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US designation of Nigeria “Severe Violations of Religious Freedom” and implications for investment

US designation of Nigeria “Severe Violations of Religious Freedom” and implications for investment

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“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s third law of motion. There have been several calls by top US think-tanks and Washington D.C based nonprofit civil society organizations requesting that, the US Government must act against countries suspected of violating International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Ordinarily, any reasonable government accused of engaging in or tolerated systemic egregious violations of religious freedom would act, or show its commitment to religious freedom to people of the world. However, neither the Nigerian embassy in Washington D.C, nor the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken any action on the accusations and calls for sanctions.

At an event organized by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) in Washington D.C, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo joined by US Congressman Lester L. Wolf called on US Government to place a travel ban and restriction on Nigerian top government officials sighting serious human rights abuse, ethnic cleansing and religious persecution which resulted to genocide in Nigeria.

It was no surprise therefore when on December 20, 2019, the US government released a press statement, through the US Department of State’s Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, announcing its decision to designate and place Nigeria on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”.

Unfortunately, US government designation of Nigeria as ‘a country of particular concern’ will of course affect calls for Nigerians in Diaspora to return home for investment opportunities.

While the IMF has declared Africa as the world’s second-fastest growing region. Ghana’s projected economic growth for 2019 is 8.79%. Rwanda is projected to grow at 7.8%, Ethiopia at 7.7% and Ivory Coast at 7.4%, World Economic Forum (WEF) has predicted that the world’s fastest-growing cities will be in Africa within the next 16 years. This is cheering news for Africa.

Forbes has reportedly stated that Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing investment zones for financial technology firms.

But how can Nigeria, also an African country, which has verifiably and noticed to be harboring severe violations of religious freedom be welcoming to such investments?

What kind of investments can thrive in an environment where the investor is not safe? It is almost certain that investors will be people of a faith, especially if they are Nigerians from the Diaspora.

The big question is how exactly will the Nigerian government respond to prove itself to be receptive and conducive for investment. Fighting back at the US by accusing them of listening to only a section of the society does not address the issues raised. The government must take concrete steps for all to see that Nigeria can indeed be a safe haven for investment and investors. I hope the concerned authorities are listening!

AbdulRasheed Abubakar

Broadcast Journalist | Media Entrepreneur | Publisher of Diaspora Today Magazine | United Nations Resident Correspondent | U.S. Capitol Hill Correspondent | International Content & Production (News) Editorial | Member of The National Press Club 'World's Leading Professional Organization for Journalists' | Member of United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).

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