As part of its investigations into the alleged shooting of harmless protesters in Lekki on 20, October 2020, Cable News Network (CNN) obtained and released CCTV footages from government surveillance cameras overlooking the toll gate. As expected the CNN video report was bereft of proper, rationalistic investigations. It relied on the details of the very propaganda designed to undermine the existence and sovereignty of Nigeria as a country, while indulging the international community to see eye-to-eye with it that soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters: a reality fraught with falsities, and has proven to be a mere façade. The FG, reacting to this move, refuted the authenticity of the footages released. Lai Mohammad, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, accused the CNN of ‘irresponsible journalism’ and described the documentary as a product of fake news and disinformation. The Federal Government also issued a petition to the US-based Cable News Network (CNN) demanding an immediate and exhaustive investigation into its report on the Lekki Tollgate shooting to determine its authenticity and conformity to basic principles of journalism, which include balance and fairness.
In view of the above, the UK parliament has demanded that her government impose sanctions, ranging from visa bans to assets freezing, on any official who is found culpable. This decision was made in response to the 220, 118 petitions signed by some groups and individuals, asking that it should apply sanctions against the Nigerian Government and officials for alleged human rights violations during the #EndSARS protest and Lekki shooting incident. The decision is also hinged on the obligatory fulfillment of the Global Human Rights Sanction Regime established by the UK government in July, which gives the UK government a powerful tool to hold to account perpetrators of human rights violations or abuses. According to James Duddridge, Member of the UK parliament, ‘Work is underway to consider how a global corruption sanction regime could be added to the government’s armoury.’
Nevertheless, Nigeria is a sovereign country, and as a sovereign country, it reserves the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. Without proper investigations and relying on hearsays, social media façade, and sentiments from individuals and organizations with varied interests, the UK parliament has pushed for, and recommended sanctions against Nigeria. It failed to take into accounts the efforts made by the FG to halt the protest at the very outset, which led to the disbandment of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, while putting in place measures to see that the demands of the protesters are met, especially the incorporation of various judicial panels to investigate cases of police brutality. The UK parliament failed to see the series of violence that greeted the protest even before the alleged Lekki massacre. It also failed to see the violence that was meted on both private and public properties across different parts of the country; all of which are situations that threw the country in a state of political and economic upheaval in the middle of a global pandemic.
It is perhaps important to see that there has always been an attempt to diminish the hegemony of the Nigerian polity by external powers. Recounting a declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on external interferences in the affairs of the country, it noted that government would not allow foreign intervention in the governance of the country. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, while reacting to reports that Nigeria has a high record of human rights abuses, had warned the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union to stop interfering in Nigeria’s affairs, especially on the issue of human rights abuses. Also, contained in a statement credited to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, it cleared that ‘Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all.’
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The sort of sanctions proposed by the UK parliament trangresses Nigeria’s sovereignty. The reason behind the proposed sanctions holds no water. There are no proofs to corroborate the allegations that there were cases of human rights abuses in the course of the EndSARS protest. The story of an alleged massacre is one that has defeated itself as no casualty has been officially reported consequent on the protest. The series of information and reports regarding the protest have come out as mere rumors peddled by a misinformed section of society who are quick to believe and spread anything they see on the media space without verification. The UK parliament should therefore, in a show of diplomatic concern, redirect its energy towards seeing how it can suggest ideas to the British Government that will aid a country it once colonized out of her economic and insecurity misery, as well as how the COVID-19 vaccine can get to Nigeria, and by extension Africa.