The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has designated Nigeria as a country of particular concern’ (CPC), following the recent spate of killings across Nigeria.

USCIRF in its 2018 report on religious freedom, the commission asked the US department of state to declare Nigeria a CPC, along with 15 other countries including Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, and China.

The report noted that in 2018 alone, hundreds have been killed in clashes between herdsmen and farmers, attacks by suspected herders, bandits, among others.

According to the report, religious freedom in Nigeria remained poor in 2017 and that both the federal and state governments “continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief”.

“Sectarian violence between predominantly Muslim herders and predominantly Christian farmers increased, and the Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable”.

It acknowledged that though there were gains made by the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram, the government’s “non-military efforts remained nascent, and Boko Haram’s attacks continued”.

“Other religious freedom abuses continued at the state level, including coercive official or societal actions to enforce particular religious norms”.

“Based on these violations, in 2018 USCIRF again finds that Nigeria should be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has found since 2009”.

USCIRF recommended that the US government should: “Seek to enter into a binding agreement with the Nigerian government, and provide associated financial and technical support, to obligate the Nigerian government to take substantial steps to address violations of religious freedom.

“Enhance training for all military and police officers on international human rights standards, and ensure security officers accused of excessive use of force and other human rights abuses are investigated and held accountable

“Conduct professional and thorough investigations of and prosecute incidents of sectarian violence and terrorism and suspected and/or accused perpetrators.

“Develop effective conflict prevention and early warning mechanisms at the local, state, and federal levels using practical and implementable criteria.

“Encourage politicians and religious leaders to participate in conflict management training and projects to prevent violence and counter divisive and inciting messages; and devise and support the Nigerian government in the development of counter- and deradicalization programs”.

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