By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE Federal Government yesterday said that it has reached out to the British Government over the threat by the British Parliament to impose sanctions on Nigeria’s officials over their roles in the #EndSARS protests.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this while fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said that the Nigerian government has reached to present its own side of the story.
While affirming that the lawmakers are not responsible for imposing sanctions, the minister however noted that it is necessary to give to the U.K. government Nigeria’s own position to enable them to have a balanced perspective.
According to him, “Yes, we have reached out to the U.K government. The meeting that took place were Parliamentarians and they don’t speak for the U.K. government which acts for the United Kingdom and has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that has happened.
“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 a balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision.”
“The U.K. government has been briefed. There was a U.K. Parliamentarians meeting and the U.K. government, which acts for the United Kingdom has also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that has happened.
“So, we have been in touch with them and engaging with them. As in every democracy, members of parliament are able to also able to air their views.
“What is important is that a balanced picture is made available to them before they take any decision.”
The Minister also said that he briefed the Council on the meeting with governors, youth, and stakeholders in the South East as directed by the President in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.
Asked whether there was a long term plan to ensure that businesses and lives of people from the South East are safe in other parts of the country because it appears that any time there is an issue anywhere, the businesses and lives of the South East people appear to be the target, he said that it was part of the discussion.
According to him, “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 South Easterners 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 there may be other things… 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.”
He said that the southeast Governors were 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.
“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 a constant dialogue with the youths and all the other stakeholders in the subregion.
“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,” he said.
Continuing, he said, “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.”