The United States of America has accused Nigeria of severe violations of religious freedom.
This was contained in the Annual Report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom published in April 2023 and obtained by our correspondent on Monday.
The commission stated that criminal activity and violent armed group incidents impacting religious freedom worsened.
The commission cited instances, such as “A Shari’a court sentencing Sheikh Kabara to death for blasphemy. Judicial authorities sentenced humanist leader Mubarak Bala to 24 years in prison for blasphemy and other charges,” among others.
According to USA, “in 2022, religious freedom conditions in Nigeria remained poor, with both state and non-state actors committing particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
“While some officials worked to address drivers of religious freedom violations, others actively infringed on the religious freedom rights of Nigerians, including by enforcing blasphemy laws. Criminal activity and violent armed group incidents impacting religious freedom worsened.”
It added that “rampant violence and atrocities across Nigeria continued to impact freedom of religion or belief, including militant Islamist violence; some forms of identity-based violence; mob violence; and criminal, political, and vigilante violence impacting worship.”
The US said it noted that the federal authorities accelerated efforts to address violence impacting religious freedom, including by institutionalising harsher punishments against perpetrators, improving military efforts to neutralise Islamist fighters in the North, and strengthening efforts to investigate and arrest perpetrators of the most egregious attacks.
It, however, said, “The effectiveness of these efforts remained in question, while in some regions state and local officials failed to fully prosecute individuals who incited mob violence against alleged blasphemers.
“Security and judicial sector reform aimed at deterring and providing redress for religious violence remained stagnant, with such efforts largely absent from or peripheral to leading politicians’ policy priorities.”
It added that despite continued religious freedom challenges in the country, “In November, the U.S. Department of State failed to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
The Commission advised the U.S. government to “Designate Nigeria as a CPC, for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act, and redesignate Boko Haram and ISWAP as ‘entities of particular concern,’ or EPCs, for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by IRFA.”