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Pressure mounts on Biden to return Nigeria on US watchlist



Nigeria, again came under the radar for scrutiny in the US, with Chris Smith, a leading human rights champion in Congress, and several other top religious freedom experts, pressing the President Joe Biden’s administration to reverse course and add Nigeria, India, Vietnam, and Afghanistan to its blacklist of worst offenders when it comes to allowing citizens to practice their faith of choice.

Smith and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who chairs a government-created independent body that monitors religious freedom violations around the world, on Tuesday questioned the administration’s decision against placing those countries on the State Department’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern,” or CPCs, citing years of well-documented evidence of “particularly severe” violations.

The omission of those countries, especially Nigeria, from the official U.S. religious freedom blacklist has spurred controversy among many human rights groups, since Secretary of State Antony Blinken removed it from the blacklist in 2021, reversing a decision by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in December 2020 to designate the West African nation as a CPC.

Earlier this year, Smith introduced legislation that calls on the Biden administration to designate Nigeria as a CPC and appoint a special envoy to the country and the Lake Chad region to monitor and combat atrocities there.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, even though Christians make up nearly half of Nigeria’s population of 200 million. Islamist radicals, including terror groups such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province, and radicalized Faluni tribesmen, regularly attack entire Christian communities, torching churches and villages, and kidnapping and killing pastors and their congregations.

The violence against Christians has taken place for decades but has escalated in recent years in what Rabbi Cooper on Tuesday described as a “slow-motion genocide.” According to the religious freedom watchdog Open Doors International, more than 5,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria last year alone, accounting for nearly 90% of Christian deaths worldwide.

The Biden administration attributes the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria not to religious persecution but to a conflict over resources exacerbated by climate change.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, which Cooper chairs, and other leading human rights organizations ardently disagree.

“I think that many, many people in this country, including people in positions of responsibility, have difficulty coming to grips with the fact that religion and theology do play a strong role,” Cooper said at Tuesday’s hearing. “The Christians of Nigeria are understandably deeply worried about their future and are deeply concerned about their physical safety.”

Last December, USCIRF, which makes recommendations to the State Department, issued a rare sharply worded statement expressing “outrage” over the agency’s omission of Nigeria and India from the CPC blacklist, accusing Secretary of State Blinken of turning “a blind eye” to the countries’ serious religious freedom violations.

“There is no justification for the State Department’s failure to recognize Nigeria or India as egregious violators of religious freedom, as they clearly meet the standards for designation as CPCs,” the commission wrote.

Smith, who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global health, global human rights, and international organizations, didn’t mince words, pressing Rashad Hussain, Biden’s ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, for an explanation.

“Why was Nigeria taken off the lists just before Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Abuja?” Smith asked Hussain.

“I am concerned that the U.S. State Department is not using all the tools provided to hold guilty parties accountable,” he added.

Hussain appeared to agree with both Smith and Cooper on the countries in question but said his office is just beginning work on its annual report, which provides detailed information about every country’s religious freedom record. The office is expected to issue its findings in November.

“I share your concerns,” Hussain told Smith. “I don’t think we have much disagreement in terms of the substance of what’s happening on the ground.”

Hussain also noted that he and other people in his office have engaged directly with all of the top officials in India, Vietnam, and Nigeria, and that he met with former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a military leader who was elected in 2015 on a platform of increasing security and curbing corruption.

Many Nigerians say these issues worsened under his watch. Earlier this year, Nigeria elected Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State who fought as a pro-democracy activist in the 1990s, but the election is deeply disputed.

“I want to be clear that the CPC designation is one of the tools that we have, but there is a myriad of tools that we’re using to address the situation,” Hussain added. “And we will continue to do so because we continue to be concerned about the religious freedom conditions of all of these countries.”

Dr. Eric Patterson, president of the Religious Freedom Institute, said violent Islamist extremists have destabilized Nigeria and are accelerating its “downward spiral.”

“In Nigeria’s middle belt, sectarian violence has resulted in abductions, forced conversions, and thousands of deaths, the majority of which are ethnoreligious attacks targeting Christian communities and churches.”

USCIRF, a bipartisan body, has recommended the designation of India, a major U.S. ally, as a CPC for four years. Its most recent report said religious freedom conditions have continued to dip in India, and governments at all levels promoted and enforced discriminatory policies, including through “laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, the wearing of hijabs, and cow slaughter, which negatively impact Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Adivasis.”

It also accused India’s government of efforts to suppress the voices of religious minorities through “surveillance, harassment, demolition of property” and detention under its “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.”

Naming Afghanistan a CPC should be automatic after the Taliban took control of the country on August 15, 2021, and religious freedom conditions immediately deteriorated, Smith argued. The State Department had previously designated the Taliban an “entity of particular concern” for their use of terror to target religious minorities.

Last month, a USCIRF delegation traveled to Vietnam to assess its religious freedom conditions. In its previous annual report, the commission recommended the blacklisting of the Vietnamese government over its law on belief and religion, which requires organizations to register with the state and to harass unregistered religious groups. Religious minorities face “especially egregious” persecution, including physical assault, detention, or banishment for the peaceful practice of their beliefs, according to the commission.


