NIGERIA’S main opposition the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has applauded the resolution by the British parliament to sanction any federal government official found to be responsible human rights violations during the recent Lekki Toll Gate massacre.
On November 23, the UK House of Commons debated the Lekki Toll Gate massacre, with members of Parliament demanding that tough sanctions be brought against anyone responsible for these killings. James Duddridge MP, the minister for Africa at the Foreign Office was not present in person but his representative said he had spoken to the Nigerian government about the matter and a statement shall be issued on what shall be done next.
During the debate, MPs called on the British government to apply sanctions against the Nigerian government and officials over the Lekki incident. MPs pointed out that the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate gave rise to the outbreak of violence across Nigeria and are now waiting for the outcome of investigations by the federal and state governments into reports of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
In a swift response, Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign minister has reached out to the British government to present the administration’s own side of the story. While affirming that the lawmakers are not responsible for imposing sanctions, the minister noted that it is necessary to give to the UK government Nigeria’s own position to enable them to have a balanced perspective.
Mr Onyeama said: “The UK government has been briefed and also heard the side of the Nigerian government regarding everything that has happened. What is important is that a balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision.”
However, the PDP urged the United Nations and other international bodies to immediately list indicted officials of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for the widespread crime against humanity. Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP publicity secretary, also urged the British government to extend the proposed sanctions to include the freezing of assets and funds belonging to such officials and their families in the United Kingdom.
Mr Ologbondiyan said: “We also call on other countries, including the United States, France, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa among others to impose similar sanctions against indicted officials of the Buhari administration for human rights violations and crime against humanity. Such sanctions should also be imposed on officials indicted for undermining our democracy and electoral system.
“The international community must call out President Buhari, as the buck stops on his table, as the commander-in-chief, under whose watch, human rights violations including arbitrary arrests and detention in dehumanizing facilities, widespread extrajudicial killings, sudden disappearances of dissenting voices, disregard to rule of law, disobedience to court orders and foisting of siege mentality on the citizenry, have become the order of the day. Indeed, the manifest use of brute force including the deployment of the military with live ammunition, in addition to recruiting of armed thugs to attack and kill innocent Nigerian youths, who were in peaceful demonstration against widespread police brutality and other systemic injustices, underscores the horrible situation in Nigeria under President Buhari as detailed in earlier reports by Amnesty International and the US Department of State among other international bodies.
“Is it not frightening that the Buhari presidency has failed to come clean on who ordered the deployment of troops to Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, where unarmed demonstrators were shot and killed even while waving our national flag and singing our nation’s anthem? Is it not equally frightening that government has also failed to explain how armed thugs were seen being brought in security vans to unleash violence on demonstrators in Abuja and other parts of our country?
“Rather than providing answers to these troubling questions, the federal government is desperate to gag Nigerians, muzzle the press, shut down the social media and even threatening the international media including CNN for carrying out an investigative report on the Lekki killing, while its officials continue to make contradicting claims on the matter. Moreover, the administration had turned a deaf ear to the demand for an independent National Truth Commission on the killings.”
He added that such stance only points to the desperation of a huge cover-up in the face of demands for answers by Nigerians and the international community. In addition, the PDP urged the international community not to relent in standing by the Nigerian people at this critical time in the nation’s history, particularly in ensuring respect to the rights of citizens and the sanctity of Nigeria’s electoral system.