From NDUKAIHE UGWU, Abuja
In the wake of threats by the British Parliament to impose sanctions on some government officials for their roles in the criminalisation of the recent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, the federal government has assured it has reached out to the British government to explain its own side of the story.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, told State House Correspondents in Abuja earlier today, at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, that the federal government would try to dissuade Britain from moves that might damage Nigeria-Uk bilateral relations.
AbeyaNews recalls that the UK Parliament recently debated the #EndSARS protests, the violence that trailed them and the alleged role security agencies played in the escalation of the crisis.
While noting that lawmakers, in reality, were not responsible for imposing sanctions, Onyema, however, noted that it was necessary to give the U.K. government Nigeria’s own position to enable them have a balanced perspective.
“On the issue of UK Parliament, yes we have reached out to the UK government. The meeting that took place were Parliamentarians and don’t speak for U.K. government which acts for the United Kingdom has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that has happened,” Onyema said.
“So, we have been in touch with them and engaging with them. And of course as in any democracy, the members of parliament are able to also able to air their view.
“But what is important is that balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision.”
The Minister said he presented a report on his visit to the South East region, as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, in the aftermath of the violent protests and looting that trialed the #ENDSARS protests, adding that Governors of the region were making moves to ensure that citizens of the region, as well as their businesses and property were protected against reprisals.
He said: “It is work in progress and it is all about building trust. The Southeast governors did address the issue of ethnicity in this whole situation and it was in that context that they committed to assuring the security of groups that are not from the zone of their protection and also reaching out beyond their zone to their counterparts to also ensure the security of Southeasterners living in other parts of the country.
“But I think this also speaks to just the whole security apparatus supporting the security forces to be able to defend and protect Nigerians wherever they are within the country, I think that is really what it has to be about.
“Of course they may be other things that government issues that will come up to play but I think the most immediate one really would be having security forces that are enabled and empowered to be able to protect every single Nigerian wherever they might have found themselves in the country.”
“Southeast Governors are committed to creating victims fund to compensate and help victims of violence. They are also to engage more systematically with the youths to address the agitations as a result of EndSARS and came 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,” he added.
“They were also very keen to ensure and guarantee the safety of all Nigerians living within the zone and also thanked the other parts of the country for assuring the safety of those from the South East living in other parts of the country. They said they will 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 this enabling environment will be 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 the state of Enugu 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.”
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mustapha Shehuri also presented his report of his visit to Taraba State.