
Nigeria would have achieved full designation as a CPC had the reporting of the egregious abuses in the 2018 report been robust and accurate.
In our review of the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom which recommender Nigeria’s designation as a CPC , we noted as follows;
TIER 1 | USCIRF-RECOMMENDED COUNTRIES OF PARTICULAR CONCERN (CPC)
A few quick observations on the USCIRF
“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.” CRITIQUE: The correct position is that the Nigerian Government tolerates AND PERPETRATES violence and discrimination.
“Religious sectarian violence increased during the year, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity”
CRITIQUE:This statement is vague and does not indicate the AGGRESSION & PROVOCATION BY MUSLIMS
3. “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”.
CRITIQUE: There’s no mention of government discrimination against Christians only Shiites.
4. “Finally, other religious freedom abuses continued at the state level, including coercive official or societal actions to enforce particular religious norms”
CRITIQUE: This opaque statement does not say BY WHOM or against whom.
5. “USCIRF delegations visited Nigeria in May and November 2018 to examine religious freedom concerns.”
CRITIQUE: Although Leah Sharibu is now a USCIRF-adopted prisoner of conscience, the delegation did not meet with Leah’s mother.
6. “However, in 12 Muslim-majority northern Nigerian states, federalism has allowed the adoption of Islamic Shari’ah law in the criminal codes. The Nigerian constitution also establishes the roles of customary law and Shari’ah courts for Islamic personal law, family”.
CRITIQUE:There are inaccuracies here. The Nigerian constitution does not allow for sharia in criminal codes which in essence is adoption of a state religion. Only Islamic personal law is expressly provided for constitutionally.
7. “Religious police, which are sometimes state funded, are also used to enforce Shari’ah, often focusing on family issues and “moral” behavior.”
CRITIQUE:The religious police are wholly government-funded and are unconstitutional. They arrest Christians as well and have engaged in abducting, drugging, forcefully converting and marrying off Christian girls.
8. “For decades, the Nigerian government has struggled to manage conflict resulting from competition between groups over political access, land rights, and fears that one ethnic or religious group will dominate another.”
CRITIQUE: Each of the conflict issues stated are actually driven by the government and successive governments have been more often than not the instigators of the tensions.
9. “When the government in 1996 established the Federal Character Commission, it intended the body to enforce the country’s “federal character” principle. While this principle was intended to be helpful and protective, it is applied through a controversial “indigene” concept, whereby certain groups are considered native to a particular area (“indigenes”) and others nonnative (“settlers”); indigenes often are afforded more benefits and privileges, and settlers have been denied equal citizenship rights.”
CRITIQUE: This is a complete distortion of the law and the facts. The Federal character law as the name implies is a federal one. The indigene issue is largely a state issue.
We are happy to note that despite these shortcomings, the US government saw enough to escalate Nigeria’s designation to the penultimate Warning Watchlist. Nigeria is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian and it is high time this is recognized.
With the atrocities committed by the Major Gen. Buhari in the 2019 reporting period including the elimination of Christians from top government positions and replacement with Muslims, such as Chief Justice Onnoghen amongst others, it is very likely that Nigeria will join the list of the global worst persecutors by next year.
It is to be noted however that the US is launching an international alliance of countries for religious freedom early in the New Year. I understand that if countries like Nigeria agree to work to improve their standing by joining this alliance, it may help turn around the nation’s current negative ranking.
It is hoped that the regime does the needful. A situation where a promising young engineer was abducted by intelligence agents from Jos and whisked to Abuja where he was detained with Boko Haram terrorists in DSS dungeon for a month simply because he allegedly preached to the daughter of a big man is shameful. He has reportedly had to flee Nigeria for his life.
Boko Haram was also designated an Entity of Particular Concern (EPC)for its religious genocide.
We are thankful to USCIRF Chairman Tony Perkins for leading this effort to success.
We also thank Ambassador Brownback at the State Department for this epochal breakthrough.
The Full State Department report is below.
Left – Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe with a colleague at the US State Department December 18, 2019
US NIGERIA LAW GROUP