Britain has expressed grave concern about what it described as the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria and pledged to help the country tackle insecurity.
The UK’s Minister of Armed Forces, James Heappey, and the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, expressed worry at the deteriorating security situation in the country, adding that London was keen on helping Nigeria win its fight against insecurity.
They spoke at different fora during engagements in Abuja between Monday and Wednesday.
Britain’s pledge to help Nigeria combat insecurity came just as the United States, in a report released Wednesday excoriated Nigeria over its human rights records but said it could not confirm the accurate figures of causalities during the shootings at Lekki Tollgate last year.
“We are extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation.
“I mean Nigeria is facing a lot of problems everywhere – in the North-east, terrorism; in the North-west, banditry, kidnapping; in the Middle Belt, the farmers-herders conflict; in the South, the Niger Delta conflict everywhere.
“And the secession movements in the South-east. So, Nigeria is really struggling,” Liang told journalists yesterday in Abuja on the sidelines of a reception to welcome home the 2019/2020 UK Chevening Scholarship beneficiaries.
Laing said the UK government had been helping the Nigerian military with training, campaign planning and how to counter improvised explosive devices.
“Well, we are here to support and help. We have the military team here, who came here after the Chibok girls were kidnapped actually. We are still here, training the Nigerian military, helping them to do campaign planning, how to counter IEDs,” Laing said.
She added that the recent visit of the UK’s Minister of Armed Forces, James Heappey, during which he interacted with the Nigerian government at the highest level, including the service chiefs, also showed the commitment of the UK government to assist Nigeria in combating insecurity.
Laing, however, urged the federal government to be specific about the support it needed from the UK and what the UK can offer.
“So, we are here for a long time. This is a Nigerian partnership. Your insecurity becomes our insecurity if we don’t help you tackle it. So, we are here and we are trying to do our best to support you,” she said.
Chairperson of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, urged the Chevening scholarship beneficiaries to use the knowledge and skills gained for Nigeria’s development.
Earlier, Heappey, during his meeting with Nigerian service chiefs, committed the UK to assist Nigeria in tackling the growing insecurity, especially terrorism.
A statement by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of UK said Heappey, who visited Nigeria on Monday, met with Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd); Chief of the Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo; Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor; and the Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum.
‘’Minister for the Armed Forces said the UK would continue to work closely with Nigeria to address the current security situation. He discussed future Nigeria-UK opportunities to strengthen cooperation, including further UK Ministry of Defence assistance for Nigeria. He also stressed the importance placed on human rights in our engagement’’, the statement stated.
The UK said the minister’s visit had demonstrated the importance of the UK-Nigeria partnership across a range of foreign policy and defence objectives.
It added: ‘’The UK’s recently launched Integrated Review – our most significant review of foreign, defence, development and security policy since the end of the Cold War – clearly identifies Nigeria as a priority partner for the UK.
‘’The UK has a long history of defence engagement in the West Africa region, and an enduring partnership with the Armed Forces of Nigeria and those deployed with the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram.
‘’Programmes within this engagement seek to explore ways to strengthen our relationship and to identify areas where the UK can support the Armed Forces of Nigeria and regional partners in their efforts to bring stability to the region.’’
During his discussions, Heappey said the UK would continue to work closely with Nigeria to address the current security situation.
He also discussed future Nigeria-UK opportunities to strengthen cooperation, including further UK Ministry of Defence assistance for Nigeria, while stressing the importance of human rights in the country’s engagement.
The minister also outlined how the UK was committed to working with Nigeria and other regional allies in West Africa to tackle violence in the Lake Chad Basin and emphasised the importance to the UK and Nigeria of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
He stated that the UK remains keen on exploring opportunities to do more work with Nigeria on these issues.
He added that the UK looks forward to joining Senegal in co-chairing the G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea (FOGG) this year while also emphasising how the UK is committed to supporting Nigeria with reforming national and regional structures and processes.
Heappey said: “Nigeria is an important and valued defence partner for the UK. Our two countries face many shared threats, from violent extremists like Boko Haram, to serious organised crime and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The UK is committed to working with our Nigerian friends to tackle these threats and enhance security and stability across West Africa.”
Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Micheal Olugbode in Abuja