The Federal Government has condemned calls by five US Republican Senators for Nigeria to be redesignated as a country of particular concern over alleged persecution of Christians.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently received a letter from the legislators. They alleged violation of freedom of Christians’ rights to practice their religion in Nigeria.
However, minister of information and culture Lai Mohammed said in London on Monday that the call was based on false premise and misunderstanding of what was going on in the country.
Mohammed is in London for engagements with international media as well as some non-governmental-organisations.
“You will recall that only few months ago Nigeria was taken out of the list of countries of particular concern because it was proven that here is no iota of truth in the allegation that Christians or people of any religion were being persecuted or people were not allowed to practice religion of their choice,” he said.
“We want to say once again that Nigeria does not have a policy that denies people the freedom to practice their religion.”
Mohammed noted that the Constitution of Nigeria guarantees the right of anybody to practice his or her own faith without molestation and the government has always safeguarded the constitutional provision jealously.
“Nobody in Nigeria is being persecuted But we have issues of criminality going on and the criminals really do not make distinction of any religion.
“They kidnap for money, they hold people on ransom irrespective of their religion and there are some issues of communal matters dating back to many years.
“If statistic is to be taken, I can say confidently that as many Muslims as Christians have been victims of these criminals,” he said.
According to the minister, the only known group that targets Christians is the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP)
He added that military operations are ongoing to wipe out the criminals.