By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET) has requested that President Donald Trump counters the religious right violation tag placed on Nigeria by the United States authorities.
This was made known in an open letter addressed to the American President titled “Religious Intolerance and Extremism: The Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Boko Haram, should be held responsible”.
The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had on Friday placed Nigeria on a Special Watch List for tolerating “severe violations of religious freedom.”
CESJET joined the Federal Government to rubbish the claim, especially as there is no tangible evidence that suggests that Nigeria is intolerant of religious organizations, and promoting violent extremism.
The Centre’s Executive Secretary, Comrade Ikpa Isaac, explained that the US’ assertion doesn’t hold water considering the country’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of association and the right to change/switch religions without any form of sanction or punishment.
Comrade Ikpa revealed that Nigeria embraces and encourages peaceful coexistence amongst all religions and wonders how the US drew its conclusion.
The group therefore, demanded an immediate withdrawal of the statement/classification for lacking in objectivity and merit.
The Centre further requested that an unreserved open apology be tendered to the Nigerian government and her citizens within a 72hour period in the interest of peace and tranquility.
CESJET is one of the prominent civil society organizations in Nigeria dedicated to the entrenchment of the freedom of expression, association of all Nigerians regardless of their social status, religious and ethnic affiliations.
The letter readsl; ‘’Mr. President, it must be stated that it is on record that in Nigeria, there are various institutions in place that ensures that the rights of citizens to practice and partake in religious activities of their choices and without any form of interference or disturbance. And CESJET can authoritatively confirm that there has been a continuous interface between government and civil society organizations in this regard.
‘’Mr. President, we are therefore constrained to state that the listing of Nigeria was done in poor taste and not a reflection of the realities on the ground. So much so that we are tempted to believe that members of the opposition in Nigeria might have infiltrated key officials of the American government under your watch to issue such a false report/classification.
‘’Mr. President, it must also be noted that Nigeria is amongst the countries in the world that embraces and encourages peaceful coexistence amongst all religions, including conservative, traditional believers.
‘’It is also on record that Nigeria has played host to prominent religious preachers all around the world for seminars, crusades, and other religious functions. And it is on record that there has never been a time where these religious preachers were denied the right to mingle with their religious faithful’s.
‘’Mr. President, we are consequently questioning the methodology used in arriving at the watch list because it is indeed not correct, and the direct opposite of what is the case in Nigeria. We as a result of this express reservations.
‘’Mr. President, you may wish to acknowledge the fact that the consequences of the report/classification would have adverse effects on the image of Nigeria before the international community and with the possibility of discouraging investors.
‘’This is also cognizant of the fact that if such half-truth is allowed to thrive; there is likelihood for fake news merchants to embolden their trade and mislead members of the unsuspecting general public.
‘’Mr. President, the Centre for Social Justice, Equity, and Transparency is as a result of this demanding an immediate withdrawal of the statement/classification credited to the U.S. Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, for lacking in objectivity and merit.
‘’We are also demanding that an unreserved open apology be tendered to the Nigerian government and her citizens within a 72hour period in the interest of peace and tranquility.
‘’Mr. President, we are consoled that you would use your good office to ensure that in the future, due diligence is adhered to on issues of sensitivity, at the risk of insulting the sensibilities of a people and a country.
‘’The Islamic Movement in Nigeria, as well as the Boko Haram terrorist group, is indeed responsible for religious violations in Nigeria, and this fact must be stated for all and sundry.
‘’While we anticipate a favorable response, please accept the assurances of our best regards,’’ it concluded.