QueenEsther Iroanusi, Premiumtimes
The UK parliament has called on the British government to immediately commence investigation into human rights abuses by the Nigerian government and security agencies on citizens.
It 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.
In the deliberation which took place on Monday, the parliament condemned the killing of peaceful protesters and called on the Nigerian government to uphold the rule of law.
This was in particular reference to the #EndSARS protest held across the country last month and the attack on peaceful and unarmed protesters by the military at Lekki toll gate.
The UK government established the global human rights sanctions regime in July. It gives the UK a powerful tool to hold to account perpetrators of human rights violations or abuses and is considered one of the most important international policies made since the Conservatives returned to power.
Leading the debate, Theresa Villiers, a member of parliament and petition committee, said the petition was prompted by disturbing violence in Nigeria over recent weeks. And protesters’ distrust in the government after the disbandment of SARS especially if the officers will be moved to other police units.
In what seemed like a solidarity movement, members at the chamber took turns to condemn the inhumane treatment on civilians. They asked that the authorities be held accountable for their crime against humanity and called for impartial investigation to begin a process to secure justice for victims and their families.
UK Government’s stand
The Minister for Africa, who was meant to be present at the chamber, was “away on a ministerial duty” and could not make it, Wendy Morton, another MP told the chamber.
She, in place of the minister, responded on behalf of the government.
She informed that the minister had spoken to Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu and the president’s chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, between October 21 and November 11 – asking the Nigerian authorities to restore peace to troubled areas.
She said the UK government welcomes President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to disband SARS but wants the police brutality investigated.
“We welcome the dialogue between state governments and the people. We welcome the establishment of judicial panels and we will continue to monitor the investigation by the panels as well as the progress on police reforms.
“…protesters were intimidated and this did not leave the environment safe for protesters to demand accountability. We call on the Nigerian government to uphold the rule of law, investigate human rights abuses and the use of force and hold those responsible…”
They agreed that British-Nigerian constituents will be reassured if they have a clear statement that no UK military tax payers money will be used by security forces in Nigeria.
They also urged the government to look beyond sanctions to monitoring the way development funding is spent in Nigeria.
Instead of funding corrupt security officers and investing in projects which do not benefit ordinary Nigerians, we need a new focus on poverty reliefs and anti-corruption programmes.
“While the minister has failed to make commitments on targeted sanctions, we believe that this will be taken seriously and investigation and justice will be carried out soon,” Ms Villiers said in her closing remarks.
Nigerian security officials have been accused of extra-judicial killing of unarmed protesters during the #EndSARS protest against police brutality. Such killings happened in states such as Lagos, Oyo, Rivers and Delta.
A PREMIUM TIMES investigation detailed how many people were recently killed in Oyigbo, Rivers State, by soldiers who accused a proscribed group, IPOB, of hiding in the community to kill soldiers.
At least two people were also killed at the Lekki toll gate last month when soldiers fired at unarmed protesters, with many others sustaining gunshot wounds.