US chides Nigeria over religious intolerance, insecurity

From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The United States, has chided Nigeria over the level of religious intolerance and insecurity in the country.

The United States Department of State, in its 2020 International Religious Freedom Report on Nigeria, noted that the constitution barred the federal and state governments from adopting a state religion, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for individuals’ freedom to choose, practice, propagate, or change their religion. The United States, in its executive summary of the report, also noted that the Nigerian constitution provided for states to establish courts based on sharia or customary (traditional) law in addition to common law civil courts, although civil courts have pre-eminence over all other courts.

The United  States further said sentences may be appealed from sharia and customary courts to civil courts, while also saying that in addition to civil courts, sharia courts function in 12 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory.

According  to the United States, “Customary courts function in most of the 36 states. General insecurity throughout the country’s regions increased during the year: a terrorist insurgency in the North East; brazen kidnapping and armed robbery rings in the North West and southern regions; militant groups and criminal gangs in the South South region; and conflict between farmers and herders over access to land in the North Central region. There were incidents of violence involving predominantly Muslim Fulani herders and settled farmers, predominantly Christian ), but also Muslim, in the North Central and North West regions.

“The government continued ongoing security operations and launched additional operations that it stated were meant to stem insecurity created by armed criminal gangs and violent conflict over land and water resources that frequently involved rival ethnic groups. Various sources said the government did not take significant measures to combat insecurity throughout the country; the International Crisis Group said that state governments relied heavily on armed vigilante groups to help quell the violence, which it said was counterproductive. Some said this lack of government response exacerbated insecurity and failed to address underlying causes. A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) stated the presence of state forces was “too inconsistent and limited to protect or support communities, or mitigate and suppress violence.”