Buhari regime has been accused by the US report on Freedom of Religion of favoring his Sunni faith against the Shiah citizens who are in the minority.
The United States on Tuesday released its “International Religious Freedom Report for 2017” and concluded that religious freedom in Nigeria under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Sunni Muslim, continues to face serious challenges.
The administration of President Buhari, the report said, has continued to detain al-zakzaky, the leader of the country’s largest Shia group, and restrict the activities, free movement, and free association of its members.
In November, Kano State police fired tear gas and bullets, killing three members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) during its annual Ashura procession.
Several court orders in Nigeria have granted bails to al-Zakzaky, but the government has refused to release him. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria as the group is officially known had accused President Buhari, a Sunni, and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, another Sunni, of conniving with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, to fight a proxy war against Iran in Nigeria.
Saudi Arabia is mainly Sunni while Iran is mainly Shi’ite and Shi’ite Nigerians have said they were being exterminated by Mr. Buhari government with the assistance of Saudi Arabia and the silence of the United States.
At the White House on April 30, President Donald Trump called on President Buhari to act and stop the killings of Christians in Nigeria.
The report said although the Nigerian constitution bars 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, human rights groups have continued to report the federal government often failed to prevent, quell, or respond to violence affecting religious groups, particularly in the northeastern and central regions of the country.
The report highlighted a pending bill in Kaduna State that would require all preachers to obtain preaching licenses or risk fines and/or imprisonment for up to two years.
The draft generated widespread opposition from both Muslim and Christian groups, who cited fears that such steps would lead to broader government restrictions on religious organizations and general religious activity. Members of regional minority religious groups said some state and local government laws continued to discriminate against them, including by limiting their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and obtaining government employment.
The report also highlighted killings by herdsmen, saying that although some could have been motivated by religion, there were many other reasons, including grazing rights disputes and pure criminality.
Boko Haram, it said, has continued to target religious places in bomb and gun attacks.