The Biden administration has chastised Nigeria for being removed from a list of nations that abuse religious freedom severely. The decision was reached in advance of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s November 18 visit. Many human rights organizations in the United States and Nigeria have publicly criticized the decision ahead of his visit.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is dissatisfied that the State Department did not follow its recommendations in naming the nations that violate religious freedom the most. The removal of Nigeria from the list of countries of particular concern (CPC) and India, Syria, and Vietnam has angered the organization. The President is mandated under the IRAF to examine the state of religious liberties in each nation annually.
Torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial, forced disappearance, and other egregious denials of individuals’ life, liberty, or security are all included as “serious violations.” According to CSI, terrorists murder an average of 17 Christians per day in Nigeria. Christians continue to be discriminated against under Sharia and blasphemy laws. According to Franklyne Ogbunwezeh, a senior research fellow and director for Genocide Prevention in Africa at CSI, Christians do not receive authorization to build or modify their churches.
According to Christian leaders, many churches and places of worship in Nigeria are attacked by radical Islamist organizations such as the Islamic States Western African Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram. “That objective of killing Christians has not ended until now,” says Rev. Samson Ayokunle, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
Christian children like Leah Sharibu were abducted in 2018, and pupils from Bethel Baptist High School were left with the kidnappers with no coordinated rescue operation. The abducted individuals’ families and churches were compelled to pay a ransom costing millions of Naira to secure their persons or children. To date, the federal government has refused to recognize banditry as a form of terrorism and, as a result, has declined to name bandits as terrorists.