Nigeria’s federal government on Tuesday said it was unperturbed by resolutions of the United Kingdom parliamentarians for sanctions against top Nigerian officials and security agents involved in the alleged violation of #EndSARS protesters’ rights as it did not represent the position of the British government.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told THISDAY in Abuja that the UK government will not sanction Nigerian officials based on a fake report.
He was reacting to Monday’s resolutions taken after the parliamentarians had considered a petition signed by 220, 000 signatories in the aftermath of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, calling, among others, for sanction against indicted Nigerian officials.
However, while the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) hailed the decision of the UK parliament, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said it was losing confidence in the UK lawmakers.
The UK Parliament’s Petitions Committee had on Monday debated the motion “that this House has considered e-petition 554150, relating to Nigeria and the sanctions regime.”
Petitions debates are general debates, which allow members of parliament from all parties to deliberate on crucial issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to government ministers.
A member of the Petitions Committee, Theresa Villiers MP, opened the debate, while the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sent a minister to respond.
However, Mohammed in an exclusive interview with THISDAY said there was no reason for the federal government to be worried by the UK Parliament’s resolution.
The minister stated that what the UK Parliament relied on to arrive at its resolutions were fake news and hearsay.
Mohammed said: “The federal government is not panicky at all. The resolution of the UK Parliament is not necessarily the decision of the UK government.
“And no responsible government will consider sanctioning the federal government based on fake news and hearsay without getting in touch with the government.
“Two issues – the resolution of the UK Parliament doesn’t represent the position of the government of the UK and only the government can sanction and parliament can only make resolutions.
“Secondly, we are very confident that no responsible government, no serious government, is going to consider imposing sanctions on other countries based on fake news and unverified videos.
“They will also do their own painstaking investigations and also ask for the side of the country. So, we have no reason to panic at all because we know that all the evidence before them is fake news- nothing of big news.”
Also reacting to CNN’s second report, the minister said he had watched the video and there was nothing in it to disprove Nigeria’s position that there were no fatalities arising from the Lekki Tollgate shootings as soldiers only fired blank bullets.
He added: “Nothing new – CNN is desperate and they are grasping at straws. I have watched the video. We have asked questions: where are the bodies they are claiming? And it is very important to do that. CNN was never at the gate on 20th October.
“The BBC reporter that was there reported that the soldiers did not shoot into the crowd. And then the CNN is being clever by half.
“The same CNN on October 23 on its Twitter handle tweeted that 38 lives were lost. A month later after their so-called intensive investigation, they came out and said only one person was killed.
“And people are not even noticing this inconsistency. The truth of the matter is that CNN has been caught in the glare of its own fake news and misinformation and it is just struggling and you know we have written an official letter to CNN.
“The facts are clear. All the videos they are using, none of them can show us dead bodies. They claimed soldiers went and dumped the bodies elsewhere, so those people have no relations.
“They have no parents, and a month after they can’t come out and say my son and daughter went to the tollgate and did not come back. CNN was unprofessional, unfair and reckless.”
In their reaction to the parliamentary decisions, Afenifere and PANDEF hailed the resolutions to sanction Nigerian government officials.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told THISDAY that Afenifere welcomes the decision to impose sanctions “on those with bloody hands to show that enlightened humanity is not impressed with their conduct and they are ostracised by decent people.”
According to him, “Listening through the parliamentarians’ debate was some therapy to the horror we are going through in Nigeria which fascists unleashed on the polity and the Lai Mohammeds dancing on the graves of our young ones murdered in cold blood.
“The debate was a mark of honour for our shared humanity and a serious indictment of our rulers without any milk of humanity for human lives. Those who protect cows with all they have and even confess to paying a ransom to Fulani who lost cows in Kaduna years after having no tear for our massacred young ones and continue to malign them in death as if there is no God who rules in the affairs of men.”
PANDEF’s spokesman, Mr. Ken Robinson, expressed the hope that the action of the British parliamentarians would serve as a warning to the federal government.
He said: “The decision of the British Parliament is understandable. It has been said that no country is an island on its own. Nigeria is part of the global community, whatever happens in this country, good or bad, could directly or indirectly, affect the whole world.
“Therefore, the global community cannot afford to sit idle and watch things go wrong in Nigeria, and indeed any other country.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that the handling of the EndSARS protest was awful; things could have been done better. This is a democratic government and citizens have the right to express their disaffection peacefully.
“That’s what the young Nigerians did in the peaceful #EndSARS protests but unfortunately, they were brutalised and are now being demonised.”
He added that the hiring of armed thugs to unleash terror on the peaceful protesters and the deployment of the military and police against the demonstrators were unnecessary.
But on its part, ACF said it was beginning to lose confidence in UK Parliament and will not want to make any comments on its deliberations about Nigeria.
Speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY Tuesday, the spokesman of the ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yaweh, said the allegation against the former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), by a member of the UK Parliament made ACF lose confidence in them.
“We at the ACF are beginning to lose confidence in the UK lawmakers.
“Only today a member of UK Parliament by name Mr. Tom Tugendhart took a swipe at our respected former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, by accusing him of stealing half of the money in Nigeria’s central bank, the CBN, and taking it to the UK.
“Until the UK Parliament substantiates such wild claims, it will not serve any purpose discussing any of their proposals.
“The ACF is convinced that Gen. Gowon is the cleanest former Nigerian leader surviving.
“Where is the money this UK Parliamentarian has alleged he stole and kept? In which bank and under what name is it kept?
“Raising such wild allegations without substance in the UK against all Nigerians has become a hobby to its leaders. May be they want to recolonise us and steal our wealth as they did before and created a kingdom where the ‘Sun never set’.
“If not barefaced theft, what were they doing all over the world, holding innocent Africans as slaves and plundering the weather of India.
“Gen. Gowon resided in UK as a student at Warwick University. All those who knew him said he lived modestly. He has no property in Nigeria or any other place in the world.
“He is today in Nigeria living modestly. Until the UK Parliament provides evidence that Gowon stole half of the money in Central Bank of Nigeria when he was deposed, we at the ACF see the comments of their member as racially motivated to destroy African leaders, no matter how honest they may be.
“We at ACF have no time to discuss with such bigoted people.”