*As FG negotiates with UK over threat of sanctions
*Government, not lawmakers can impose sanctions – Onyeama
By Chesa Chesa and Emma Okereh
Nigeria has reached out to the United Kingdom (UK) government to present its own side of the story concerning the threat by the latter’s parliamentarians to sanction officials indicted in the brutal suppression of recent #EndSARS protests.
This is despite dismissing the threats of sanctions as inconsequential by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.
Speaking with the State House Correspondents in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, affirmed that the lawmakers were not responsible for imposing sanctions, but that Nigeria still found it necessary to privide the British government with Nigeia’s position to ensure a balanced perspective.
He said: “The UK government has been briefed. There was UK Parliamentarian meeting and UK government, which acts for the United Kingdom has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that happened.
“So, we have been in touch with them and engaging with them. As in every democracy, members of parliament are also able to air their view.
“What is important is that balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision.”
On the meeting the presidency held with governors and stakeholders from the South-East over #EndSARS protests, Onyeama said that it was agreed by the stakeholders to create a Victims’ Fund to compensate the victims of the violence.
He added that they agreed “to engage more systematically with the youths to address the agitations as a result of #EndSARS and come 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”.
According to the Minister, “they were also very keen to ensure and guarantee the safety of all Nigerians living within the zone and also thanked other parts of the country for assuring the safety of people from the South-East living in other parts of the country.
“They said they would set up a mechanism for constant dialogue with the youths and all the other stakeholders in the sub-region.
“They appreciated very much that the enabling environment also had to be created so that the root causes of some of the agitations could be addressed, and of course, some of the enabling environment include getting the economy back on track and they were supportive of the initiative of Mr. President in that regard.
“So, all in all, it was an initiative the grassroots welcomed. They said it was the first time the Federal Government was engaging with the youths.
“Two days later, another stakeholders meeting was organized by myself where all the Presidents-General from Enugu State were invited, in addition to youths and traditional leaders.
“The discussions looked at larger issues of the country, governance issues and steps that could be taken to as it were stabilize the polity and to build a framework for peace, stability and development”.
*Nigeria not afraid of sanctions from UK – Lai Mohammed
Also speaking on the sanctions, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said government is not in any panic mode over the demand for sanctions by the UK lawmakers.
On Monday, UK lawmakers debated the alleged human rights abuses during the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria and demanded sanctions against government officials and security agents who were involved in the act.
Such sanctions could include visa ban, freezing of assets and stopping the funding and training for members of the Nigeria Police Force.
The debate was sequel to a petition started by Silas Ojo, which garnered over 200,000 signatories.
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 UK government was communicating with the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on the matter.
“It is a long-standing practice not to speculate on future sanctions as it could reduce the impact of the designations,” Morton said.
However, reacting to the development during a chat on NTA on Wednesday, Mohammed said: “We earlier stated that government all over the world who took hasty decisions about Nigeria on this issue should please seek the truth.
“If the decision of any government all over the world is based on fake news, it is very risky.
“It brings me to the issue of the UK parliament resolution. We are not panicking at all as a government for two reasons – the resolution of the UK parliament is not the decision of the country and no serious government will take a decision such as imposing sanctions based on fake news.
“This is why we are advising foreign countries to seek the truth and beware of fake news. The entire #EndSARS protest was fuelled by fake news.”