The United States has added Nigeria for the first time to a religious freedom blacklist alongside China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Naija News reports that Nigeria is set to be sanctioned if it does not improve its record.
Though a reason for including Nigeria was not given, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the most populous black nation as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom.
According to US laws, countries that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom would be designated.
Other nations included in the religious freedom blacklist are Eritrea, Myanmar, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The US also removed from a second-tier watchlist both Uzbekistan and Sudan.
Recall that an annual State Department report published earlier this year on Nigeria took note of concerns both at the federal and state levels.
It pointed to the mass detention of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a Shiite Muslim group that has been at loggerheads with the government for decades and was banned by a court.
The group has taken inspiration from Iran, ordinarily a major target of President Donald Trump’s administration.
However, Nigeria has been widely criticized for its treatment of the movement, including in a 2015 clash in which hundreds were said to have died.
The State Department report highlighted the arrests of Muslims for eating in public in Kano state during Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight hours.
It also took note of the approval of a bill in Kaduna state to regulate religious preaching.