For stating that the CNN reporting of the massacre that took place in Nigeria during the EndSARS hurricane is fake news, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, has been accused of undemocratic conduct by a British lawmaker.
During plenary, the MP for Edmonton, Kate Osamor, described as undemocratic, the claim by Mohammed, that the killings at the Lekki toll plaza was fake news.
The UK government has already responded to the grave situation in Nigeria. The MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, Wendy Morton, who is also the Minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, says the reports of intimidation of EndSARS protesters were worrying.
Osamor however, says “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.
The UK Parliament on Monday recommended sanctions against government officials and security agents who abused the rights of EndSARS protesters. The lawmakers recommended a visa ban, freezing of assets, stopping the funding and training for the Nigeria Police Force.
The debate was sequel to a petition started by one Silas Ojo and signed by 220,000 signatories in the aftermath of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20. The petitioners charged the UK government to impose sanctions on individuals in the Nigerian government and police officers involved in human rights abuses.
The debate was opened by Theresa Villiers, a member of the Petitions Committee, opening the floor for other legislators from all parties to make their contributions.
The parliament did not just debate the EndSARS protest and its violent aftermath; they also briefly touched on the Oyigbo killings in Rivers State and perceived persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
Expressing concern about what happened in Nigeria, the parliamentarians condemned the alleged shooting of unarmed protesters, the subsequent crackdown on EndSARS promoters and the sanction on three Nigerian television stations.
Demanding accountability for those responsible for such brutality and loss of lives during and after the protests, they called for independent investigations into the violations by Nigerian police, security and military forces.
They note that it would have been better if they had confidence in the system of investigations in Nigeria, adding that with the ongoing failures of the government in dealing with EndSARS, many do not have faith in that process.
Setting a distinction between the looters and hoodlums from the actual peaceful protesters, they condemned the actions of the government that followed the protest, including the recent action by Lai Mohammed who tagged the CNN investigation into the Lekki Tollgate shooting as fake.
On the disbanded SARS, the parliamentarians said though the Buhari administration claimed it ended SARS, corruption and brutality continued, adding that the UK government committed some money from the £10 million that went to Nigeria to training SARS, which still went ahead to become immoral.
They accused the administration of taking part in the attempted cover-up of the alleged Lekki Tollgate shooting and charged the government to stop freezing accounts of protesters.
Demanding that the Buhari administration protects the right of Nigerians to protest, they also demanded accountability from the Nigerian government.
Intermittently referring to the shooting by the security forces at Lekki Tollgate as “massacre,” they insisted that the protesters were peaceful.
The parliament, who 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 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.”
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.
Taiwo Owatemi, a Nigerian representing Coventry North West MP queried if Nigeria was a dictatorship? Giving his support for sanctions against individuals in government and justice for victims, he queried why “armed military officers discharged live ammunition at peaceful protesters, injuring and killing them. Who exactly ordered the military to shoot live ammunition in a civilian territory? Why were bank accounts of individuals who partook in the protest frozen?”
Also speaking, Teresa Pearce said: “I have been contacted by dozens of people who want to see action to ensure that human rights are upheld in Nigeria. It is not enough to just put out a statement of condemnation.”
Stephen Doughty, representing Cardiff South and Penarth, repeatedly condemned the attack on unarmed protesters.
Lyn Brown stated: “My plea is that we stand with the young people of Nigeria who are demanding change far beyond the closure of SARS.”
A parliamentarian 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.
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. 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”, Morton said.