The Presidency has reacted to a letter from United Kingdom lawmakers, legal experts and campaigners over security developments in Nigeria, urging them to ignore agents of anarchy and visit Nigeria for genuine information about the country.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesman, who stated this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said the visit would enable them to discuss all points raised in their letter.
The presidential aide, who narrated the efforts of the Buhari administration towards ensuring peaceful coexistence among the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the country, dismissed the assertion that the administration had not done to check social conflicts in the country.
He, however, expressed the readiness of the Nigerian government to work with Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and all concerned parties to bring a lasting solution to herder-farmer clashes, and the threat posed to all Nigerians – and the Sahel region as a whole – from Boko Haram terrorists and their allies.
“We ask our British colleagues to visit Nigeria, whether formally or informally to discuss all the points raised in their letter. Our government is made equally of Christian and Muslim cabinet members; our Vice President is an Evangelical Pastor.
“We have everything to gain as a country through international cooperation with concerned, senior British parliamentarians and policymakers.
“The threat to civilians and peaceful co-existence between different ethnic and religious groups from Boko Haram, banditry and land disputes is of serious concern to the President and the government.
“It is incorrect, however, to assert that the government has or is doing nothing to address these intertwined threats.
“Firstly, there are on-going efforts for the establishment of cattle ranches to prevent or curtail open grazing, the practice that brings herders and farmers into conflict. This is an age-old problem facing Nigerian Governments since the colonial days.
“However, matters of land distribution are dealt with at state level. This means willingness has to be shown by state governors to drive the process forward.
“The Federal Government launched a plan last year to work with states to address these issues – together. Unfortunately, this has been lacking in some states.”
On the long and determined battle waged against Boko Haram, Shehu said Nigerians are aware of the efforts made by the government.
“When the government came to power, the terrorist group held and administered an area the size of Belgium. Now they hold none. The terrorists are hiding out amongst remote forests and across borders.
“This makes it difficult to extinguish the final flames of the insurgency, and the government has no illusions of the potent threat still posed. However, the progress made cannot be denied,”he explained.
On efforts to address rising crime and insecurity, he said government’s new community policing initiative was launched this month as N13 billion had been earmarked for this Initiative.
According to him, 10,000 new constables are being recruited from the areas they will safeguard – as opposed to past practice.
Shehu advised the UK lawmakers against listening to those citizens who were bent on creating divisions among peace loving Nigerians for selfish motives.
However, the UK has expressed shock over position of the Federal Government that it would consider it disrespectful of the sovereignty of Nigeria for any outside authority to sit in judgment over the conduct of its citizens and apply punitive measures such as visa restriction.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, who spoke during an orientation programme for people with disability seeking Chevening scholarship opportunities said the UK absolutely respect the sovereignty of the Nigerian and it welcomed the fact that the government was following up on any violence.
Laing further said the issue of visa restriction on perpetrators of electoral violence was the United Kingdom’s visa policy, adding that the Government of the United Kingdom can determine who travels to the country.
“It is our visa policy, the UK, and we can determine who comes to the UK. So, that is a non sovereign right.
“And all we are saying is that in line with Nigerian policy, that those who commit violence or who incite violence, there may be an implication for that person when they apply for a visa in the UK.”