The Nigeria government has rejected a recent report from the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion, detailing cases of alleged genocide against Christians in the country.
The Nigerian presidency said the claims are not true and gave its reasons in a statement.
“… we look forward to welcoming members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to our country to see for themselves the work that is going on to promote these fundamental rights of our citizens,” Garba Shehu, a presidential aide, said on Friday.
The group of over 100 British parliamentarians from different political parties earlier condemned killings of Christians in Nigeria.
In the 56-page report, the international group raised concerns on the scourge of inter-communal violence in Nigeria that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced thousands more.
It stated that the response of the Nigerian Government to conflicts involving farmers and herders had been inadequate or ineffective and that this had allowed the violence to escalate.
Before now, the United States government had expressed worry over the incessant attacks on citizens of Nigeria living in the northern part of the country.
On Sunday, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis revealed that over 140 people were killed in armed violence across Nigeria just last week.
In his reaction, Mr Shehu said the claims of the British group did not take into consideration the strides made by the Buhari government to strengthen security.
“President and Government of Nigeria wish to thank members of the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief for their report, launched a few days ago.
“Although it is difficult reading, the statement also acknowledges the importance of accurate, unbiased, depoliticised and truthful information when it comes to understanding the realities and addressing the challenges for those of faith in Nigeria.”
He further stated that “when uncritical attention is afforded to critics with dubious intentions, it only becomes harder for both the government and people of Nigeria to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve our differences, and uphold what is enshrined in our Constitution and laws: that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
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The presidential aide, however, acknowledged tensions between the major religions, Christianity and Islam, “and between herders and farmers – both for access to ever-decreasing arable and farmland due to a rapidly rising population, temperatures and desertification through global warming.”
He said the nation has recorded some successes.
“In concert with our American and British allies, Nigeria’s military have pushed back the terrorists and largely reduced their capacity over the last five years compared to the previous decade.
“Boko Haram have targeted Christians and Churches specifically because they know it drives forward religious and land tensions already existent in the country. Similarly, they attack mosques and Muslims in order to issue the threat: radicalise, or become targets yourselves.”
Also, he stated that the government is committed to increasing its efforts “alongside our allies to fully defeat and finally finish Boko Haram, in order to bring security to the north of the country”.
Also, according to him, “other focused areas include: securing the return of all those held hostage and in captivity by the terrorists; uniting the nation through dialogue organised around respect for difference in religion and countering fake news”.
“The President and Government have and will at all times work with those – both within and without Nigeria – with a concern for the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” he added.