Jubilee Campaign et al. Urge the State Department to Designate Nigeria as Country of Particular Concern

October 1, 2020
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
United States Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20520

cc:
1. Ambassador Sam Brownback
2. Assistant Secretary Bob Destro
3. Ms. Sarah Makin, International Religious Freedom Advisor, NSC

Letter calling on the State Department to Designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern

Dear Secretary Pompeo,

We are grateful that the United States Department of State maintains the promotion of international religious freedom as a priority for U.S. foreign policy. You reiterated this commitment when announcing the release of the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report on 10 July 2020. In your speech you also raised the situation of violence in Nigeria, specifically stating: “In Nigeria, ISIS and Boko Haram continue to attack Muslims and Christians alike. ISIS beheaded 10 Christians in that country just this past December.” Ambassador Brownback also echoed the seriousness of the escalating violence against religious communities in Nigeria, stating “I’m deeply concerned about what’s happening in Nigeria. We really need the Nigerian government to step up and act much more effectively in their space.” 

One of the tools in the US efforts to ensure freedom of religion or belief and in addressing the violence in Nigeria is the annual designation of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs). We as member organizations of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable urge you to take into consideration the following recommendation of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). 

In their annual reports since 2009, and in its most recent 2019 report, USCIRF asserts that Nigeria has met the CPC standard with regards to its “systematic, ongoing and egregious” religious freedom violations. They stated, “The Nigerian government at the national and state levels continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief.” This disregard for religious freedom and human rights can be seen in the recent Kano Police arrest of atheist Mubarak Bala, the Kano Upper Sharia Court’s death penalty sentence against a Nigerian singer under accusations of blasphemy, and the impunity enjoyed by murderers and kidnappers of Christians and Christian leaders this year. USCIRF also raised the alarm for the “religious sectarian violence” which has increased, and in which Christians and Muslims are being attacked “based on their religious and ethnic identity.” USCIRF shares Ambassador Brownback’s concern that the Nigerian federal government  continuously fails to “implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable.” We, therefore, strongly support the recommendation made by USCIRF and urge the State Department to remove Nigeria from the Special Watch List and formally designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern.

In addition to USCIRF, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ms. Agnes Callamard, has also voiced her concerns on Nigeria. Following her August-September 2019 visit to Nigeria, she reported that “The warning signs are flashing bright red: increased numbers of attacks and killings over the last five years with a few notable exceptions” and “widespread failure by the federal authorities to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, even for mass killings” is a common reality in Nigeria. She warned that “The farmer-herder conflict may have become or will become Nigeria’s gravest security challenge” due in part to “the ethno-religious dimensions” of the conflict and the “toxic rhetoric” that is used by groups to  justify the killings. 

The flags raised on the religious freedom and security situation in Nigeria are many and diverse, coming from various sources. Below we have combined a collection of these reports and articles that raise serious questions regarding the security and religious freedom situation in Nigeria:

USCIRF

Parliamentarians

UN Reports

Academia

NGO reports

Articles

In light of the above-mentioned concerns and in accordance with USCIRF’s recommendations and the State Department’s expressed commitment to protect religious freedom “all around the world,” we respectfully urge the State Department to designate the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern. The Nigerian government continues to show it is unwilling to effectively address the widespread violence which is both escalating and disproportionately targeting religious communities in Nigeria. The CPC designation will grant the State Department – in contrast to the Special Watch List designation – the ability to exert real pressure on Nigeria if they do not immediately and effectively address the violence against religious communities and provide protection, as well as cease the arbitrary arrests and blaming of religious communities for expressing their grievances.

Sincerely,

Organizations

Christian Freedom International 

Coptic Solidarity 

International Christian Concern

Jubilee Campaign

Pakistan Christian Association (PCA)

Mission Africa International 

Save the Persecuted Christians 

Set My People Free

Individuals

Frank Wolf, Member of Congress 1981-2014, retired 

Scott Morgan, President, Red Eagle Enterprises 

 Shakeel Raphael, leading the Free Nadeem Samson Campaign.