Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has responded to the United States of America designating Nigeria as “a country of particular concern” with regard to religious freedom and the freedom of thought and conscience, saying his conscious is clear.
On December 20, the United States government issued a statement, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. secretary of state, Michael R. Pompeo, designating Nigeria “a country of particular concern” with regard to religious freedom and the freedom of thought and conscience, declaring that “the protection of religious freedom is a top Trump Administration foreign policy priority.”
According to a statement by Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari described the designation as unfair, urging the US to ensure its sources of information on Nigeria cut across all sectors as some people might provide misleading and manipulative narratives for self-serving purposes, ignoring the larger picture of a united country.
Buhari spoke when he received Letters of Credence of United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Mary Beth Leonard, in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the recent listing of Nigeria for human rights concerns created an impression that some people were being unfairly treated or marginalized in the country.
“I know that those with access have created an impression of being marginalised. I sit here with a clear conscience. I took an oath and I am honouring the office,”he said.
President Buhari said he took some time to explain the situation in the country when he met with President Donald Trump in Washington DC as the American President expressed concern with reports of attacks on segments of the society.
“It is not an easy task to work for the unity of the country, and I am doing my best. During your stay in the country I am asking you to ensure that your sources of strategic information cut across,” he added.
The President urged the envoy to use the opportunity of her posting to Nigeria, with her experience, knowledge and energy to get the facts on the country.
In her remarks, the United States Ambassador said Nigeria was listed on a watch list to deepen conversation on the humanitarian situation in the country, accepting that some people could “flare the flames and crystalise issues’’ that could affect peaceful-coexistence.