Centre for African Liberation and Socio-Economic Rights, CALSER, has condemned the United States’ blacklist of Nigeria as a religious intolerant nation, describing the report and its intent as subjective.

According to CALSER, the U.S’ assertion is a disservice to Nigeria as it will serve to further aggravate the problems on the ground rather than help.

The centre made this known at a press conference on Friday by its Executive Director, Barrister Ehis Imoukhuede.

Contrary to claims by the United States, the CALSER said members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, or any other group were never prevented from worshipping in the fashion they prefer, noting that it was irresponsible to hold the federal government accountable for crimes committed by Boko Haram and ISWAP.

According to the group, it is misleading and unfair to infer that Boko Haram killed only Christians, adding that the classification of herdsmen as Muslims and farmers as Christians is a lazy stereotype that rings of racism.

The centre, however, advised the United States to send its mandarins to Nigeria to undertake a proper study of not just the religious relations in the country but to also understand the peculiar dynamics that do not lend themselves to the series of fallacies that made it into that report.

It added that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari is working for the wellbeing of all Nigerians.

“The United States recently placed Nigeria on a religious freedom blacklist, in its Nigeria 2019 International Religious Freedom Report which is published on November 5, 2020. Let us state from the onset that this is a strategy for preparing the ground to impose sanctions on Nigeria if in the United States’ estimate it thinks that progress has not been made in ensuring religious freedom for the diverse ethnic nationalities of the country.

“Unfortunately, the report and its intent are subjective going by what we can glean from it. For instance, the report in its executive summary said: ‘Throughout the year, Shia Muslims, under the auspices of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, conducted a series of demonstrations – including several in July against the ongoing detention of IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky – resulting in violent confrontations between protesters and security forces, which left as many as 30 dead, including protesters and police.’

“Other noteworthy excerpts from the report are: ‘Terrorist groups including Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) attacked population centres and religious targets and maintained a growing ability to stage forces in rural areas and launch attacks against civilian and military targets across the North East, according to observers.’

“First, it is inconceivable that the United States can regard security operations against IMN as a denial of religious freedom. No one prevented IMN members from worshipping in the fashion they prefer to the extent that they also respect the rights of other people, for instance, the right of others to have access to public infrastructures like the roads that its members usually obstruct. The reality is that IMN is a proscribed group based on constitutionally recognized processes, which included a White Paper on the Kaduna State Judicial Panel of Inquiry. The trial of its leader is by a competent court of Kaduna State, which leaves one wondering if the United States will tolerate Nigeria meddling into matters being handled by its circuit courts.

“Secondly, it is a travesty that borders on being irresponsible to hold the Federal Government accountable for crimes committed by Boko Haram and ISWAP, which the United States and its media organizations have refused to properly designate as terrorist groups operating in the Lake Chad Basin. This refusal to so classify Boko Haram has been behind the absence of international support to eradicate it from operating in the region.

“If Boko Haram’s crimes are being imputed to Nigeria, then the United States must accept joint responsibility as the nation that created the atmosphere that allowed these terrorists to thrive and torment Nigerians of all religious shades. The US’ activities in the Middle East and North Africa supported the growth of ISIS brand of terrorism and also flooded those areas with weapons that have found their way into the hands of Boko Haram terrorists.

“We must not also lose sight of the fact that it is misleading and unfair to infer that Boko Haram killed only Christians or killed more Christians. Boko Haram kill Nigerians and the loss of any human life is a tragedy. Boko Haram bombed mosques and killed Muslims, Christians, Animist, Agnostics and Atheists all alike. Reducing the acts of terror being committed by Boko Haram to a sectarian debate is an irresponsible act that should not be encouraged.

“We want to categorically tell the United States that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari is working for the wellbeing of all Nigerians. The military is fighting Boko Haram as the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that is because the life of every Nigerian is considered important.

“If the US is interested in intervening, we believe that it should start by not paying lips service to issues of Boko Haram, ISWAP and other terrorist entities that thrive because of its geostrategic activities like supporting al-Nusra affiliates in Syria, which in turn ship their US-supplied weapons to Boko Haram and ISWAP,” the centre observed.

 


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