Nigeria Has No Policy That Violates Religious Freedom, FG Replies US Senators

Nigeria Has No Policy That Violates Religious Freedom, FG Replies US Senators

Federal government has condemned the call by five American senators re-designating Nigeria as a country of particular concern over alleged violation of religious freedom.

It would be recalled that five US senators had recently asked the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to re-designate Nigeria as a country of particular concern, citing the attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, and the lynching of a female student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, Deborah Samuel, as cases of “religious persecutions” in Nigeria.

The US had also in December 2020 listed Nigeria among countries blacklisted for “violating religious freedom” under the CPC designation, a decision that was in November 2021 rescinded by the country, removing Nigeria from the list.

However, responding to the latest allegation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said the call by the US senators was based on “false premise and misunderstanding of what is going on in the country”.

According to Mohammed, “You will recall that only a few months ago, Nigeria was taken out of the list of countries of particular concern because it was proven that there is no iota of true in the allegation that Christians or any religion is being persecuted or people were not allowed to practice the religion of their choice.

“We want to say once again that Nigeria does not have a policy that denies people the freedom to practice their religion.

“The country also does not have a policy of violation of freedom of religion and it is not true that Nigeria persecutes anybody on account of his or her faith”.

The minister noted that the constitution guarantees the right of citizens to practice their own faith without molestation, adding that government had always guarded the constitutional provision jealously.

He said commentators who are not well-versed in the politics and happenings in Nigeria took criminalities and communal clashes as issues of religious persecution.

“Nobody in Nigeria is being persecuted, but we have issues of criminality going on and the criminals really do not make distinction of any religion.

“They kidnap for money; they hold people ransom irrespective of their religion and there are some issues of communal matters dating back to many years.

“If statistic is to be taken, I can say confidently that as many Muslims as Christians have been victims of these criminals”.

He claimed that the only known group that targets Christians is the Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP.

But he said the federal government has mounted large-scale military operations to wipe out the criminals which is yielding results.

“What ISWAP is doing is that because of their dwindling influence they are now attacking churches and Christians in order to create crisis between various religious groups, but as a government, we are after them”, the minister added.

Disclosing that some non-governmental organizations are feeding the international community with wrong information to get funds from donors, Mohammed, however, solicited support from multilateral organizations and foreign countries in tackling insecurity in Nigeria.

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