Yesterday, members of the United Kingdom Parliament, convened over over alleged human rights abuses during the #EndSARS protests and pushed for possible sanctions against the Nigerian government officials.
Committee of the UK Parliament held the debate in Westminster Hall due to the House’s consideration of the e-petition 554150 which over 200,000 persons had signed asking the UK to sanction the federal government for allegedly clamping down on the rights of members of the #EndSARS movement.
The petitioners had accused the Nigerian government and the police of violating the rights of agitators protesting against police brutality, while also calling on the UK to implement sanctions that would “provide accountability for and be a deterrent to anyone involved in violations of human rights”.
Their Petitions debates are general debates which allow members of parliament from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to government ministers.
A member of the Petitions Committee, Theresa Villiers M.P., opened the debate, while the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sent a minister to respond.
In her opening statement, Villiers said the UK sanction regime gives the country a powerful new tool to hold to account perpetrators of serious human rights violations and abuses: “This petition is being prompted by the disturbing event in Nigeria in recent weeks. The SARS unit has a deeply controversial reputation. Reports of violence and human rights abuses by SARS date back to several years but these latest protests follow a video in October which many believe shows a man being killed by SARS officers.” Villliers noted that the shooting at the Lekki toll gate seems like the last straw for many and has raised concerns of human rights violations.
Contributing, a member of parliament from Edmonton, Kate Osamor, pointed out that the situation in Nigeria was “regrettably serious.” Osamor said the UK must look beyond sanctioning the Nigerian government for alleged abuses and pay closer attention to its funding for certain programmes. The lawmaker also kicked against the UK-funded training for former operatives of the disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) which she said went on despite previous indictments of the squad. She said there was need for the UK to reconsider funding for some Nigerian security agencies she described as corrupt.
Another M.P., during the plenary session, said that Gen. Gowon, who was head of state in Nigeria from August 1966 to July 1975, looted half of CBN money while he was in power: “What we are seeing in Nigeria today is part of that story. It is a tragedy we are all witnessing because we see things falling apart. The problem this time is not foreign pressure known as colonialism. The pressure instead is corruption and violence and attempts at control (of power). We need to call out the corruption, we need to use the powers that we have in this country to stop those who are profiting from the wealth of that great nation and hiding it here. Now some people will remember when general Gowon left Nigeria, he took half of the Central Bank, so it is said, and moved to London. We know today, even now in this great city of ours, there are sadly some people who have taken the wealth of Nigerian people and hidden their ill-gotten gains here. We know that our banks sadly have been used for that profit or that illegal transfer of asset and that means that the UK is in a unique position in being able to actually do something to really exert pressure on those who have robbed Nigerians.”
They stressed that government officials responsible for the abuse of human rights in the country should be denied the opportunity to enjoy amenities in the U.K.