BREAKING: Mother of all strikes! D-Day, October 3! *Stockpile food, essentials – NLC, TUC   



The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Tuesday, announced midnight Tuesday, October 3 as the date for the commencement of total strike by their workers to get the Federal Government accede to their demands to end the current sufferings of their members and Nigerians at large.

The two labour centres representing the organised labour in Nigeria, which arrived at the decision after they had met separately at their local levels directed their affiliates to mobilise for protests from October 3, saying they took the decisions were approved at the meeting of the joint National Executive Council of the two unions on Tuesday, September 26, in Abuja.

Joe Ajaero, President of the NLC, speaking on behalf of his group, while urging Nigerians to stock their homes ahead the total strike, bemoaned the situation where the government had ignored the demands of the workers, saying it “substantially failed to meet its demands after the removal of fuel subsidy,” added that adding that the grace period given by the two labour centres had expired.

The organised labour, is demanding wage awards for public workers and a new minimum wage, apart from the removal of tax exemptions and allowances to public sector workers, provision of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses, the release of modalities for the N70billion for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the Federal Government.

The union, which on September 5th and 6th, the NLC embarked on a two-day warning strike which led to the partial crippling of economic activities in some states and gave the government a 21-day ultimatum to meet its demands, is also demanding a stop to the increase in public school fees, the release of the eight months withheld salaries of university teachers and workers as well as the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT).

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BREAKING: Total strike looms! *NLC, TUC, finally meet, agree on action



The Federal Government, may have finally lost the move to stop the impending strike by organised labour, or at least mitigate it by dividing its membership, following a meeting of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), hitherto in disagreement over the issue.

In fact, the two bodies representing the junior and senior workers in Nigeria are reportedly meeting currently to announce a statewide indefinite strike, a move coming about three weeks after the NLC held a warning strike on Tuesday, September 5, and Wednesday 6, 2023, without the TUC, which it explained was to call attention of the FG to the painful suffering of Nigerians, particularly workers.

However, indications, suggests that having agreed to come to an understanding in the interest of the working masses of Nigeria, both camps, having also met separately in their different local organs, decided to hold a joint press conference at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to announce an indefinite nationwide strike in response to the FG’s failure to address the suffering and other socioeconomic hardships caused by the removal of subsidies on Premium Motor, PMS, commonly known as petrol.

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Tinubu will shock Atiku and his gang – APC *Why meeting with Biden didn’t hold



Having met with Joe Biden, at a parley of the G20 group in India, it was unnecessary for President Bola Tinubu to hold another session with his US counterpart at the recent United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, the All Progressives Congress (APC), explained on Monday.

Felix Morka, spokesman of the party, in a statement, also explain other issues in a quick riposte to the attacks of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who claimed that the POTUS avoided Tinubu at UNGA because he did not want to be associated with the putrid stains trailing his Nigerian counterpart.

Morka, National Publicity Secretary of the party, also dismissed Atiku’s claims through his spokesman, Phrank Shaibu that fuel subsidy, which the Tinubu administration said it has jettisoned having dismissed it as a drain on the nation’s resources, had returned through the backdoor, saying the payment of the mark up in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), in August, was to ensure stability.

Hear him: ”Shaibu’s claim that fuel subsidy is back is not correct. The government’s intervention to ensure some measure of price stability and predictability does not amount to the return of the ruinous fuel subsidy of the recent past.

“Lifting the Visa ban on Nigerians by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities should ordinarily make any well-meaning Nigerian happy. Diplomatic rapprochement between Nigeria and UAE authorities is ongoing and details of outcomes will soon be made public.

“The matter of the proposed meeting with United States of America President Joe Biden does not even require elaboration. Having met with President Tinubu on the sidelines of the G-20 Nations summit in India, another meeting with President Biden during the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA) had become unnecessary and was not even on President Tinubu’s schedule, contrary to preliminary indications on the matter.

“Nigeria is facing pressing challenges that require focused efforts and undivided attention. Issues such as economic recovery, security of lives and property, infrastructure development, and social welfare demand continuous, sustained and innovative efforts.

“President Tinubu is committed to ensuring an inclusive, honest, transparent and accountable governance system. We encourage citizens to actively participate in democratic processes, ventilate their views, and contribute constructively to national conversations. As the discerning people that we are, we remain confident that Nigerians will continue to differentiate between genuine, constructive and development-oriented criticisms and those driven by self-interest, mercenary considerations and disruptive political agenda.

“While we urge Nigerians to ignore purveyors of fake news and other inanities, it is obvious that Shaibu and his likes will stop at nothing in their desperation to distort facts and give oxygen to their politically knocked-out principal. But that can only worsen his infamy in the light of the President’s determined commitment and strides to improving the social and economic conditions for all Nigerians.

“The PDP and all its agents of misinformation should know by now that no amount of sleazy propaganda, muckraking, lies, half-truths, misrepresentations, misinformation or disinformation will confer the presidency of Nigeria on their candidate.

“Nigerians have freely chosen our party, the APC, and President Bola Tinubu, to continue to steer the ship of state. And the President is making good his campaign promises to deliver purposeful leadership to remake Nigeria, open the economy to rewarding investments, promote inclusive growth, create jobs, secure lives and property and renew hope for a vibrant future.”

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