The Nigerian Government has kicked against the call by five United States Republican senators who are seeking the redesignation of Nigeria as a country of particular concern based on the allegations of the alleged persecution of Christians in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, responding to the allegation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in London, on Monday, said the call was based on a false premise and misunderstanding of what was going on in the country.
Lai Mohammed, is in London for engagements with international media as well as some relevant Non-Governmental-Organisations.
The Senators, who made the call in a letter to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, also alleged a violation of freedom of Christians’ rights to practice their religion.
Lai Mohammed speaking in defense of Nigeria to international media said,“You will recall that only a few months ago Nigeria was taken out of the list of countries of particular concern because it was proven that there is no iota of truth in the allegation that Christians or any religion was being persecuted or people were not allowed to practice the religion of their choice,
“We want to say once again that Nigeria does not have a policy that denies people the freedom to practice their religion
“The country also does not have a policy of violation freedom of religion and it is not true that Nigeria persecute anybody on account of his or her faith,” he said.
According to Mohammed the Constitution of Nigeria guarantees the right of anybody to practice his or her own faith without molestation.
He also said that 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 a distinction of any religion.
“They kidnap for money, they hold people on ransome irrespective of their religion and there are some issues pf 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 target Christians was the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP)
He has however assured that the government is doing their best to ensure the safety of the nation and people.
“What ISWAP is doing is that because of their dwindling influence they are now attacking Churches and Christians n order to create crisis between various religious group.
“But as a government, we are after them,” he said.
The minister said some NGOs were also feeding the international community with wrong information to get funds from donors.
Mohammed reiterated that the two major religions in Nigeria, Islam and Christianity are also collaborating to find the solution to the crisis ad bring peace and harm.
He gave the example of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which is working to foster unity and better understanding between the Christian and Islamic faiths.
The minister solicited support from multilateral organisations and foreign countries in tackling the challenges of insecurity.