A group of MPs gathered in parliament on 23 November 2020 to address Diaspora Nigerians’ request to sanction certain known individuals within the Nigerian Government and security forces, following the #LekkiMassacre – that left an uncertified number of people dead.
Majority of the group, led by Rt Hon Theresa Villiers, the Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, argued the case for Nigerian civilians to be heard since over 220 thousand people signed a petition for the sanctions to be brought about.
The petition, signed by well meaning Nigerians and non-Nigerians, requested for the UK to use the Magnitsky-type sanctions on known Nigerian politicians and security forces who stopped freedom of speech on the fateful night of 20 October 2020 by killing protesters and disposing of their bodies to hide the true number of the dead.
Introduced into the UK in July 2020, the Magnitsky-type sanctions were brought about to hold individuals involved in “some of the gravest human rights violations and abuses around the world” accountable for their actions, according to gov.uk website.
The sanctions means “the UK has new powers to stop those involved in serious human rights abuses and violations from entering the country, channelling money through UK banks, or profiting from our economy.”
It is a sanction originally introduced by the US against Russia.
Theresa Villiers opened the floor to discuss this petition created and driven by a UK Nigerian man, Silas Ojo.
She recognised that the need for #EndSARS, was as a result of Nigerians losing faith in its government and its promises to end SARS, given how many times – four to date – the SARS unit was supposed to be have been disbanded.
The Right Honourable went on to acknowledge the night of 20 October 2020 dubbed #LekkiMassacre, when the Nigerian army and police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration at the Lekki tollgate.
It was witnessed by many who tuned into the Instagram live of Obianuju Catherine Udeh aka DJ switch – a leading DJ in Nigeria.
She continued with references to proof of the #LekkiMassacre brought to light by CNN and Amnesty International, who estimated that around 56 people died. Finally concluding that there was a need for the Magnitsky style sanction given the over-whelming evidence.
Mrs Villiers was backed up by fellow MPs including Rt Kate Osamor, Tom Tungendhat, Abena Oppong-Asare, Alyn Smith and a couple of others.
Kate Osamor, MP for Edmonton, highlighted the government’s role in funding SARS through their £10 million development program in Nigeria since 2016.
She suggested an apology should be made to the Nigerian people with full pledge of an independent inquiry, as well as adding names of government and security officials to prove that they are acting for the global good.
Tom Tungendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, reminded the floor and public of “when General Gowon left Nigeria with half the Central Bank of Nigeria, so it is said, and moved to London.”
He stressed that based on this – since these known powerful individuals have easier access to escape Nigeria and refuge in the UK – the UK is in a good psoition to pressure individual officials who have robbed Nigerian civillians.
Abena Oppong-Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, highlighted threats made against DJ Switch, the Nigerian DJ whose video many watched live to witness the truth, and asked if the governement can protect woman and girls against violence.
Alyn Smith, MP for Stirling, Scotland, suggested arms dealing programmes to Nigeria should be suspended pending any investigation.
After all of that discussion, no sanction agreements were met. Wendy Morton, MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, replying on behalf of the Conservatives and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said:
“We were concerned by violence during recent protests and await the outcome of Nigerian investigations into reports of police brutality. We do not publicly speculate on future sanctions designations.”Implement sanctions against the Nigerian Government and officials [Petition]
The new ‘Magnitsky’-style sanctions [GOV.UK]
Nigeria: Sanctions Regime [Hansard]
E-petition 554150, relating to Nigeria and the sanctions regime [House of Commons Library]