United States lawmakers are mounting pressure on President Joe Biden to re-designate Nigeria as a country of particular concern (CPC) for violations of religious freedom.
This follows an upsurge in the spate of killings in Nigeria targeted at some religious groups, where priests and other religious leaders were specifically targeted and gruesomely murdered.
Nigeria was first designated as a CPC in December 2020 by the US department of state due to frequent religious conflicts and attacks by the Boko Haram sect. Nigeria was later removed from the list in November, 2021, a move that outraged human rights organisations.
On Tuesday, lawmakers brought up a resolution urging the state department to put Nigeria on the annual CPC list. But since Nigeria’s removal from the CPC list, US lawmakers and other concerned groups have repeatedly called for the re-inclusion of the country in the special watch list.
In a statement Chris Smith, the New Jersey representative, said Christians bear the brunt of the persecution in the country.
He said the Biden administration’s decision to exclude Nigeria from the list was an “unjustified decision”, adding that the re-inclusion was a “necessary fight to protect victims of religious persecution”.
“Last year alone, 5,014 Christians were killed in Nigeria — accounting for nearly 90% of Christian deaths worldwide as well [as] 90 percent of Christian kidnappings across the globe,” Smith said.
“The Biden administration must act immediately and redesignate Nigeria as a country of particular concern to mitigate this alarming and growing threat to religious liberty.”
French Hill, the Arkansas representative, described Biden’s removal of Nigeria from the list as a “political move”.
“In 2020, Nigeria was a country of particular concern (CPC). Despite little having changed in Nigeria’s treatment of religious freedom since then, the Biden Administration continues to leave Nigeria off the CPC list for political gain,” Hill said.
“This resolution sends an important message to the Biden administration and the government of Nigeria that the US Congress sees what is happening there and will continue to speak out against the ongoing violence and the government’s inadequate response.”
According to the Pew Research Centre Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa, but in recent days nearly 40 priests of the Catholic church have reportedly been killed or abducted in 2022.
Almost all parts of Nigeria have recorded mass killings of Christians and abduction by terrorists heightening the spate of insecurity in the country.
One of the gruesome acts was when terrorists killed Isaac Achi, a priest of St. Peters and Paul Catholic Church in Kafin-Koro, Paikoro LGA of Niger State. Achi was burnt to death at his residence in the early hours of the morning.
Wasiu Abiodun, police spokesperson in Niger, said the terrorists razed the building after failing to gain entrance into the priest’s residence and shot another priest who was trying to escape from the attackers.