The Presidency has explained that the inclusion of Nigeria in the list of countries of concern for religious violation in December 2020 was as a result of well-funded media campaign by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and some other extremists groups.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a piece released on Friday titled “What Biden’s Removal of Nigeria from Religious Violation Watchlist Means” said President Muhammadu Buhari was satisfied with the decision by the United States to remove the country from the list.
Shehu, who recalled that Nigeria was included in December 2020 after the loss of Donald Trump at the US, said the “sad and uncalled for ban” came on the heels of 12 months of lies by some extremist groups and the banned terrorist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB’s well-funded international media campaign.
According to him, the listing of Nigeria among countries of concern for religious freedom violation watch list complicated the fight against terrorists across the Sahel region.
He said the removal of Nigeria from the religious violators watchlist in the run-up to the visit of Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, was a triumph of diplomacy and sagacity over hate-driven foreign policy founded on false propaganda.
He quoted the US Secretary of State as saying that the decision of the Joe Biden Government on the matter was “based on facts.”
“With this egregious listing removed, US-Nigeria relations are now reset, and we can jointly seek resolution to other critical matters, including the fight against terrorists across the Sahel region.
“This task was complicated by the now reversed decision. To that end, the present administration looks forward to working with the Biden administration on matters, bilateral and multilateral that are important to our friendly states,” he added.
He said “their aim was to drive a wedge, for political advantage, between the two great religions and make true their fake claims that Muslims and Christians could not live side-by-side in love and peace without bordering if their maliciousness was the cause of religious tension.
He said it was a fallacy to suggest Nigeria lacked religious freedom, stating that “A visit to any city will see a surfeit of posters for religious groups, for Muslims and Christians alike. Nigerians wear our faith on our sleeves.”
“This is not to say there are no tensions. The President and all who serve in his administration know there are. And they are being addressed: for instance, the present administration is the only government since independence to introduce a plan to address farmer-herder clashes. Today that plan is working. Many states are taking the lead in its implementation because they, not the Federal Government control land.”
He said the military was fighting terrorists in the North East currently hiding out amongst remote forests and across borders, adding that all arms of the Military and paramilitary agencies had been authorized to recruit additional men, while the procurement of military hardware had been intensified.