Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today expressed its alarm and outrage regarding deteriorating religious freedom conditions in Nigeria in the context of increased violence. On this seventh anniversary of Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, the security situation remains dire.
“Nigerians have waited too long for the violence to stop,” USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins stated. “Seven years since the outrageous abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, copycats are still popping up all over, taking inspiration from Boko Haram and other extremist groups. It is the Nigerian people who pay the price – people like Leah Sharibu, who just passed her third year in captivity having been abducted from her school in 2018 and is still held for refusing to abandon her Christian faith.”
Religious freedom conditions in Nigeria deteriorated over the past year, with recent and ongoing attacks against Christian communities, Muslim congregations, and houses of worship. In this context, more than 600 students have been abducted from schools in northwest Nigeria since December. These abductions, perpetrated by armed criminal gangs, resemble tactics commonly employed by Boko Haram and other militant Islamist groups in northern Nigeria. Meanwhile, recent intercommunal tensions and organized violence in the south of the country demonstrate the insecurity is spreading.
“USCIRF is deeply concerned these violent trends will only exacerbate the challenges Nigerians face in exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief. Many in Nigeria’s government are apathetic and negligent in the face of these egregious acts,” said USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie. “Nigerian officials at all levels, from the President and federal officials to local governors, police commissioners, and courts need to do more to prevent growing insecurity and hold accountable those who perpetrate violent acts. We urge the U.S. government to leverage the recent decision of the State Department to designate Nigeria a country of particular concern to ensure progress is made on this urgent problem.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate Nigeria as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, and Boko Haram as an “entity of particular concern,” or EPC. USCIRF has also produced recent analyses on religious freedom conditions in Nigeria and violations committed by militant Islamist groups in northern Nigeria.