Growing Consensus Against Nigeria

News: World News
by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 29, 2022   

Calls for special designation

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is calling for the State Department to add the West African nation of Nigeria to a watchlist.  

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Secretary of state Antony Blinken

USCIRF made the recommendation on Wednesday to designate Nigeria a "Country of Particular Concern" — and to send a special investigative envoy. This came in the context of a hearing on "religious freedom, violence, and U.S. policy in Nigeria."

Also, an informal coalition of more than 70 organizations and individuals sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week pointing out that Nigerian Christians and Muslims who reject extremism are being targeted in acts of violence.

It asked Blinken about the removal of the CPC designation in November 2021, noting that after its removal "both the general level of violence and specific targeting of Christians increased." Referencing a study from Open Doors, the letter pointed out that more Christians were "killed in Nigeria in 2021 — 4,650 — than in all other countries in the world combined."

The country's lawlessness, once confined primarily to the north, is creeping south, creating a nationwide climate of insecurity.

Oge Onubogu, director for West Africa, U.S. Institute of Peace, told the USCIRF commissioners, "There are pockets of violence in every part of Nigeria." 

Charges of Blasphemy

USCIRF commissioner Frederick A. Davie brought attention to the plight of Nigerian singer Yahaya Aminu Sharif, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in August 2020. In August this year, a Nigerian court ruled his case must be retried in a Shariah court. Sharif is accused of circulating a song on social media that blasphemes Islam's "prophet," Muhammad. 

Sharif is himself Muslim, so his blasphemy case is more about free speech than freedom of religion. But blasphemy accusations are a common concern in Nigeria.

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In May, a Nigerian Christian student was accused of blasphemy, surrounded by fellow students and stoned and beaten to death. 

The incident took place in the northwest Nigerian city of Sokoto, where Deborah Yakubu was a second-year college student in the college of education. According to a local news report, "The students were upset over her comments so they hunted her down, dragged her out of her college room, attacked her and then set her ablaze."  In a viral video of the savage event, students can be heard shouting, "Allahu akbar."

Roving Bandits

The Lake Chad area of Nigeria in the northeast is where Boko Haram raids are most frequent. This is the region where over 100 schoolgirls were abducted from the town of Chibok in 2014. While those kinds of threats are horrifying, equally disturbing are the roving bandits who plague northwest Nigeria. According to USCIRF testimony, these rural gangs are motivated by personal ambition and greed, engaging in everything from cattle rustling to kidnappings and extortion.

There are pockets of violence in every part of Nigeria.

Oil company executives and workers are frequent targets for kidnappings and ransom schemes in the oil-rich nation. 

Piracy continues to be a problem in the Niger Delta region. Within the last 30 days, the Nigerian Navy has tried to reassure Nigerians that the Niger Delta is safe. That is where the government has been battling illegal refining, piracy and pipeline vandalism.

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