US watchlist: Centre writes Trump, demands apology within 72 hours

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The United States, US, President, Donald Trump has been asked to counter the religious right violation tag placed on Nigeria by US authorities.

The Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency, CESJET, made this request in an open letter addressed to Trump on Sunday.

CESJET joined the Federal Government to rubbish the religious violation tag on Nigeria, 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, in the letter noted that the claim by the US authorities was watery considering the fact that the country’s constitution guarantees the freedom of association and the right to change/switch religions without any form of sanction or punishment.

The centre also demanded that an unreserved open apology be tendered to the Nigerian government and her citizens within a 72 hour period in the interest of peace and tranquillity.

The letter reads: “Dear Mr. President,

“Religious Intolerance and Extremism: The Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Boko Haram, should be held responsible.

“The Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (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.”

“CESJET, as an organization, has also been at the vanguard of ensuring that government at all levels in Nigeria is accountable to the citizens by respecting the Letter and the Spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

CESJET informed Trump that it was constrained to write the “Open Letter” in protest of the purported listing of Nigeria on the watch list of one of the countries promoting religious intolerance and extremism.

The group expressed “shock” as to how such conclusions were arrived at in the first instance without any tangible evidence that suggests that the Nigerian authorities are intolerant of religious organizations, and promoting violent extremism.

CESJET said: “Mr. President, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, guarantees the freedom of association by all, as well as the right to change/switch religions without any form of sanction or punishment. This much has been the order of the day as evident in the way and manner citizens of Nigeria freely practice religions of their choices.”

“This is on the heels that Christianity and Islam have the most significant number of followers in Nigeria. Traditional religion has massive followers in Nigeria but not as organized as Muslims and Christians, and in most cases, they identify themselves with one of the two religions.”

“Mr. President CESJET, as an organization, has, over the years, raised the alarm of how some terrorist organizations are hiding under the umbrella of religion to perpetrate violence in the country.”

“Mr. President, it must also be stated that in Nigeria, these groups have continually used the umbrella of religion to unleash mayhem in the country. Such organizations are the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (Boko Haram). They have maimed and killed security operatives with impunity; they have also killed and abducted women and children and used the same for suicide and other demeaning endeavors against their wish.”

CESJET stated that Boko Haram terrorist group has, in many documented instances, kidnapped pastors and held them in captivity for several years. They have kidnapped schoolgirls and forced some of them to convert to Islam as against their wishes.

It also noted that the IMN has also carried on with impunity, running a parallel government in Nigeria by refusing to subject itself to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They have engaged in acts inimical to the interest of others that do not share in their ideology.

“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 a 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 72 hour 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 favourable response, please accept the assurances of our best regards.”

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