U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Thursday said that Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari remains on its religious freedom violators watch list.
The USCIRF directly responsible for enlisting countries in the United States Special Watch List, in a statement, said it was displeased with the U.S. Department of States for removing Nigeria from its “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) designation.
“USCIRF is disappointed that the State Department did not adopt our recommendations in designating the countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom,” the statement quoted USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza as saying.
She stressed that the State Department didn’t adopt the commission’s recommendation that rightfully placed Nigeria as one of the worst violators of religious freedom.
“While the State Department took steps forward on some designations, USCIRF is especially displeased with the removal of Nigeria from its CPC designation, where it was rightfully placed last year, as well as the omission of India, Syria, and Vietnam,” she added.
On Wednesday, the Department of State went beyond its purview to remove Nigeria from the list of religious violators without adopting recommendations of USCIRF.
Making the announcement, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that the United States Government removed Nigeria from its list of religious violators, blacklisting China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and seven other nations as countries of particular concern for engaging in or tolerating systemic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.
However, USCIRF faulted the report urging the State Department to reconsider its designation based on facts.
In December 2019, the U.S. government enlisted Nigeria on its “Special Watch List of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.
The blacklisting came at a time when many criticised the Nigerian government over its incessant violations of court orders and the shrinking civic and media space in the country.