BREAKING! Biden’s retreat from the noble and necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution in Nigeria.-Rep Chris Smith

ft#eWashington, Nov 23, 2021 | Michael Finan (202-225-3765

            Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, today said the Biden Administration’s decision to remove Nigeria from the list of countries that violate religious freedom was “totally unjustified” and “a retreat from the noble and necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution.”

            On November 15, the U.S. State Department released its annual “Countries of Particular Concern” and Nigeria was removed from the list.

            Genocide Watch has called Nigeria a “killing field of defenseless Christians”.

            Open Doors, a religious freedom watchdog, ranked Nigeria the world’s ninth most serious violator of religious freedom, stating that more Christians die for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country.

            The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly criticized President Biden’s reversal and said it was “unexplainable that the U.S. Department of State did not redesignate Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) and treated it as a country with no severe religious freedom violations.  In December 2020, the U.S. Department of State designated Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC)… due to systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. Violent attacks by Boko Haram and ethno-religious conflict have become more frequent…”

            According to the Daily Post, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria said that “The curious decision of the US government to take Nigeria off the list of countries violating religious freedom came to the Christian community in our country as a rude shock”.  They said, “selective killings of religious worshippers based on their faith” are ongoing under the regime of the Nigerian President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari…It was wrong for the United States to adopt this provocative and ignorant decision even when Christians of Northern Nigerian extraction are killed by Muslim  Fulani armed militia supported by officials working inside the office of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Smith said that “despite the fact that Fulani militants are systematically targeting and slaughtering Christian farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt as well as attacking non-Fulanis throughout the country with the apparent complicity or at least indifference of Nigerian authorities—a record that landed Nigeria on the CPC list last year—the State Department no longer identifies Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), nor even places Nigeria on its Special Watch List.”

            Smith said “that the withdrawal of the CPC designation coincided with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Nigeria—when he should have been confronting President Buhari on his record—is appalling.  The failure to hold Buhari to account—indeed to reward him by withdrawing the CPC designation—will only embolden Fulani militants.  The Nigerian government has also failed to protect Nigerians from other extremists such as Boko Haram, Ansaru and Islamic State West Africa.”  

            Smith added: “I have chaired multiple hearings on what is unfolding in Nigeria,  and I listen to diverse voices.  I couldn’t be more disappointed in Secretary Blinken.  You can’t give President Buhari a passing grade when he has utterly failed to protect religious freedom, including and especially that of Christians.  A core principle of any robust democracy is respect for human rights, including religious freedom.”  

Smith is former Chairman of the Africa, Global Health and Global Human Rights Committee and currently serves as Ranking Republican Member as well as co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

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Simon Ekpa

Simon Ekpa LL.M (Master of Laws) is a human rights activist, CEO, senior legal advisor at Ekpa & Co Oy, legal researcher, author, analyst, Finnish politician, Biafra agitator and a Finnish Military reserve.
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