Nigeria: UK MPs Write Commonwealth On Insecurity in Nigeria

24 September 2020

Some members of the United Kingdom's House of Lords, the British upper legislative chamber, have petitioned the Commonwealth over the persistence of insurgency and farmer/herder crisis in Nigeria.

The lawmakers in a letter dated September 14, addressed to Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said failure of the Federal Government to protect Nigerians was a breach of its obligations under the Commonwealth Charter.

This was, however, challenged by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which asked the UK lawmakers, led by Baroness Cox of the House of Lords to focus on the problems facing their country and allow Nigeria solve her problems her own way.

But the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, disagreed with the ruling party, saying the security alert in the country raised by members of the British parliament is an indication of a vote of no confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari's government.

Those who signed the letter to the Commonwealth scribe include Baroness Cox, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC, Jim Shannon, MP, Lord Williams of Oystermouth ( a former Archbishop of Canterbury) and Lord Carey of Clifton, also a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Others are Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Lord Bishop of Coventry; Philip Mounstephen, Lord Bishop of Truro; Lord Stoddart of Swindon; Lord Anderson of Swansea; Lord Cormack; Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC; Ayo Adedoyin of International Organization for Peace and Social Justice and Ewelina Ochab of Coalition for Genocide Response.

Mervyn Thomas, CSW; Dr Khataza Gondwe, CSW; Neville Kyrke-Smith of Aid to the Church in Need (UK); Dr John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International and Ann Buwalda of Jubilee Campaign also signed the letter.

'Elements of govt complicit in violence'

Referencing a report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, the lawmakers said thousands of civilians have been killed and that "elements of the Nigerian government may be complicit in violence".

The lawmakers asked that a probe be carried out into the killings and at the least ensure "adequate protection and aid for those suffering the loss of family members and the destruction of their homes and livelihoods."

The letter which said some of the signatories had met and spoken with Nigeria's former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma, retd, quoted news reports attributed to him to the effect that the armed forces are not neutral and that they collude in the ethnic cleansing in riverine states by Fulani herders.

"He insists that villagers must defend themselves because 'depending on the armed forces' will result in them dying 'one by one'. The ethnic cleansing must stop," it quoted Danjuma as saying.

It however conceded that the signatories "recognize the important distinction between the Fulani in general (a diverse group of millions of people with hundreds of clans) and the sub-group of well armed, radicalized Fulani who carry out attacks."

The letter, titled "Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?" read: "We write to highlight urgent concerns about escalating violence in Nigeria, where attacks, led by Boko Haram, Fulani herders and other Islamist militia continue in northern and central-belt states, with reports of increasing violence in the South-East.

'State's failure'

"The state's failure to protect its citizens is a clear breach of its obligations under the Commonwealth Charter in respect of human rights.

"There is now an urgent need to ensure adequate protection and aid for those suffering the loss of family members and the destruction of their homes and livelihoods, and to end impunity by ensuring that complaints related to human rights violations are promptly, independently, and impartially investigated and those responsible are held to account after fair trials."

The parliamentarians further asked that the issue be raised with the Commonwealth ministerial action group.

"We write, therefore, to ask whether you are able to respond on behalf of the Commonwealth and to raise these urgent concerns with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. We would be very willing to meet in person (or perhaps more practically online via zoom) to discuss how we might proceed," the lawmakers stated.

Face your problems, leave Nigeria alone -- APC

Reacting last night, the All Progressives Congress, APC, asked the United Kingdom group, led by Baroness Cox of the House of Lords, to focus on the problems facing their country and leave Nigeria alone.

Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr Yekini Nabena, told Vanguard in a telephone interview that each country has its own fair share of security and other challenges.

Noting that the violence in Southern Kaduna, some parts of the Middle Belt and other states of the federation could not be described as genocide, Nabena advised the UK to also begin to look at the bright side of things in Nigeria.

He said: "There is nothing like genocide. They are always looking for negative stories in Africa, especially Nigeria. Yes, there is a situation in Kaduna and some other places, but it is not genocide. They should try as much as possible to get the UK government to put its house in order, especially considering their economic crisis, while Nigeria and Africa will also try and put their own in order. "Why are they always looking for negative things to say about Nigeria and Africa? How about the positive things that are also happening? How about the negative things that are going on in the UK? They should try and project the positive things happening in Nigeria too."

'A vote of no confidence'

In its reaction, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said the security alert in the country raised by the British parliamentarians was an indication of a vote of no confidence on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government by a highly respected member of the international community.

Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, said the Federal Government's inability to run Boko Haram terrorists out of town showed that President Buhari's pledge to deliver on security has failed.

He said: "Nigerians know a long time ago that security under the watch of President Buhari has broken down. All efforts to draw the attention of the Federal Government to overhaul the security architecture fell on deaf ears.

"If the security situation in the country has become a subject of debate in the British parliament, that is an indication that the international community has passed a vote of no confidence on this government.

"For us in the PDP, the position of the British lawmakers is a vindication of our stand that things will only get worse under this government. But we can't stop advising them because we want the best for our country.

"If international visa ban could make them conduct credible election in Edo State; we equally call on them to listen to those lawmakers and sack the service chiefs without further delay. The service chiefs have done the best they are capable of and time to replace them is now."

The party also called on the government to take the fight against terrorism to the criminals in their enclaves, lamenting that in the past few years, many Nigerians died recklessly owing to government's failure to secure them from the hands of their killers.

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