Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The United Kingdom Parliament, Tuesday evening, lambasted the Federal Government over its role in the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos.
Deliberating on E-petition 554150, relating to Nigeria and the recent #EndSARS protest, the lawmakers called for sanctions on Nigerian government officials who were involved in the Lekki episode.
Recall that individuals had sign a petition asking the UK government to sanction those responsible for the killing of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate during the #EndSARS protest.
Following the petition initiated by Silas Ojo which was signed by 200,000 individuals, the United Kingdom Parliament set aside November 23, 2020, to debate on individual sanctions against Nigerian Government officials.
The British High Commission in Nigeria, had also said the debate which would be led by Theresa Villiers MP from 6:00-7:30pm (UK Time), would witness the United Kingdom Government’s official response from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister, Morton Wendy.
The debate which held at the Westminster Hall, began with opening remarks by Villiers, a former United Kingdom Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, currently a Member of the British Conservative Party.
In her contribution, Villiers who represents Chipping Barnet Constituency, said she was of the opinion that those who signed the petition had “a credible case for the imposition of individualised sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes.”
Villiers further said the Government of the United Kingdom should disclose its role in enhancing security officials who in the long run, end up abusing the rights of citizens of Nigeria.
Also contributing to the debate, the Member of Parliament representing Edmonton, Kate Osamor, said the submission by the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the killings at the Lekki toll gate was fake news was undemocratic.
“The Nigerian Government says that it has disbanded SARS, but the corruption and brutality of the security forces continue. The Nigerian Government’s violence against its own citizens appears only to be intensifying.
“The Nigerian Government needs to stop freezing bank accounts of key protesters, it needs to stop illegal detentions of key protesters. The Minister of Information for the Federal Government went on record to state that the CNN reporting of the massacre is fake news. This is undemocratic conduct,” Osamor stated.
Osamor further frowned at the Government of the United Kingdom’s continuous sale of weapons to Nigeria, including the provision of training to SARS even though the Amnesty International and other human rights groups had in the past accused SARS of extrajudicial killings.
“At the very moment in which Amnesty International had declared SARS units to have been involved in extrajudicial killings, corruption, torture, the government was using the aid budget to train and equip those units. In fact, between 2016 and this year, more than 10 million (pounds) went towards programmes from which SARS units benefited. That is not only immoral, it makes it hard for the government to play a positive role in Nigeria during this vital period,” Osamor also said.
In her remarks, Morton said the incidences of intimidation of #EndSARS protesters were worrisome.
Morton added that the United Kingdom Government was in touch with the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, and the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Morton however said it was too early to speak on sanctions against the Nigerian Government.
“It is a long-standing practice not to speculate on future sanctions as it could reduce the impact of the designations.
“We are aware that some protesters have reported facing intimidation and the British High Commissioner in Abuja continues to raise our concerns about intimidation of civil society groups and peaceful protesters with the Nigerian government,” Morton said.