The Federal Government on Monday condemned the call by five United States Republican Senators asking for the re-designation of Nigeria as a country of particular concern because of alleged persecution of Christians.
The Senators who made the call in a letter to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had also alleged violation of freedom of Nigerian Christians’ rights to practise their religion.
Responding to the allegation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in London, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Monday said the call was based on false premise and misunderstanding of what was going on in the country.
NAN reports the minister is in London for engagements with international media as well as some relevant Non-Governmental-Organisations.
The minister said, “We want to say once again that Nigeria does not have a policy that denies people the freedom to practise their religion.
“The country also does not have a policy of violation of freedom of religion and it is not true that Nigeria persecutes anybody on account of his or her faith.”
He added, “Nobody in Nigeria is being persecuted, but we have issues of criminality going on and the criminals really do not make distinction of any religion.
“They kidnap for money, they hold people for ransom irrespective of their religion and there are some issues of communal matters dating back to many years.
“If statistics is to be taken, I can say confidently that as many Muslims as Christians have been victims of these criminals.”
According to the minister, the only known group that target Christians is the Islamic States West Africa Province.
He, however, said the Federal Government had mounted large scale military operations to wipe out the criminals and they are yielding results.
“What ISWAP is doing is that because of their dwindling influence, they are now attacking churches and Christians in order to create crisis between various religious groups.
“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 solution to the crisis and bring peace and harmony.
He gave the example of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, 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 security challenges.