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Nigerian Rights Abuses Spark House Committee to Call for Scrutiny of Abuja

By Douglas Burton

The fight to bring the glare of world attention onto Nigeria’s shameful record  on human rights took a giant step forward on Tuesday (Feb. 6) with an action by the influential  House Foreign Affairs Committee. Under GOP leadership, the committee passed House Resolution 82, instructing the U.S. State Department to restore the  label on  Nigeria of “Country of Particular Concern” for human rights. That may sound like an innocuous abstraction, but measuring how tempers flared during committee debate, it was anything but. 

“Nigeria has become a massive killing field,” Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican and the resolution sponsor told the committee, referring to the estimated 50,000 lives lost in radicalized Muslim massacres since 2009. Smith pointed out that during the Christmas break, “approximately 300 Christians died in Plateau State, and no one was held to account.”

 “And we’re not outraged? I am!” Smith said loudly.  On the Democratic side, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat, rose in opposition to the resolution, explaining that he could not support a measure that protected only Christian citizens. “Does my colleague’s outrage extend to violence against gays and lesbians?” Connelly asked. The debate lasted for hours but the final voting late in the afternoon was along party lines, 26 Republicans in favor of the resolution, 21 Democrats against.

Money Politics

“It’s all about the money,” said Stephen Enada, president of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) to TruthNigeria afterwards.

“The US Government vision for aid to West Africa emphasizes  reproductive health, full protection of gender minorities and abatement of climate change,” according to Enada.

“Much of the $1.2 billion in US annual aid monies to Nigeria are steered to US-based contractors who assist the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] implement these services in Nigeria and all over Africa. It’s a fact that many of these aid contractors are donors to Democrat Party,” Enada said.

The next step is to get the Congress to pass the resolution into law, which could take until the end of this year. Language calling for a Special Envoy was stripped out of the  resolution before passage. 

“The CPC label is the first part. The second part is sanctioning of 18 different action items, including penalties,” Rep. Chris Smith said.

“Follow-up actions  include conditioning of aid tied to better law enforcement, and closer U.S. government scrutiny of aid flows to Nigeria from its contractors–which the Nigerian government finds galling,” Enada said to TruthNigeria. There is no assurance that CPC will pass before end of this year, since GOP control of House is razor thin and Nigerian Government lobbyists will do their best to suppress passage.

“Rep. Smith is committed to bringing the Resolution to a full House vote in the coming months, and I’m confident that the votes are there, and  that this resolution will pass when it is brought to the House floor,” wrote Nina Shea, a Religious Freedom Scholar at Hudson Institute in a text to TruthNigeria.  

“Abuja is now on notice that the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is alert to the failure of the Nigerian government to protect all its people, irrespective of their religious beliefs and identities,” Shea wrote.

“I’ve observed that victims of grave injustices always seek public acknowledgment of what they’ve suffered. Acknowledgment – in the form of this Resolution and its endorsement of “Country of Particular Concern” designation is itself a form of much needed justice in Nigeria,” Shea added.

“This is an unmitigated victory for the persecuted, who just by being acknowledged as existing will now ‘live’ for many months as the U.S. political process advances, said Marcella Szymanski, Head of International advocacy for Aid to the Church in Need to TruthNigeria.

Enada says ICON will put its energies into energizing the Nigerian diaspora to vote in November to support lawmakers who are the forces behind this new stance of  the United States toward Nigeria.

Urgent need to stop Nigerian violence against Christians

“The need for world attention on Nigeria is urgent,”  said Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians told Truth Nigeria. “In truth, what happened in Israel on October 7 is every day in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Militant Islamists attack sleeping farming communities. The farmers are killed and their families, if they survive, are forced off their lands.

“Over 5,000 were killed last year in attacks such as these. Many are taken captive—no one cries for their release. Between 4-6 million are internally displaced. I’ve been there. I’ve seen them. I’ve held the babies with distended bellies starved and thirsty,” said Laugesen.

Douglas Burton is a conflict reporter based in Washington and serves as  managing editor of TruthNigeria.

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