Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, has said the threats of sanctions issued by the UK parliament over the killing of unarmed protesters do not represent the stance of the British government.
Mr Onyeama said this while addressing State House correspondents after a meeting with governors and leaders from South-east region of the country on Wednesday.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported calls from the UK parliament for the British government to commence investigation into human rights abuses by the Nigerian government and security agencies on citizens.
The legislative arm also demanded the UK government to consider imposing sanctions on officials who are found culpable.
These sanctions range from visa bans to assets freezing as contained in an e-petition upon which the parliament’s Monday debate was based.
A total of 220,330 people had signed the e-petition with over 2,000 of the petitioners from the UK. In the petition, the people accused the Nigerian government and security officials of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings.
This was in particular reference to the #EndSARS protests which held across the country last month and the attack on peaceful and unarmed protesters by the military at Lekki toll gate.
‘We have reached out’
However, after the meeting of Wednesday, Mr Onyeama said the Nigerian government has reached out to the British government.
“Parliamentarians don’t speak for the UK government which acts for the United Kingdom (and) has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that has happened.
“So, we have been in touch with them and engaging with them. And of course as in any democracy, the members of parliament are able to air their views.”
The minister said, “what is important is that balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision.”
Fund for compensation
Meanwhile, at the meeting, the governors registered their commitment to creating a fund to compensate victims of violence which erupted after the protest, Mr Onyeama, who is from the region, said.
“They are also to engage more systematically with the youths to address the agitations as a result of EndSARS and came up with a number of proposals in that context to see better funding of the police and other security agencies as a way to achieving the right goal in addressing the security offices.
“They were also very keen to ensure and guarantee the safety of all Nigerians living within the zone and also thanked the other parts of the country for assuring the safety of those from the South-east living in other parts of the country. They said they will set up a mechanism for constant dialogue with the youths and all the other stakeholders in the subregion.”
When asked if there is any long term plan to ensure that businesses and lives of people from the South-east are safe in other parts of the country, the minister said:
“It is work in progress and it is all about building trust. The governors did address the issue of ethnicity in this whole situation and it was in that context that they committed to assuring the security of groups that are not from the zone of their protection and also reaching out beyond their zone to their counterparts to also ensure the security of South Easterners living in other parts of the country.”
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