Members of the United Kingdom Parliament on Monday took turns to lambast the President Muhammadu Buhari led government for the attack and intimidation of protesters who took part in the #EndSARS demonstrations.
They demanded sanctions on government officials and security agents such as visa ban, freezing of assets and stopping the funding and training for the Nigeria Police Force.
The debate was sequel to a petition started by Silas Ojo which had garnered over 200,000 signatures.
The UK lawmakers, while considering the petition filed in the aftermath of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, expressed lack of confidence in Nigeria’s handling of the incident and vowed to launch an independent investigation to unravel the circumstances of the alleged shooting.
The parliamentarians passed the resolutions the same day the Federal Government wrote to the United States-based global television station, Cable News Network (CNN), over last Wednesday’s airing of a report on the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20.
The debate by members of the Petitions Committee, which took place at the Westminster Hall, kicked off with Theresa Villiers, a member of the British Conservative Party who served as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2019 to 2020.
The lawmakers said: “No action can replace the lives that have been lost, but that doesn’t mean we cannot take actions.
“We know that these individuals come here and use our banks, so we are in a unique position to do something.”
The Member of Parliament for Chipping Barnet constituency said, “I believe the petitioners have a credible case for the imposition of individualised sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes.”
She said the UK Government must explain the role of the government in training security agents who end up abusing the rights of Nigerian citizens.
Also speaking, the MP for Edmonton, Kate Osamor, described as undemocratic, the claim by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the killings at the Lekki toll plaza was fake news.
Osamor stated, “The Nigerian government says that it has disbanded SARS but the corruption and brutality of the security forces continues. The Nigerian government’s violence against its own citizens appears only to be intensifying.
“The Nigerian government needs to stop freezing bank accounts of key protesters; it needs to stop illegal detentions of key protesters. The Minister of Information for the Federal Government went on record to state that the CNN reporting of the massacre is fake news. This is undemocratic conduct.”
Osamor stated that the UK government continued to sell weapons and provide training to SARS personnel despite the fact that Amnesty International and other rights groups had accused the now disbanded unit of extra-judicial killings.
Member of Parliament for West Ham, Lyn Brown, said it was unfortunate that the Federal Government went ahead to not only accuse protesters of sponsoring terrorism and freeze their accounts but also blamed them for the increase in food prices.
Responding on behalf of the UK government, the MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, Wendy Morton, who is also the Minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said the reports of intimidation of #EndSARS protesters were worrying.
Morton stated that the UK government was communicating with the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
“It is a long-standing practice not to speculate on future sanctions as it could reduce the impact of the designations,” Morton said.
“We are aware that some protesters have reported facing intimidation and the British High Commissioner in Abuja continues to raise our concerns about intimidation of civil society groups and peaceful protesters with the Nigerian government,” the minister said.