Despite rejection, Nigeria plans to meet US over areas of concern on religious freedom watch list
London, Dec. 23, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Nigerian government is planning to meet the U.S. government to discuss areas of concern and resolves is issues that necessitated the country being placed on Watch List over religious freedom.
The position came hours after the information minister, Lai Mohammed rejected the US designation of Nigeria as a country that engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom, saying the iniquitous tag stems from an orchestrated narrative that has long been discredited
In a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday, the Minister of Information
and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the good people of Nigeria
enjoy unfettered freedom to practise their religion, and blamed failed
politicians and disgruntled elements – some of them supposedly-respected leaders – for latching on to religion as their trump card, especially in the run up to the last general elections, to oust the Buhari administration.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria hours later said Nigeria and the U.S. would deliberate on the matter early next year.
According to him, placing Nigeria on U.S. watch list carries no immediate implication, and that does not in any way make the country an area of concern as being asserted in some quarters.
“The correct U.S. government position is that the addition of Nigeria to the watch list of the IRF does not make Nigeria a country of concern on religious freedom.
“The watch list carries no immediate implication, except for the need for both countries to discuss areas of concern over the next year. We are looking forward to such discussions with our partners, the U.S.’’
The presidential aide maintained that Nigeria as geo-political entity had no policy that promotes one religion against the other.
According to Shehu, the right to freedom of worship for all citizens is guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution.
“We have no policy that promotes one religion against the other.
“The right to freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and we have no problem observing that,’’ he said.
NAN reports the U.S. government was last week reported to have added Nigeria to a “Special Watch List (SWL)” of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”.
The inclusion of Nigeria in the religion violations list, which has continued to attract mixed reactions, was announced by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. (NAN)